It’s quite frankly astounding that an album released by Def Jam should be as obscure as “Jamboree,” but if this is your first time hearing of the Fast Life Yungstaz rest assured it’s mine too. I tried to find out who the hell they were without much success until I hit an entry stating their album sold 3,800 units the first week and eventually peaked at 14,000 total. That still doesn’t tell me who they are, but it tells me they were a flop by 2009 standards or by today’s standards. Maybe the video for their one and only single “Swag Surfin'” will be more helpful.
This opened up a rabbit hole I fell down until I landed on the fact this song was briefly an unofficial anthem of the Atlanta Hawks. It appears that regional success was enough for Def Jam to sign them, but once that song’s popularity had peaked, they fulfilled their contractual obligation by releasing “Jamboree” while doing nothing whatsoever to promote it. I’m sure if “Swag Surfin'” had become a national dance fad the way Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” had, Def Jam would have put their full weight behind finding a follow up hit, but the group themselves seemed to be trying and failing to find it. Songs like “Party Time” leave them uncomfortably between the crunk of Atlanta and the college “Party Rockin'” sound of LMFAO. I don’t think I needed rappers to call themselves “gnarly” or say “cowabunga” with the sincerity F.L.Y. does. As a parody of party rap it would work, but these Yungstaz actually meant it.
Listening to “Jamboree” feels unintentionally transitional. Around this time the ATL scene would give birth to a whole new generation of artists like Future, Migos, Young Thug and Playboi Carti who would reinvent the sound and style of Georgia for the next decade. The sound of K.E. on the Track songs like “Gotta Be” is like a time capsule — you open it up and you hear the sound that rappers like Jeezy and Boosie rode to mainstream success. The Yungstaz jumped on that train too late and instead of delivering something interesting ended up being a carbon copy of other Southern acts.
No matter how hard they try to escape their fate, the producers behind this CD saddled them with one cliche after another. K.E. might as well confess he was trying to make another “Crank Dat” with “Prada Walkin'” because I refuse to believe anything else. Dre Day Beatz (what an irony — a producer whose name references a better producer) clearly wanted a Chamillionaire crossover song with “Better Days.” What can I say about “Across the Globe” featuring Sammie that Jim Jonsin’s beat doesn’t? It’s literally EVERY hit that Jim Jonsin ever had distilled into one track.
A stronger and more established rap group could have set out to create their own identity, choosing their own sound, style and producers. Instead these naive Yungstaz let Def Jam dictate the direction of their “Jamboree,” and the label that pushed them to go this way promptly set them adrift when it failed, not even giving them the courtesy of an oar to paddle back to shore. I feel bad for F.L.Y. but I also feel bad for the 14,000 people who actually bought this album hoping “Swag Surfin'” hinted at greater things to come. It did not.