Savage Life II

posted March 07, 2008 11:35:39 AM CST | 45 comments

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Baton Rouge's Webbie has stayed relevant in rap music a lot longer than he was probably projected to in 2005. The Atlantic-turned-Asylum star has had a strong radio presence with his Trill Fam, in the form of "Bad Bitch," "Wipe Me Down" and now "Independent" respectively. Slim on budget and substance, Webbie's tool has been booming beats, catchy choruses and a mild-mannered southern charm that transcends into his music.

Though it inevitably falls short of a Hip Hop purist's approval, "Independent" demonstrates growth for Webbie. After all, this is a male rapper praising a DIY female beyond more than just "I ain't paying for you," semantics. While it's not exactly equivalent to Kanye West's "All Falls Down," we do have a club single surpassing the d-boy discussion. "I Miss You" takes a similar counter-route. However, the song's tired sample and poor construction sounds just as bad when Nice & Smooth made the same song (literally) 10 years ago as "Let It Go."

The harder, bravado-based material is more or less the same as Webbie has come with throughout the last five years. "I'm Hot" is a five-minute self-affirmation with carefully placed electric guitar underneath pounding percussion. "Ya'll Ain't Makin' No Money" is a charged club hit that fails in its chorus, but riles up listeners to point across the room to actual or imaginary enemies and laugh at their shortcomings. As it would seem, Webbie has two speeds: rapping about himself, generally bragging, and rapping about others, whether praising their initiative or ridiculing their mistakes. There is little depth, but still, if artists are to be represented in the mainstream by their singles, Webbie is to be commended for some growth.

Another interesting quality in Savage Life 2 is what it chooses not to do. Perhaps to be considered Pimp C's biggest protégé on Trill Entertainment, Webbie seemingly avoids the tribute song that many might expect. "I Miss You" semi-serves as this, but the song, projected to be the next single, speaks to living and dead absent faces from Webbie's life. Chad Butler, who did not produce on the album, does appear on "Fly As An Eagle." Though it possesses a smooth, slab music chorus, the awkward delivery from both Webbie and Foxx limits the song's potential. The resulting collaboration plays more like a hashed together mixtape effort than anything telling of the creative relationship between pioneer and protégé. In total, the production on Savage Life 2 is predictable at best. Handled primarily by Mouse and BJ, the songs rely on bass hits, high hats and simpler construction than needed for radio. "Independent," perhaps why it's doing so well, is a rare exception. The song's ad-libs are a testament to the chemistry between Boosie and Webbie in crafting hooks and bridges, but also shows a bit more care than the straightforward material that occupies the album cuts. It is only Mannie Fresh that provides an expert hand, on the Young Dro-assisted "I Know," which helps make the sequencing of the album's betters top-heavy, but fails to propel the song to hit-single potential.

With a Top 5 debut, Webbie's formula is working in the mainstream. Another hit single, a heap of airplay, and an album that sounds like it dwarves in comparison to the budgets of its peers. For those that believed in Webbie the last three or five years, Savage Life 2 is an arrival, and a 22 year-old acting less like the teenager he was. For those hypnotized by the success of "Independent," expecting more and similar substance on the album, it's advised to purchase the single and/or the ringtone and keep it moving. Without ever crutching the critical cosign he's had, Webbie is a self-made star still cutting his teeth as an artist.

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