Selling A Dream

Beats: L
Lyrics: L
Originality: L

Nearly a year after releasing his debut album, The Audio Biography, Pittsburgh rapper Boaz is still hustling hard to make a major impact outside the Steel City. On his latest mixtape, Selling A Dream, he’s once again focused on chronicling the cold hardships of trying to make it in the music business.

Rather than resort to chintzy gimmicks, club songs or tracks aimed at pleasing a mass audience, Boaz is effective staying in his lane, focusing on spinning tales of his hard knock life. On the soulful “Big Business,” he utilizes interspersed samples of hip-hop’s ultimate hustler, Jay-Z, to take a close look at his career. He audaciously raps, “Could care less about all the rappers you heard before me/Ain’t none of ’em working with me, ain’t none of ’em working for me.” Over an infectious sped-up sample on “Slow Down,” Big Bo’ recants stories about his high school years and provides an uplifting message for the current crop of teens. He’s also particularly adept at creating hustler’s anthems, which he displays on the catchy Statik Selektah-produced “What You Know About” and the ambitious “Gettin’ My Money.”

Selling A Dream runs into trouble when Boaz sounds a little too concerned with moving weight. On the second half of the mixtape, he devotes four straight songs (“Back Like Cooked Crack,” “24, 23,” “Work,” and “Incarcerated Scarfaces”) to rapping about kilos and grams. None of these tracks are particularly bad, but they’re not nearly as effective as songs like the introspective “One More Wish,” where Boaz reminisces about things from his past he wishes he could change. When he’s slinging that kind of product on Selling A Dream, it’s hard not to buy into it. —Chris Yuscavage