Seattle emcee D.Black has performed a transformation other rappers take nearly a decade to realize. Trading in the street hustle demeanor displayed on his 2006 debut album The Cause & Effect, Black treats his latest effort, Ali’Yah, as a sign of growth and maturity.

This is evident on “Yesterday,” a motivational record driven by a soulful backdrop. Urging his listeners to see the importance of their future, D.Black rhymes, “How can you ever see what’s in front of you if always lookin’ back?” Listeners may remember the beat for “Keep On Going” from 50 Cent’s [click to read] record “London Girl.” However, instead of sweet talking the latest European woman, Black uses the Vitamin D-laced production to inspire. Understanding the struggle, D.Black mindfully raps, “No we ain’t gotta be cliché / But we gotta live where we stay / So why can’t we say / That we praying for a better day, today.

The album takes a more serious tone with tracks such as “Sugar” and “Blow The Trumps.” Despite a repetitive sample on the former record, D.Black pieces together a story of beautiful disaster. Describing the life of a lost child on the streets, Black rhymes, “All his life they just told him how bad he was / So he had figured that’s all that he was / Dysfunctional ‘cause he rejects love / and he doesn’t understand even God accepts thugs.” On “Blow The Trumps,” Black attempts to spell out the ills of the world unsuccessfully through sidebar sound bites, and the beat from Vitamin D ends up being the highlight.

Keeping the album Seattle-centric through his producers and guests, the latter third of Ali’Yah by far features Black’s finest work to date. “I Believe,” a grooving record featuring Spacemen and Choklate, one of Sea town’s leading songstresses, sets the right vibe for a celebration. Shouting out his mentor Vitamin D, Black reflects on his journey effortlessly while paying homage to his hometown. Then there’s the crowd-pleaser “Bring It Back,” which is driven by a high-energy beat courtesy of up-and-coming producer/rapper GMK. In retrospect, the only damper here is that Black gets outshined by his Ballard-brethren Grynch. Finally, the album-closing “Close To Yah” embraces the spiritual theme of Ali’Yah perfectly, from B. Brown’s powerful production to Black’s calm rhymes praising the man above. Where other rappers have attempted and failed with these types of records, D.Black succeeds because of his sincere delivery.

D.Black may not be the best lyricist among his peers, but with a project like Ali’Yah, it’s evident that he’s not only shown progress with his lyrical content, but also as an individual. And just like the title of his album (Hebrew for “ascent”), Black is becoming an emcee who understands his position in the greater scheme of things. With that said, watching his growth will be something to look forward to.