Yelawolf made no attempt to soften his hard-partying, meth-pushing, white-trash persona on last year’s major-label debut, Trunk Muzik, and on his follow-up for Eminem’s Shady Records, Radioactive, the quick-tongued rapper is again on his worst behavior. He drives drunk. He yells at stuck-up women. He litters. “I might pee in the lake,” he threatens on the Kid Rock feature “Let’s Roll,” and there’s no doubt he’ll do it. During Radioactive’s rowdy opening run, Yelawolf surrounds himself with the loudest collaborators he can round up—including Mystikal, Eminem, Gangsta Boo, and Lil Jon— and raises hell over backwoods crunk and Limp Bizkit-grade rap-rock.
For an album that initially seems so dead set against compromising, though, Radioactive sure takes an abrupt 180 just before its halfway point. In an interlude, Eminem instructs his signee to include a love song on the record, because “bitches like love songs.” The following track, “Good Girl,” is as half-hearted of a stab at R&B as that intro promises, and Radioactive only becomes more cynical from there, playing like an off-brand facsimile of T.I.’s Paper Trail as it turns itself over to Top 40 synths and gaudy pop choruses in hopes of scoring Yelawolf a hit. Priscilla Renea caricaturizes Rihanna’s vocal tics on the pandering “Made In The U.S.A.,” a sort of redneck reimagining of “Live Your Life,” while Fefe Dobson channels Ke$ha’s valley-girl sass on the Far East Movement-style electro-rap track “Animal.” There’s even a stab at Uncle Kracker’s rural soft-rock: “Radio,” which includes the baffling chorus “YouTube killed the video star.”
With his rough edges and disagreeable personality, Yelawolf is a terrible candidate for these kinds of pop makeovers, but Radioactive keeps attempting them anyway. For an uncomfortable seven-song stretch, the rapper seems so alienated from his own album that it’s almost a relief when he’s freed to get rambunctious again on the thrashing, trailer-park manifesto “Slumerican Shitizen.” Almost.