It isn’t nostalgia that makes Young Buck inherently more interesting now than he was in 2004. It’s a thinning of values, a dearth of quality that the ensuing six years have brought us.
In the year of Kerry-Edwards the tide had already turned, rap had years before been divided into two uninteresting camps: political and materialistic (or conscious and not). However, there were a few acts thriving on the fringes that allowed us to believe there was still a happy medium.The strength of those holdouts obscured the truth, Doom dropping two bizarre classics, Cam’ron’s Purple Haze and Kanye with a (sometimes) stunning debut kept the Common-Tony Yayo dichotomy out of sight.
Yet, it was there, and it has only gotten worse in the interim. Killa has fallen off a cliff more amusing than fascinating, and Doom is sending in impostors. Only Yeezy has gotten more interesting, while somehow not improving lyrically. So listeners are left with two choices; castrated unthreatening “conscious” hip hop (Jurassic 5, Common) or posturing, intentionally stupid, base-level commercial rap (Yung Buck, Rick Ross).
It’s been sad to watch my heroes choose a side, Nas pussing out and calling his album Untitled, Prodigy embracing Fifty for a convertible, and it has left me with rappers like Royce Da 5’9, talented lyricists without homes or impact.
I don’t need to hear the “rap’s not dead, it moved underground” chorus, the complaint is not a dearth of fire-spitters, or a claim that there are no wild cards left, but that our national conversation is so clearly defined by two shitty choices. It used to be that rappers were political by identity. Like Nirvana or the Velvet Underground, they didn’t have to lower themselves to the issues of the day to be rebellious. By persona and actual personality, Wu Tang, 2-Pac, Nas, Mobb Deep, Ice Cube, Rakim and Outkast presented a threat. There’s nothing threatening about Mos Def’s implorations to vote, or Rick Ross’ transparently fake thug persona. It all feeds the same animal, that animal being an uninteresting cash cow perfectly refined to sell.
Now, on to Young Buck. In this new world I don’t mind him, which says so much more about the landscape than it does about the particularly uninteresting Young Buck. On Back on my Buck Shit 2 he drops a few hot lines and has picked out a mostly enjoyable selection of beats, which is enough to get the tape over. He left the Unit a while ago, which was moderately interesting, and he cried in a conversation with 50 cent, which was a bit more so.
At the beginning of Change of Plans, Buck calls it a “street album,” and I suppose it is in the sense that it will surely be listened to in the inner city. However, I have to wonder what it means that an album made ostensibly for the black lower-class contains a line like “If you ain’t makin’ no money on the count of three kill yourself, one, two, three,” or how that fits with the later shout out to “everyone locked up.” I wish this was an interesting contradiction in Buck’s ethos, but it’s not, it’s just more bullshit.