In hip-hop, second chances are rare. But when they do happen, boy are they sweet. Icons like LL Cool J, Dr. Dre, Eminem and Snoop Dogg can attest to that. So can T.I., Kanye West, Pitbull and 2 Chainz. Now, looking to add his name to the short list of rappers who were able to bounce back from early career stumbles comes Atlanta’s own Yung Ralph with his latest effort I Am Juugman.[wpex click for more]
Introduced to the world with his 2007 hit song “Look Like Money,” Ralph exploded on the rap scene virtually overnight. The catchy track received massive radio airplay and even landed him a record deal with Universal Republic records. Although his debut album Most Unexpected never dropped, Ralph continued to find ways to keep his name hot in the street and turned in show-stealing cameos on songs like Gucci Mane’s “Bricks.” Unfortunately, the gruff-voiced rapper who is the first to admit that he comes from nothing, didn’t really know what money looked like.
“It all went so fast,” he reveals. “I was trying to take care of everybody. I was so concerned with the fast show money that I lost track of the paperwork and business.”
The swift peak-to-valley fall all but crushed Ralph. However, the resilience he absorbed growing up in Southeast Atlanta’s Zone 3 territory kept him from getting too down on himself. Not to mention, being one of the first rappers to break from the oft-overlooked part of town inspired artists like Young Thug, Cashout and Pee Wee Longway to rep their neighborhood and lifestyle with pride. Now that all eyes are on a movement that he indirectly started, Ralph is looking to carve out his own space.
“With this project I’m looking to cater to the younger crowd, but satisfy my fanbase too,” he says about I Am Juugman. “I’m going to do what’s current, but in my own way.”
That becomes evident on the Fetty Wap-assisted lead single “Act A Fool” where Ralph steps out of his comfort zone and creates a song geared towards a woman’s affection, but keeps it centered around “Juugman” ethics. He continues to open up on the track “Everyday” where he shares moments and events from the last few years of his life out of the spotlight.
“I made this song to let people know they can change their minds and get their lives back together,” says Ralph. “I felt like I needed to express this first before I got to the songs about the fun and the money.”
Where money is something Ralph has been rapping about for all of his career, I Am Juugman showcases his growth with songs like “Bands” featuring Young Thug where instead of solely blowing the money, he “got me some bands and got me some land.” He continues to flex his penchant for crafting catchy hooks on tracks like “Mo Bands” and “Tomorrow” but also uses his lyrics to stress his ambitions on “Rich Forever” and “Outchea” featuring Jacquees. Backed by an assortment of producers including certified hitmakers Zaytoven, London On Da Track and Cassius Jay, I Am Juggman is Yung Ralph’s most expansive effort yet.
“I spent an extra six months on this project because I kept getting new beats and taking old songs off,” says Ralph about the recording process. “Swamp Izzo, Greg Street and DJ MLK all told me to stop and put it out, because I’ve got hits.”
Though he may not have been releasing music as often as his peers, Ralph respect among them was shown when he was handpicked to perform at the much ballyhooed Outkast reunion concert in Atlanta in 2014. Months later he appeared on Rich Gang’s “Ridin’” which now has more than five million views on Youtube. Events like these motivated Ralph to go back in the studio and deliver more of the music that his fans had been waiting on.
“When I go outside, there’s no where I can go without people asking when I’m dropping something new,” he says. “That’s what lets me know that this is what I do, I can’t give up on it. I still have the biggest rappers in the world respecting me. There aren’t too many people that get a second chance to be heard, I have to take advantage.”[/wpex]
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