The West Coast Don

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Yukmouth certainly doesn't lack for arrogance; swagger spills from his ever pore. Coming off a three-year delayed album that came and went to, at best, tepid reviews, the one-time Luniz stronger half returned the next year in 2009, declaring himself The West Coast Don. Yukmouth's spot as a skillful MC has rarely been in question: with a subtle growl backing up a smooth flow and a knack for the tautly simple rhyme, he's been a talent waiting to break out since the Luniz's haughty 1995 debut with its timeless single, "I Got 5 on It." Unfortunately, it's never wholly come together for the Oakland rapper. The record is certainly a step up from its predecessor, Million Dollar Mouthpiece, if not particularly a career reviver. The affair is loaded with top-shelf guest stars, as pretty much the whole hyphy universe pops in at one point or another: E-40, Keak da Sneak, even the late Mac Dre is resurrected on "Pimpin 4 Real" (one of the strongest tracks with its hazed-out passion and subtle, twisting melody). Crooner Ray J adds a sultry touch to the sinister single "Im a Gangsta," while ninth-day wonder T-Pain pretty much phones it in on "44." It's the sort of hit-or-miss contrast that rules the uneven The West Coast Don. Low-rent, sparse production is the rule of the day, which is unsurprising, and on the best tracks (see "They Like My Swag") the simple hooks swirl hypnotic, while on tracks like "West Coast Geez" the beats just sit there lifeless. Yukmouth's lyrics follow that pattern, alternately invigorated and uninspired. However, there's definitely more urgency in his flow than there's been in a long time. It's still no breakthrough, but The West Coast Don is not the worst record to hear pumping out of a summer stereo.

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