Buck the World
e’s been snarling different album release dates on his mixtapes for months—“November 25! Go cop that!”—and even he had lately begun to sound a little less sure of himself. But it’s finally here. Young Buck’s oft-delayed second album, Buck the World, is sneaking out into the world this week, hoping to rescue G-Unit from commercial obsolescence
It’s not going to be easy. It’s a hostile commercial environment for gangsta rap right now, or indeed for anyone whose last name doesn’t begin with “Timb.” Even 50, the G-Unit CEO, hasn’t tasted platinum since 2005. Most likely, this record will land with a soft thump into the waiting hands of bored XXL-trolling rap dorks who are killing time between plays of the new Devin The Dude. The rest of the (non) record-buying public will hardly notice it.
It’s too bad; like his first record Straight Outta Cashville, Buck the World is a solid-to-great Southern rap genre exercise, graced with immaculate production and boasting an all-star supporting cast. Buck remains G-Unit’s most compelling MC—he says absolutely nothing, but he does so with maniacal conviction. Blessed with a wet, gravelly voice, he wields it like a blunt object against the tracks here. No matter how thick the music becomes, his unhinged bark cuts right through the din and grabs your ear.
On the first third of the album, Buck holds his own against some of the most towering beats he’s ever been given. “Say It to My Face” takes Southern rap’s preoccupation with gothic atmosphere to new heights, sampling Mozart’s “Requiem” and slathering it in minor-key organs, while Bun B dishes out some vividly unpleasant threats: “Got the German handguns, them two-two-threes / Bust open your condo and rip open your knees.” 8Ball and MJG also stop by, and their thick, gluey mumbling sounds more compelling here than at any point on Ridin’ High. “Buss Yo Head” ratchets the melodrama even higher, piling trumpets and kettle drums on top of slowed down, demonic voices. Then, on “I Ain’t Fuckin’ Wit U,” Snoop Dogg drops his nimblest, most playfully tricky verse in recent memory, while Trick Daddy breathes grizzled weariness into a standard rant about snitches.
Despite his basso profundo, anyone scanning Buck’s verses here for actual profundity will be disappointed; as an MC, he doesn’t have an original bone in his body. He’s an amalgam of Scarface-style paranoia and Tupac’s fatalism, and his workmanlike rhymes stay carefully inside the lines of the gangsta-rap template. This album is a sonic experience—on “Get Buck,” Polow Da Don’s hair-raising tuba blurts intermingle with Buck’s growl until both of them are nothing more than compelling sound effects rattling around in your headphones. That said, Buck does have his moments. He invests a startling honesty into the requisite “remorseful thug” jams; on “Slow Ya Roll” (which, inexplicably, features Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington mewling the hook), Buck mourns, “I got a graveyard tatted on my arm,” before running down a truly disturbing list of personal tragedies, including an imprisoned aunt with AIDS and a crack-addicted nephew found dead: “When I think how he died I get real cold / Cuz they found him in a field with some crack stones / There was no flesh, it was just bone.”
The album’s momentum continues through to about the tenth song, after which it peters out amidst one too many predigested Southern rap clichés and rote production. This stretch includes an eminently skippable “thug love” track (“U Ain’t Going Nowhere”), a perfunctory ode to weed (“Puff Puff Pass”) and “If You Want Some,” a Jazze Pha-produced single that’s been around for months and has failed to light a single person on fire. Then there’s the closer “Lose My Mind,” in which Buck delivers his lyrics in a vein-bulging, herniated scream that’s meant to sound dangerous but instead sounds like a fifteen-year-old stomping around his room. Buck doesn’t have the range to suggest true psychosis; he’s simply good at rapping on beat. For about thirty-five minutes, he does that extremely well, and while it won’t save G-Unit, Buck the World sounds pretty damn good on a treadmill.