Music review: Rise of an Empire

Erin Johnsrud, Staff Writer

Young Money, a sub-label under Cash Money Records, was formed in 2007, headed by Lil Wayne. YMCMB (Young Money Cash Money Billionaires) has been arguably the biggest label in hip-hop since 2008. “We Are Young Money” was released in 2009 as the first album under the Young Money label. It had moderate success, and chances are you’ve heard the single “Bedrock.” Compilation, or “crew” albums rarely do all that well anyways. Since that release, Lil Wayne has had continued success with quite the roster of stars including Drake and Nicki Minaj.

Five years later, here we are in 2014. Young Money decided another compilation/collabo/crew album was necessary, and gives us “Rise of an Empire.” The album features Weezy, of course, along with Drake, Nicki Minaj, Birdman and Tyga. There’s a whole lot of other artists on there too, but I won’t mention them because, chances are, you won’t remember their names anyway. You’ll likely never hear from them again. A tad harsh, I know, but it’s absolutely what I believe. Some of the songs are listenable, such as the lead single “We Alright.” It’s not a bad song, per se, and features the one possible Young Money up-and-comer that shows some promise, Euro. Most of the songs on the album are about what you’d expect from a hip-hop album these days: money, sex and being high on something-or-other.

Even the one song on the album that features Drake, “Trophies” is lackluster, and I love me some Drizzy. Nicki Minaj does come pretty strong with the song “Lookin’ Ass N*****,” but that leaked on social media some time ago, so chances are if you’re a fan you’ve already heard it, and it’s on her upcoming album, “The Pink Print” so there goes one reason to buy “Rise of an Empire.” It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are a few genuinely good songs on the album besides the strongly feminist one by Minaj. Euro absolutely kills it lyrically on “Induction Speech,” and “Senile,” featuring Tyga, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne has a seriously weird/awesome beat and is worth a listen.

Lil Wayne has been touted as one of the best lyricists in rap music, in the same vein as Tupac and Biggie. Wayne shows flashes of his greatness on “Moment,” but also raps one of the weakest lines on the entire album “Have my cake and eat it too/I want a bakery.” “Rise of an Empire” isn’t the worst hip-hop album I’ve heard, not at all. The problem is, it seems uninspired, like it’s just a money-grab, or possibly (and this is a sad thought) an attempt for YMCMB to stay relevant and remind people who they are and what they have. They have some talent, for sure, but it’s being underutilized on this album. Wayne references working on “The Carter V” on the album’s lead single, and this reviewer is hoping that it’s full of the genius he’s capable of, because “Rise” doesn’t even come close.