Savage Life 2

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In 2008, putting a "2" on the cover of your album meant little in the world of hip-hop. The implication that it meant "sequel" had been abused by a long line of albums where "2" just meant "we hope it sells as much as the first." Webbie's follow-up to the first, very successful Savage Life should have dropped the numeral altogether because here the rapper sounds much sharper and significantly more mature. His mouth is still foul, his ego is still huge, and his allegiance to the game -- plus all the misogyny that comes with it -- is still strong, but there's little doubt that Webbie wants more than just hit singles. In an effort to balance the album, the usual hooky club tracks like the horribly infectious "Independent" mix with deeper, more ambitious numbers like "Just Like This" where the paradox of hood stardom is explored. On one hand there's the sleeping with beautiful women and the stacks of money. On the other there's the shotgun under the bed and the mean streets to which millionaire Webbie must remain connected in order to stay credible. While a top-shelf MC could add insight and answers, Webbie is at least able to offer vivid, eye-level views of his situation now that he's upped his lyrical game. Executive producers Turk and Mel waste none of this progress and enlist an A-list set of guest stars -- Bun B, Rick Ross, and the late Pimp C, just to name a few -- plus beatmakers with Mannie Fresh and B-Real supplementing the work of the Trill label's own Mouse on tha Track.

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