To say this album is long overdue is an overwhelming understatement. Witness Tha Realest was originally said to be dropping a decade ago, held back by loyalty and an infamous label’s demise. Patiently bubbling, Tha Realest [click to read], a Dallas native and Los Angeles transplant, reportedly took his rhymes away from Death Row after many years of bench work. With this album and a new label deal, Tha Realest‘s finally able to get in the game. However, the crowd has already given him a fair amount of criticism before his official initial run.

To discuss the similarities between Tha Realest and the late, great Tupac Shakur would be to engage in overly drawn out discourse. That’s been going on since Realest‘s early work with Death Row was released. Still, ignoring this facet of the album would be irresponsible because the similarities are not only striking, but also unavoidable. As with knocks on flow-ripping, jabs at simplified rhyme patterns are legitimate. Still, commendable is the emcee’s topical diversity from love (“N Luv Wit Ah Ghetto Gurl”) and lust (“Number 1 Hoe”) to disparity (“Mind of Ah Madman”) and paranoia (“Y I Keep My Burna On Me”). With 17 cuts, he navigates through length by taking us back (“Memory Lane”), showing pride (“Tha Good Lyfe”) and supplying street-generated dedications like “All or Nuthin,” “When Ya Time Iz Up,” and “Kuz It Just Ain’t N U.” Guests bring healthy breaks including notable appearances from Devin The Dude‘s [click to view] smooth crooning and Crooked I‘s [click to view] scene-stealing 16. WC [click to read], Fat Joe [click to read], Sean P. of The Youngbloodz [click to read], Yukmouth [click to read], Ray J [click to read] and E.D.I. Mean from The Outlawz [click to read] all contribute throughout.

Shove the vocal comparisons to the side when acknowledging beats. “Get It N,” manned by Detail of Konvict Muzik, is a Pop-friendly beat that doesn’t lose its edge, which is the perfect background for a first single. The electric guitar riff on “That’s Juss Lyfe,” incorporated with the soulful backing from Val Young‘s voice provides a peak on the disc in beats and rhymes. “Memory Lane” serves as a throwback worth the trip and the piano’s gothic keys enhance the dark texture on “Y I Keep My Burna On Me.” Still, many of the instrumental selections come from a few pages back in the calendar as “Ice Kold,” “Number 1 Hoe” and “Grown Ass Man” all sound dated, making the seventeen cuts have many valleys to walk through.

Haunted by criticism, it’s difficult for anyone to truly thrive within shadows. Living up to criticism and having less than stellar production doesn’t help the cause. Despite all of this, Tha Realest does bring forth a platter full of different topics, which his fans may appreciate. After 10 years of waiting for this album to hit store shelves, it’s hard not to commend the grind but it’s almost as difficult to compliment the result.