Do you know Youngbloodz? Have you heard "U-Way" and "85," to name two of the duo's early hits? Do you remember the Lil Jon-produced smash "Damn!" and its catchy chorus, "If you don't give a damn, we don't give a fuck"?
Like so much rap music, the title of Youngbloodz's third album, Ev'rybody Know Me, has a hidden theme. Sean Paul and J-Bo have been scoring hits since 1999, but they're rarely mentioned among Atlanta's elite rap artists. So much of the album's music, from the lead single "Presidential" to the title track, loudly asserts their ranking as true ATL stars. "We doing it big like George Bush," says Paul, who quickly clarifies that "George Bush" is a metaphor for marijuana, not an endorsement of the president of the United States. "It's like a weed bush. We just call it 'George Bush' because it's presidential, top of the line," he says.
The music is tipsy and gangsta-hard, and Youngbloodz swagger with noticeable confidence as they trade rhymes. "Represent the A-Town/Best believe that's me," raps J-Bo on "Datz Me." Guest stars include former TLC frontwoman T-Boz, Young Buck, Daz, Jazze Pha and Akon. Lil Jon, Scott Storch, Mannie Fresh, and DJ Smurf contribute beats.
"We right here with some of the best people in the industry, rubbing shoulders with 'em," says Paul. Even as he speaks via phone from New York, Paul prepares for an appearance on "106 & Park," BET's top-rated teen program. Next year, the group plans to launch an independent record label, YBZ Records. Its first artist is GMC (Get Money Click), a group that includes Mr. Moe (formerly of Jim Crow).
Sean Paul says that he has high expectations for Ev'rybody Know Me. He believes that label woes hurt the sales of their first two albums, Against the Grain and Drankin' Partnaz. The latter effort was a particularly painful experience. Shortly after Drankin' Partnaz's release, Sony BMG bought and liquefied Arista Records, curtailing promotion on a critically acclaimed album and a Billboard top-five hit in "Damn!"
Will the third time be the charm for Youngbloodz? With a new, established backer in Jive Records and a fresh collection of crunk anthems, Paul thinks so. The third album, he adds, "is basically making the statement saying we here, man. We've been here."