One thing Willie The Kid has done throughout his youthful career is hold his own. Since aligning himself with DJ Drama [click to read] and Don Cannon's [click to read] Aphilliates Music Group, the Grand Rapids, Michigan native has been put in some seemingly intimidating situations, rhyming alongside superstars like T.I. [click to read], Young Buck, Jadakiss [click to read] and others. His brother, La The Darkman, is an affiliate of the Wu-Tang Clan. But he's continuously managed to not get lost in the shuffle--and occasionally, with his punchline prowess and his multi-syllabic rhyme schemes, he'll even outshine his more established co-stars. After several mixtapes under his belt, he drops his official debut, Absolute Greatness this year. While it doesn't reach the lofty goals of its title, it's still a solid disc that reestablishes Willie's talent and gives him a firm, but flawed foundation to build on.

Naturally, Willie is at his best when spewing the blistering bars that have built his reputation. When rhyming over beats from his AMG boss Don Cannon, he's strongest: the cavernous bounce of the album opener "Thang Back" is the perfect forum for him to talk about his violence-ridden hometown, while the marching band instrumentation and hand claps of "What They Wanna Hear" match Willie's flow like a glove. Album closer "Driven" and "Pressure" are also highlights in the mix: the former sees him asserting his motivation, while the latter matches his rhymes with a trademark contribution from The Runners. Still, as problematic of many teen/early twenties rappers, Willie might have the beat or the chorus, but he fails to provide words of wisdom, or resonant themes to any of these songs - perhaps further a retail extension of his mixtape lineage.

While they're not in spades like one would expect, Willie's still got friends in high places that offer cameos to help him get some mainstream love. The first single, "For The Love Of Money," is star-studded with guest features: Gucci Mane, Bun B [click to read], Flo Rida, Yung Joc, the aforementioned La The Darkman, and Trey Songz on the hook. While Willie has a few questionable lines here ("when y'all was wearing snorkels, I was out snorkeling"), the rest of his verse and everyone else's contributions pick up the slack to create a potentional single. The female-friendly "You" features Bobby Valentino cooing the chorus, while Willie spits simple, but managing rhymes to get the message across.

While Absolute Greatness has potential, it also suffers from a lack of memorable songs. While it's admirable how his own talent and the production keep things from getting boring, there's still not very many songs that help push it over the hump. But tracks like "Splendid!" build hope. Rhyming over the same sample that fellow Michigander J Dilla lifted for De La Soul's "Stakes Is High," Willie shows all sides of his talent by using clever punchlines and beat-riding ability to simultaneously speak on societal ills and spit the braggadocio that he's known for. He wraps up the song with a bridge and hook that pay homage to the original. Songs like this, along with the album's balance between the commercial and the gritty, show that while he's not there quite yet, that Willie's definitely got the ingredients to a noteworthy future.