Over a year after gracing XXL’s 10 Freshmen for '10 cover, Donnis makes his 2011 mixtape debut with the release of Southern Lights. Following up on the success of his 2010's Fashionably Late, the up and comer has triumphed with perhaps his most impressive release to date. With a spoken word intro featuring Big Rube, the ATL Brave shows his roots in the southern hip-hop that paved his way, while simultaneously finding his own sound.

Southern Lights thrives when Donnis is able to seamlessly merge tracks about cars, partying, and sunglasses with songs detailing the struggles of a buzzing rapper who has yet to break through into the mainstream. He opens up about shares these struggles on “Blackberry Molasses,” explaining, “I’m tryna figure how to get up out my momma house/I’m on TV, watching me from my momma couch/Feeling like time is running out/I think it’s time to reroute.” The abilitiy to touch on this array of topics while maintaining the same easy going but lively vibe throughout the tape is what makes the release strong. Other Noteworthy tracks include the honest “PSA” and the Cataracs produced “Penthouse Suite.”

Sometimes, the strength of Atlantic signee's bars don't match that of his flow and content. Nonetheless, Southern Lights shows the maturation of an artist continuing to come into his own. If the mixtape is any indicator, Donnis has a bright year ahead of him. —NMB