Yelawolf started from the bottom and sometime before the release of his major label debut, Radioactive, he was “here.” But where is the Alabama rapper now? With the release of his latest mixtape, Trunk Muzik Returns, he’s back to where he came from. And judging from both his new songs and appearance (grizzly facial hairs and concealing sunglasses), he’s content with never coming back.

Yelawolf put out two singles before dropping the mixtape, “Way Out” and “F.A.S.T. Ride.” On the surface, it’s signature Yelawolf doing what he does best, penning strangely delightful hooks to drive out to, backed by rapidfire bars. Getting WillPower behind the boards (on all the songs of this mixtape) was a solid choice as he complements the rapper extremely well. But when you take a second to listen to the lyrics, they’re empty and the rapper never really takes you anywhere.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with riding a beat and rapping for the sake of the art, especially over great production. Lil Wayne did this on “A Milli” and threw in a bunch of half-assed metaphors that became quotables because they still sounded good. It’s not something everyone can pull off, and these songs are a good example of that. But Yelawolf can pull that stream-of-conscious thing off, and he did so on many of the original Trunk Muzik’s songs. It’s more than likely one of the reasons Eminem gave him a deal. Most importantly, it’s probably why Yela decided to dub this mixtape the “Return” to that sound. But rhymes like these will only have members of Slaughterhouse giving each other the side glance and leaving fans confused.

Another common theme on this project is owning up to Radioactive, an album Yelawolf considers a failure. Every fan likes to hear a rapper open up and admit to music they’re not especially proud of. It humanizes the rapper and wins them back points (see: Noreaga talking about Melvin Flynt Da Hustler on “Invincible” or Canibus blaming Wyclef for spoiling his debut on “2000 B.C.”). But when Paul Wall sets you up to knock it out the park on some smooth shit for “Hustle,” you might want to follow suit. The same thing happens on “Rhyme Room.” Raekwon and Killer Mike hook him up with some cold, sly verses and Yelawolf follows suit for a bit and then the handkerchief comes out and he starts blabbering again. It’s a shame, because “Fame” sounds great but by the time fans get to it, it sounds like serial whining.

The whole mixtape isn’t a fail though. It sounds cool, but it’s bogged down by so many missed opportunities. Check out “Catfish Billy,” “Gangster,” or any of the hooks on this project to see why you shouldn’t give up on Yelawolf. He’s a true artist and he should have room to experiment, but this just wasn’t it.

DX Consensus: “Just A Mixtape”

Listen to Trunk Muzik Returns by Yelawolf.