Monday, February 23, 2009

The Cocaine Blues

Download: The Cocaine Blues (Tracklist below)

David Brown, also known as Young Buck presumably because his career began at the age of 14, got his start as many young prominent Southern rappers of his generation did, by signing with Baby and his Cash Money Records. When Juvenile split from the label in 2002 to begin his UTP imprint Young Buck went with him, the move made sense. It isn't hard to see the influence of Juvie and his forefather Bun B when considering Buck's approach. He delivers in a laid back, dusty, drawl heavy register drenched in moonshine and hoarse from too many Swishers stuffed with Mexican brick weed. It’s a wonderful instrument that can swing between detached and scarily intense at a moment’s notice. In what was his first move as a visionary General Manager for G-Unit, 50 Cent poached the unheralded Nashville firebrand from Juvenile, the beginning of his master plan to take over the country. I was pissed at the time. I was a G-Unit stan and a knee jerk South hater. I felt the signing of Young Buck was a sell out move, a sign that 50 was running his label and producing his music the way corporations churn out product. I was right, but in this instance it was for the wrong reasons.

By the end of 2004, Young Buck was a personal top five MC who changed the way I thought about Southern Rap. Buck is a great primer for those entrenched in the New York state of mind. He’s a raw lyricist capable of East Coast style wordplay, but he was revelatory for me in that as an artist he’s greater than the sum of his parts. He excels with emphasis, cadence and vocals that contrast with the emotions conveyed, making the entire performance aspect of a given verse that much more interesting. As you can tell from that last sentence writing this was difficult because beyond the obvious, there are some things Young Buck does well that are hard to put into words. After 2006 or so he began to move away from the style and material that made him so great to me, but with this post and accompanying mixtape I’m going to attempt to document his strongest underappreciated cuts from the period and why I loved them.


This was the song that caused me to sit up and start paying attention. The first verse is an anecdote that Buck claims is based on a true story and you have a hard time doubting him based on the detail and his willingness to bring us into his thought process. Young Buck’s greatest attributes are his soft eyes, he doesn’t settle for clichés most coke rappers lean on when they talk about selling drugs and this gives songs like “Sniper” their authentic feel. The chorus sounds like a Big Syke hook left off All Eyez On Me and the second verse is a slight drop off but this song definitely piqued my interest.

Sleep with an AK

From the production through the verse this is a relentlessly bleak song. What makes it great is Buck’s breathless delivery, which is so matter of fact in the face of total despair it’s chilling. The way he paints his ruthless environment and conveys his nihilism makes for a great track. (Pissing in public?)

Tim Westwood Freestyle (ft. Lloyd Banks)

One of my favorite aspects of Buck’s coke talk is on display here. A running theme through his early work is selling his product for as little as possible. (“I sold my dimes for five, and my 20s for 10/I never gave they ass credit but they came again”) This Walmart logic is what separates Buck from many coke rappers, who the fiends supposedly flock to due to their vague consummate hustler essence. Buck advertises himself as a sound businessman promoting qualities that apply equally to crack, retail and finance. Anyone who has middlemanned anything understands the importance of a connect who can get you what you need at the right price but minutia of this nature is rarely brought up. In the very christening of his home state (Ten-A-Ki) Buck brings an economist’s approach to his crack rap.

Lean Back Freestyle

It Ain't Safe

I want to say that Buck beats Banks at his own game on their "Lean Back" freestyle but the truth is this is vintage Banks as well and if they were going toe to toe you’d have to declare a draw. (Although Banks featured reoccurring verses throughout this period, I very rarely heard a Buck verse more than once) What this track does however is accentuate the difference between the two and furthermore what made Buck special. With the first exchange Lloyd Banks is clever, street smart. Buck is wise. His coke punchlines play like biblical proverbs. He has a gift for phrasing and it shines through on lyrical exhibitions like this one and others such as “We’re Back” on the mixtape. “It Ain’t Safe” works along the same lines in regards to its oddly timeless quality. Buck watches Rome burning and while not hopeful, he’s not particularly distressed either; he has the serenity to accept the things he can’t change. It almost sounds like a dark prayer (a quality present in more than a few Young Buck songs).

I Love the Hood (ft. Game)

This is a great Buck verse over the “Poppa Was a Playa” instrumental but there’s an ugliness creeping into his flow that would become more prominent and lead to me somewhat losing interest as his career progressed. He is guilty of that amateurish cardinal sin of abusing doubled vocals. For me it’s a huge turn off and takes away from Buck’s calm rasp. It’s the quiet menace present in his delivery that makes him great and the effect obscures this. In addition, a gruffness has crept into Buck’s voice via blunts or design that has fucked up his flow from a purely aesthetic standpoint. Factor in bland writing (inevitable when you’ve been a famous rapper for several years and you specialized in the type of mundane specificity Buck did) and you have a shadow of the MC I’ve been writing about. Whether or not the split from G-Unit and recent reunion with Game provokes a return to form, it was fun while it lasted.


1. Sniper- DJ Whoo Kid: G-Unit Radio 6 (Motion Picture Shit) 2004
2. Sleep With An AK- DJ Whoo Kid: S.W.A.T. 2004
3. Two Bricks- DJ Whoo Kid: G-Unit Radio 9 (G-Unit City) 2004
4. We’re Back (ft. Banks)- DJ Whoo Kid: Welcome to the Hood 2004
5. Help Me Change (ft. 2pac)- DJ Whoo Kid: G-Unit Radio 6 (Motion Picture Shit) 2004
6. Wicked East- DJ Envy & Tapemasters Inc.: Purple Codeine Vol. 7 2006
7. Tim Westwood Freestyle (ft. Banks)- DJ Envy: The Bad Guys Vol. 1 2005
8. Higher Than A Muthafucka- DJ Whoo Kid: G-Unit Radio 1 (Smokin Day 2) 2003
9. It Ain’t Safe- DJ Kay Slay: The Mixtape Maniac 2005
10. G’d Up (ft. 50 & Banks)- G-Unit: Beg for Mercy 2003
11. Rap City Freestyle- DJ Scream: BET Rap City Down South Freestyles 2006
12. Bang Bang- Young Buck: $traight Outta Cashville 2004
13. Be This Way- DJ Whoo Kid: Welcome to the Hood 2004
14. Y’all Niggas Ain’t Fuckin With Us (ft. G-Unit)- DJ Whoo Kid: G-Unit Radio 5 (All Eyez On Us)2004
15. Footprints- G-Unit: Beg for Mercy 2004
16. Everybody In This Club Fuck With Me (ft. 50 Cent)- DJ Whoo Kid: Welcome to the Hood 2004
17. Lean Back (ft. Lloyd Banks)- Big Mike: Cruel Summer 2k4 2004
18. I Love The Hood (ft. Game)- DJ Whoo Kid: G-Unit Radio 7 (King of New York)2004
19. Thuggin Till I’m Gone (ft. Banks)- DJ Whoo Kid: G-Unit Radio 14 (Back to Business)2005
20. Six Bricks Left- DJ Whoo Kid: Welcome to the Hood 2004

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