Ev’rybody Know Me
perennial hub of Southern rap's commercial explosion, Atlanta is a busy, crowded town. As new stars establish themselves on a seemingly weekly basis, though, local duo YoungBloodZ have remained low on ATL's pecking order, despite kicking around since the late 90's with three major label albums. Their two best known singles, "Damn!" and "85," were driven up the charts primarily by the star power of collaborators Lil Jon and Big Boi, respectively. And although "Damn!" established them in the mainstream and led to some high profile guest spots for YoungBloodZ members Sean Paul and J-Bo, the duo is mainly remembered as just a part of Lil Jon's hit parade.
That it's taken the YoungBloodZ three years to follow up their big breakthrough does them no favors either. Having a Lil Jon track doesn't make for an insta-hit the way it did in 2003's summer of crunk, but lead single "Presidential" follows the formula as if there's still high demand for it. And even with different producers throughout Ev'rybody Know Me, the YoungBloodZ seem only to be trying to recreate the Lil Jon sound with tick-tock hi-hats and sine wave synth lines. But the album does pack some sonic variety, albeit with of-the-moment productions that include a formulaic Mannie Fresh anthem and a formulaic Mr. Collipark intimate club track. Presumably, they wrapped recording too early to jump on the more recent "snap music" or "trap hop" bandwagons. On the other hand, Jazze Pha turns in one of his better recent productions on "Play Ur Position," and newcomer Jamil Debardlabon provides several of the album's best beats.
Despite being saddled with also-ran status, the YoungBloodZ are not without their appeal. They've got chemistry as perfectly balanced as any duo in hip-hop today, with J-Bo's gruff, forceful delivery providing a necessary counterpoint to Sean Paul's fluid drawl. Sean P. is generally regarded as the bigger star of the two, more frequently tapped for guest appearances and involved in a group with Bubba Sparxxx and Timbaland. But where Sean Paul gets by largely on his laid back charisma, J-Bo switches his flows up more often and generally is more interesting over the course of Ev'rybody Know Me. Lyrically, neither strays far from the drunk/crunk axis of subject matter, but manage some sharp punchlines nonetheless.
Of course, whenever a magnetic guest passes through the album, both YoungBloodZ are bumped down to second banana status. Young Buck of G-Unit handily steals "Datz Me," and relative unknown Ben-Hated grabs the spotlight on "Sum'n Like A Pimp," with a catchy flow, stretching syllables way out at the end of each line. Sean Paul and J-Bo might be able to hang onto their lowly rung of the Southern hip-hop food chain if they stick with their famous producers and guests, but if they keep getting upstaged, they'll never climb up any higher.