Blood Raw
The Real American Gangstaz

Beats: XL
Lyrics: L
Originality: L

Despite the regional success of his 2008 debut, My Life: The True Testimony, Blood Raw never really stepped outside the shadow of Young Jeezy after joining his Corporate Thugz Entertainment label. But on his latest mixtape, The Real American Gangstaz, the Panama City, Fla. rapper attempts to establish his own brand of thug motivation.

The concept here is unmistakable: Blood Raw is real. From dope boy anthems like the drug-riddled “Give Um What They Want” to the self-explanatory “Ain’t I The Shit,” TRAG showcases the life and times of a former felon. Everything is produced to sound big, too—an energetic mix of strong hooks and 808-driven production. So whether he offers his perspective of poverty and pain over sped-up samples on the uplifting “Cries of the Ghetto” or contemplates his own fate on the hard luck “Gangstaz Don’t Live That Long,” BR aims to stay true to life in his message. Skits featuring endorsements from notorious drug dealer Freeway Rick Ross and Haitian gangster Mac A Zoe only further his cause.

At times, though, Blood Raw becomes too boorish with his one-dimensional theme, which makes his point of view hard to bear. On “Stay True,” he laughably raps, “In the streets, I got a B.A./Shorty authentic, I got a hustler’s degree.” He never quite hits his stride on the generic “The Realist,” either. But on one of the album’s best tracks, the synthy “Jack Boyz,” it’s hard to deny that, if nothing else, TRAG helps Blood Raw deliver testimony that’s all his own. “Swear to God, this the whole true story, nigga,” he raps, “No lie, the realest shit ever told, nigga.” That’s his story and he’s sticking to it. —Chris Yuscavage