Kanye West had interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs. Mad Rad had a fight with a bouncer at Neumos. Like Kanye—and don't worry, we won't take this comparison so far that it becomes grossly unfair—Mad Rad spent much of 2010 recalibrating their brand and rebuilding their hype game even as they went to work in the studio, and they too cap the year with an album that aims, however obliquely, for redemption. Let's have a toast to the douchebags.
Kanye came back from his gaffe with the recently released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an absolute mountain of an album—hiphop, pop, or otherwise—that finds new depths by doubling down on the auteur's favorite subject: himself. Mad Rad's new sophomore album, The Youth Die Young, feels like a more intentional and drastic reboot—from much-hyped party rappers (remember "third wave"?) to banned "bad boys" to, well, what exactly? The partying and the recklessness are still here—from the would-be cred-establishing (and Clipse-refuting?) boast in "Caveman" ("I don't need keys to let us in/See what I did to your bouncer's chin") to the equally aggro and entry-obsessed sex rap of "I Want Your Blood." But there are also heavy-handed attempts at sober reflection, angst, and "Epiphany." If White Gold was the party, Youth is the morning after. Mad Rad haven't become the good guys, but they've started to take stock of themselves as bad guys. But the results of this soul searching are disappointingly shallow on several levels.