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Red Cafe, Hell’s Kitchen

Consider how long he’s been in the game and the number of labels he’s been backed by, and Red Café should have an album out by now. But, alas, the stingy pockets of said major labels, merged with the current climate, as well as other factors, and the Brooklyn MC is still itching to let his proper debut hit the streets. In the meantime, to keep some sustainable buzz, Red has focused on churning out stellar mixtape, the most recent of which, Hell’s Kitchen, hit the ‘net last week.

With his Ryan Leslie and Rick Ross-assisted “Fly Together” still earning radio spins and resting comfortably on the Billboard charts, the Bad Boy rapper chose a logical time to deliver his newest effort, kicking off 2012 ready to build on the momentum of the single and maybe find a way for his album to see the light of day. The mixtape isn’t much of a boundary pusher for Red, as he talks greasy about money, women, and whippin’ up that work. And why not? That’s what fans have come to expect from the rhymeslinger, and he seems more than happy to deliver.

Unfortunately, oftentimes, the bars to prove his boasts are a bit lazy (“Got so many hoes, niggas thinkin’ I’m pimpin’,” he raps on “Up In Here”; later, on “Brinks Truck,” he kicks, “And it hurts that you just might see me at the Garden/And I’m on the floor while Melo on the floor, and just like him, I’m ballin’.”). Thankfully, the tape isn’t overcome with dull lines, and Mr. What Else brings bars with vigor, too.

Thanks to some impressive features (J. Cole, Wale, Fabolous, Meek Mill, 2 Chainz, French Montana, Waka Flocka, Cory Gunz, Yo Gotti, Fat Trel, Trey Songz) and a combination of triumphant and gritty production to compliment Red’s flows, Hell’s Kitchen proves to be a solid play throughout. Hopefully it can bring enough flame Red Café’s name for his Shakedown album to finally emerge from purgatory. —Adam Fleischer

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