If YoungBoy Never Broke Again is anything, it’s productive. ‘Decided 2’ is his fourth full length release this year, a run that encompasses almost 100 tracks, and over four hours of music. Refusing to be hemmed in, he’s gone again and again to the studio, exploring fatherhood, maturity, the poverty of his roots, and the limits of his aspirations. In a way, he’s giving fans what they want in the streaming and social media era – content, content, content – but there’s simply a limit to what people can absorb, and to the quality control on such a run.
As it is, ‘Decided 2’ encompasses many of YoungBoy’s faults, and his gifts. For one thing, the pen game remains illuminating – he doesn’t rest on his laurels, continually mixing it up. Ultimately, though, it’s hit and miss – 18 tracks is a tall order, and the inconsistencies make the record feel disjointed.
Opener ‘Free Sex’ doesn’t quite hit the right now, and the opening span of the record can be flat in places. Rod Wave aided ‘Better Than Ever’ though, is an anthem up there with anything YoungBoy has sculpted – bold, arena-filling rap music, it pivots between drug-fuelled largesse and sober introspection, continually searching for connection. A moment of inspiration on an album often stretched thin.
Ultimately, the record’s second half is equally hit and miss. ‘Guitar Hero’ is intriguing, the production pivoting in a different direction, adopting a guitar line as its fulcrum, (so too does ‘Guapi’ as it happens). More often than not, though, YoungBoy regurgitates other tropes – ‘Choppa Gizzle’ already feels dated, while ‘Deep Down’ is a formless piece of West Coast leaning funk.
It’s not that ‘Decided 2’ is a bad record, per se, it’s more that YoungBoy has so often walked this road before – not least in the past 12 months. Continually working with real alacrity, YoungBoy Never Broke Again needs to pause and re-assess, bring his ideas together, but before deciding his next step.
Words: Robin Murray