The Jacka
Tear Gas
(Artist Records/SMC)

Gangster imagery and sex-filled rhetoric are not new to hip-hop, but few can blend them like The Jacka on his third solo album, Tear Gas.

It’s been nearly four years since the Pittsburg, California, native released his last official album, The Jack Artist, and this time out he wastes little time, jumping off with heat on the somber “Summer.” Over the track’s steadily paced drums, Jacka exhibits how the hottest season can be so cold, reminiscing on lost friends. He is best when he touches on the realities of street life, and on “They Don’t Know,” featuring Freeway, The Jacka continues to expound on the perils of the hood, when he raps, “Gangsta from the M-O-B, but in Allah we trust/I try to purify my heart ’cause I’m a slave to my thoughts/I’m a monster out here ’cause I change when it’s dark.”

Surprisingly, Jacka is able to multitask. With introspective block anthems already in tow, the rapper turns his attention to the fairer sex. “Girls,” produced by Traxamillion, is a definite standout with its kinetic drum pattern and childlike melody on the hook. But it’s the Devin the Dude–assisted ode to freaks “Keep Callin’” that ultimately wins, while “What’s Your Sign” and the previously released “All Over Me” provide a much-needed balance to an otherwise hardcore disc.

The gift and curse of the album is its plethora of features (Jacka is the sole rapper on only four of 19 tracks). Sometimes they work great, as is the case with Mistah F.A.B.’s scene-stealing performance on “Callin’ Me Back,” and other times they become a distraction, like on the out of place “Get It In,” with Paul Wall. It’s the disc’s duality and Jacka’s penchant for both prose and pop that, in the end, make Tear Gas the best of both worlds. –BRANDEN J. PETERS