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XV, Zero Heroes

XV must be doubly motivated as an emcee coming from Wichita, Kansas, a city without much presence in the rap game. His latest mixtape, Zero Heroes assembles an impressive array of talent (Just Blaze, Pusha T, Kendrick Lamar), but the Warner Bros. signee’s writing skills and versatility keep it cohesive.

Vizzy is raw and playful on club bangers like the Pusha T featured “Awesome” and “All For Me,” the latter of which is backed by a great Vado verse and chopped horn loops. He turns introspective on “Wichita,” retelling his coming of age over Just Blaze’s slow building beat. Mixtape highlight “Pictures On My Wall” narrates with brutal honesty the story of a potentially suicidal young XV driven by pictures of personal heroes posted in his room over plinky piano.

Zero Heroes is largely produced by frequent collaborator Seven and spans an exciting variety of genres: the production runs from J .Cole’s Smashing Pumpkins loop on “Smallville” to poppy on “The Last Hero” and electro on “Swervin.” However, the tape does runs a bit long, with a couple unnecessary cameos, and could benefit from better sequencing. Nonetheless, Zero Heroes’ best songs present a strong case for the Kansas emcee as one to watch. For those that slept, consider ZH the wake-up call. —Aaron Matthews

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