What are you listening to? ‘Young Money: Rise of an Empire’


Young Money: Rise of an Empire is the second official studio compilation from the YMCMB roster following 2013’s Rich Gang. This set features the expected list of A-list stars, both from the label and across mainstream hip-hop. Lil Wayne is the centerpiece, and while this feels like a showcase for the lesser-known talents on the Young Money team, it is noticeable that Young Money mainstay Drake is only featured once. While fans probably shouldn’t assume too much regarding Drizzy’s small contribution, it does seem to be odd in the wake of rumors throughout 2013 that Drake wasn’t exactly happy with his label.

Nonetheless, it stands to reason that Rise of An Empire wouldn’t be salvaged by Drake’s increased presence. This is an overstuffed release that rushes past without leaving much of a musical impression. It sounds like the label didn’t view this compilation as much more than a glorified cash grab, much like Rich Gang.

The album opener, “We Alright,” features Birdman and Weezy and is fairly inconsequential. The highlights of Rise of an Empire are the solo showcases; namely the lone Drake feature “Trophies,” one of Hit-Boy’s most winningly idiosyncratic productions, and the fiery Nicki Minaj single “Lookin’ A– N—a,” which drew a firestorm of controversy when it was released with artwork featuring slain civil rights icon Malcolm X.

Aside from Wayne, newcomer Euro is showcased throughout the project, and the Dominican-born rhymer holds his own. The newest YMCMB star is featured on “We Alright,” “Bang” and his own solo spot, the banger “Induction Speech.”

But all-in-all, Rise of an Empire offers too many guest spots and monotonous production to truly be a standout effort. The songs seem to run into each other with little to distinguish many of them, and the superstar features feel rather phoned in. But it has its merits. The production is ornate but not cluttered. While Rich Gang featured a couple of veterans in Mystikal and Busta Rhymes, Rise … dispenses with any throwback nods. This is a thoroughly modern rap record, with all of the glitz and production gloss one would expect from the Cash Money camp.

It’s probably best to cherry pick your favorite tracks from this as you wait for the next Wayne and Minaj projects dropping later this year.

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