Depending on whose lawyers you ask, Young Buck may or may not still (begrudgingly) be a member of G-Unit Records, but despite his ongoing drama with 50 Cent, he delivers “Live Loyal Die Rich” after a somewhat lengthy absence. For his return, Buck’s hunger to move on with his life and career comes through loud and clear, but 50’s talent for picking hits is notably absent.

While “Live Loyal Die Rich” has some issues as a whole, Young Buck still seems to be in fighting shape and anxious to make a comeback in earnest. It’s not easy to suspend disbelief for “Money in the Walls” so soon after Buck talks most honestly about his career troubles on opener “2nd Chance,” but the song still works well enough from a technical standpoint. He works in a few different flows (“Go Loco”) and shows energy through the whole affair. So while you wouldn’t quite mistake this for an official album, the better songs feel like more than just leftovers.

Buck’s excitement is better than the alternative, but he ultimately goes overboard with 20 tracks. The production is decent despite the lack of many obvious big names, but mixtape or not, a lot of “Live Loyal Die Rich” is just filler. “Death of Me” and “Get it All” are fairly by-the-numbers, and “21 & Up” is only amusing once (if that). As mentioned, there’s also the problem of Buck’s selective acknowledgement of his real-life issues. One minute he’s blowing his advance, the next he’s rich forever; and while Buck seems ready to embrace the age of Emo Rap at moments, he can’t shake his baller habits.

Young Buck doesn’t need the cover of a group to make a good album, but that’s not to say he couldn’t use a guiding hand when it comes to maximizing his talents and assembling a tracklist. Assuming he is in fact a free man and can find a good home, his next full album could be something worth looking for. If he’ll be stuck making low-budget mixtapes, however, it’ll be hard to keep everyone’s interest either way.

DX Consensus: “EP-Worthy”

Listen to Young Buck – Live Loyal Die Rich