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Since leaving Cash Money to start his own Chopper City Records in 2001, B.G.’s past three independent releases through Koch Records have all sold respectably. With his distribution deal fulfilled, the New Orleans native has become one of the Dirty South’s most coveted free agents. So his 10th LP, The Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2 (I Am What I Am), is almost a demo of sorts, cleverly aimed at enticing record execs to cough up that major-label dough.

B. Gizzle’s revered for kicking that gangsta shit, and the Chopper City general doesn’t disappoint with his latest disc. On the ominous “Kill or Be Killed,” he addresses the dire consequences of snitching with icy conviction, and authors a stunningly visual tale about sticking to the G-code on the Cracktracks-produced “I Ain’t Got Nothing.” But it’s Coe’s deep subs and tinkling piano keys on “It Don’t Stop” that inspire B.G. to cleverly mark the impact of Hurricane Katrina on his livelihood: “My city gone, can’t go back for a year/But when I get back, I’ma be the supplier for the year.”

While B.G.’s polished flow and refined delivery shine throughout the 18-track disc, the bloated track listing results in a lack of musical variety. Cuts like “Face Up” and “Yeah Nigga Yeah” lean too heavily on the 808 knock, and wind up sounding trite and uninspired.

Fortunately, things don’t stay mundane for long, as the R&B-tinged “If U Ain’t Gangsta” and Mannie Fresh’s obligatory floor shaker “Move Around” provide a much-needed jolt of sonic diversity. In addition, producer Bass Heavy’s Spanish guitars and Latin percussion work on “Gotta Get Me” serve as a unique backdrop for B.G. to stake his claim: “I keep it trill, it don’t get realer than me/The product ain’t no good without The Heart of tha Streetz.” If Vol. 2 is any indication, then B.G. shouldn’t have to worry about keeping the block hot. —PAUL CANTOR