At some point the number of rap artists who are named “Young” or “Lil” is just a bit absurd. Now admittedly a few of them actually fit the bill due to their diminutive stature – Lil’ Kim being a fine example. Still you have to wonder if Young MC questioned how his rap name would sound in his mid-30’s, or if the 24 year-old Dwayne Michael Carter still feels he’s a “Lil Wayne” instead of a full-grown man. Even Lil’ Bow Wow and Lil’ Romeo had to admit the obvious and drop the Lil’ from their records to be taken seriously once they passed puberty, and only someone as thugged out as David Darnell Brown can get away with a name like Young Buck – he’ll stab you in the eye with a fork if you even dare to laugh. Perhaps Yung Joc is hoping for that same kind of respect on “New Joc City” but he’s already got two strikes against him – strike one is that nobody had heard of him before 2006 and strike two is ripping off the name of the classic film “New Jack City” for a shitty pun is neither funny nor cute. Nonetheless he’s got Bad Boy behind him pushing hard, and his first single “It’s Goin’ Down” has become immensely popular in a short amount of time:

“Niggaz in my face, damn near er’y day
Ask a million questions like ‘Joc where ya stay?’
Tell ’em College Park, where they chop cars
Eat 20 grand, spend a grand at the bar
Just bought a zone, J’s on my feet
I’m on that Patron, so get like me!
69 Cutlass, with the bucket seats
Beat in my trunk, bought it just for the freaks
Catch me in the hood, posted at the sto’
Pistol in my lap, on the phone countin dough
If a girl choose, let her do her thang
Just like her mama nice ass and nice brain
Er’ybody love me, I’m so fly
Niggaz throw the deuces er’ytime I ride by
I know ya wonder why, I’m so cool
Don’t ask me, just do what’cha do”

Sorry Joc, it’s my job to ask. First of all if you’re so fly and so cool because you’re rich, can you tell us how you accumulated so much wealth so young (no pun intended) in life? If the biographies online are credible he probably got it from his poppa, who owned a hair care products company and apparently had some ties to the Revlon company – they all say Joc’s first rap was a “jingle” for the latter at his father’s request. Otherwise he got a six-figure and up advance from Bad Boy for the release of his first album, but an “advance” is just that – advance money to be recouped from future record sales. If VH-1’s “Behind the Music” has taught the public anything it’s that you can sell 20 million records and still be broke as hell once the record label takes 100% of the expenses out of an artist’s 5% of the profits. The other possibility is that he was a street entrepeneur, but we’ll get into that in a minute. Basically the only other things that Joc tells us in this song is that he drinks good, eats good, and lives good; he even christens himself “the black Donald Trump” at one point. Well that may be a more apt comparison than he intended, because Trump himself is an image and a name kept alive by public fascination despite a series of financial blunders that make him little more than a figurehead in his own casinos and resorts. Joc may be pulling a similar sleight of hand here, appearing to be wealthy simply by spending other people’s money, namely in this case Sean Combs.

Rather than belabor the point about whether Yung Joc is really as “fly and cool” as he aspires to be lyrically, a flaw common to a majority of entertainers that emerge in the public spotlight, it’s more important to ascertain whether “Yung Joc City” is in any way effective as an album. Surprisingly the answer isĀ YES. To be perfectly honest I found Nitti’s beats for “It’s Goin’ Down” to result in one of the album’s weakest tracks, and I still can’t fathom why they made it the first single when there are so many songs that are far superior. “Don’t Play Wit It” featuring Big Gee is the same kind of crunk track you’d expect from Mannie Fresh and Juvenile, except that Joc is from Atlanta and the track is done by Darius ‘Deezle’ Harrison. “Patron” is the kind of unabashed ode to a brand of liquor that’s so blatant you would almost think that it’s a paid product endorsement, but the simple topic matter and understated Dwain ‘Kochease’ Warren beat seem tailor made for this song to be a huge hit. I enjoyed “Flip Flop” even more though, featuring guest lyrics from Boyz N Da Hood, crooning by Cheri Dennis, and a sweet slow beat by Dee Jay Dana that just aches to be given a Screw & Chop treatment. Joc is even capable of unexpectedly nice lyrics at time, as witnessed by the track “1st Time” featuring Marques Houston:

“Hold on this ain’t no love song, mo’ like a cut song
You say your day was long, well tell daddy what’s wrong
I’ma tell ya one time, just relax and unwind
Whisper sweet nothings now you’re blushin chills down your spine
Oh yeah you hot and tempted, oh no not Pretty Rickie
But when you _Grind on Me_, I’ma leave you hot and trippin
Just slip in them satin sheets, now go on and roll over
Oh yeah it’s up and down motions like a roller coaster”

If it weren’t for the hint of Southern accent to Joc’s rap, you could actually mistake this mellow track with blatantly quiet storm appeal for one of LL Cool J’s sexcapades. Joc does seem to be more than meets the eye – he spends a lot of the album establishing his street credentials with songs like “Do Ya Bad” and “Dope Boy Magic,” but is far more interesting when he talks a mack game on songs like “Knock it Out” where he brags that he “beat the pussy up like a old beat machine.” Kudos to Milwaukee Black for the track as well. After listening to “New Joc City” it occurs to me that Bad Boy Records may be trying to force Joc to fit a mold, knowing that they want to have the next T.I. or Ludacris on their label. Well it’s working because his single’s a hit and I’m sure his album is selling well, but Joc sounds like he could be far more creative left to his own devices. Whether he ever capitalizes on that potential to become a crossover superstar like Nelly or just continues to make cliched raps about flossing wealth and street status he may or may not have is ultimately up to him. “Joc” is easy enough to write in a rap review but it’s going to be an awkward name for him to use when he decides he’s not “Yung” any more.

Yung Joc :: New Joc City
6.5Overall Score