Review ·

The observation that Young Buck is the best rapper in G-Unit, made in this column not too long ago, speaks little to his larger talents. As the review pointed out, only two of the four members in the immediate G-Unit family qualify as legitimate rappers anyway, so it's not like Buck really had to jockey for position. It's sort of like saying Steve-O is the most fearless stuntman in the Jackass crew. Think about that for a minute.


Getting back on track, I'll define Young Buck's appeal by saying he's the third best non-Texas rapper in the South making music right now, behind T.I. and Big Boi and ahead of Killer Mike (barely), Stat Quo, Lil Wayne, Juvenile, David Banner, Ludacris, Yo Gotti, Young Jeezy, Stat Quo, Eightball & MJG, and Three 6 Mafia, though not necessarily in that order. Is Little Brother considered Down South? At any rate, Buck's probably better than those guys, too.


Chronic 2006 isn't the best mixtape Young Buck could've put out, but it satisfies a craving -- these are exactly the kind of tracks you want him to be making. Buck has been buzzing steadily since his 2004 debut, Straight Outta Cashville, aided no doubt by his recent appearances on the Get Rich or Die Tryin' soundtrack and Three 6 Mafia's monster block-rattle, "Stay Fly." (He also scored the best verse on the G-Unit remix of the Game's "Hate It or Love It" last year.) Chronic 2006 starts with the Cadillac-breezy "Doin' My Thing" -- nothing spectacular -- but then moves into "Thug 'Til Your Deathday," a jaw-dropping show of lyrical and musical maturity that reels with a newfound sense of redemptive sadness, like watching the conflicted hero try to do good for the last ten minutes of a movie, only to end up shot dead in the final scene.


Elsewhere, "Project Niggas" and "On the Corner" bubble and haunt, while on "Don't Make Me Hurt You!" and "Return of the Project Nigga" (it should be noted that three tracks here include the word "project" in their titles), Buck storms around and achieves a hypnotizing effect. The themes are basic and unaltered, and it's the flow that rescues most of the songs from mediocrity. Jamie Foxx plays a useless host; the weed imagery serves no purpose other than convenient artwork. Unless it's this: Getting high makes the obvious a little more interesting. Endlessly. When the chopped-and-screwed sample in "Money in the Bank" drips out and slides over slow motion-bleeps for the third time in a row, it still sounds too easy to be so good. It is. And it is.


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