Thoughts of a Predicate Felon
adies and gentlemen, meet Tony Yayo, the New Dirty Bastard. While “there’ll never be another Dirty” has suddenly become one of hip-hop’s Ten Commandments, the fact remains that Tony Yayo is just the latest in a long line of semi-psychotic sidemen. Every crew needs their jester, and Yayo is G-Unit’s. He’s got the full pedigree—he’s served multiple stints in the pen, is humorously spastic in interviews, and is good at yelling. Now he’s got a solo record.
People who dislike hip-hop (or refuse to listen to it) are quick to claim that its material centers primarily on drugs, guns, misogyny, and getting money; happily calling these topics “clichés.” Here, they’d be called “common themes.” Thoughts of a Predicate Felon rarely ventures outside of the traditional hip-hop realm, demonstrating that Yayo is better at rapping about some aspects of thug life than he is about others.
Not that Yayo’s alone, but he’s pretty terrible when he’s stating his case to some bird as to why she should fall in love with him. Thoughts’ principal offender here is “Curious.” Believe it or not, its beat prominently features an acoustic guitar. And “Project Princess” is only useful in that it answers the long-standing question of the whereabouts of Jagged Edge. “Pimpin’,” which precedes “Curious” on the album but follows it on Yayo’s new two-part video, is pretty bland—it’s way less fun to hear when it isn’t accompanied by continuous footage of G-Unit’s main men wrestling each other for face time. And I’d seem pretty stupid if I complained about the fact that there’s a song called “I’m So High” on an album by an artist who goes by “Yayo,” but its lyric sheet doesn’t contain any lines much more exciting than the title itself.
Yayo’s at his best when he’s rapping about things that force him to adopt an angry-sounding persona. “Homicide” can be brutal, but loaded topics like killing people in broad daylight brings out the best in Yayo’s delivery; he mixes up his lines more and throws in some vocal inflections that keep the listener from zoning out. He’s also served well when his G-Unit mates show up to help him out, even if it occasionally seems as though Yayo is merely a vehicle for the group itself. “I Know You Don’t Love Me” divides the pie equally between Yayo, 50, Lloyd Banks, and Young Buck, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s carried by a heavy beat.
This brings me to “So Seductive,” a song that’s been fairly ubiquitous this summer, and for good reason. Whoever decided that this should be the world’s introduction to Yayo’s solo career nailed it. 50 makes an unsurprising appearance, since everything he’s on gets airplay somewhere, and allows Yayo to share the spotlight with him, a two-headed attack that resulted in one of the summer’s best singles.
“So Seductive” is practically a blueprint for how Yayo should be packaged. He isn’t a very good rapper, but he is an entertaining personality and crew-member. His lyrics aren’t compelling, but his demeanor certainly is. Yayo did deserve a solo album (at least he did more so than Banks), but he appears incapable of carrying an entire hour-long piece of music. To paraphrase the title of one of Thoughts’ songs, Tony Yayo is what he is.
Reviewed by: Ross McGowan
Reviewed on: 2005-08-31