“You can never tell how close you are. It may be nearer when it seem so far. So stick to the fight when your heart is hit. It’s when things go wrong… that you should never quit.” Over bare keys, underground legend Premro “8 Ball” Smith opens Life’s Quest with “Indestructible,” a highs and lows tale of overcoming odds. It sets the stage for 8 Ball’s Life’s Quest, a journey that details a great many ups and downs throughout.

Eliciting vocals from the likes of Angie Stone, Slim (from 112), and Ebony Love, Life’s Quest carries an overall lighter tone than March’s Premro mixtape. “Don’t Bring Me Down,” featuring 2012’s mandatory 2 Chainz appearance is a highlight (Tity delivers one of his finer novelty verses of late), as is the trunk rattling “Good Girl, Bad Girl.” Including southern rap’s heirs like 2 Chainz and Big K.R.I.T (“We Buy Gold) breathes new life into the Memphis vet’s work.

Cautionary tales “The Price,” and the legitimately terrifying “Lucky’s Theme Song,” are both engaging, particularly the latter where 8Ball draws from a seemingly true story. Over an ominous acoustic driven backdrop sprinkled with screams and gunshots, the track generates a level of anxiety that will have listeners holding their breath until the story concludes.

The exclusion of “Far Away,” a booming, heavy metal influenced cut initially intended for the album is perhaps the only miss here, on a well polished album that balances a mixed bag of beats and subject matter. It’s an LP that accurately reflects 8 Ball’s place as one of the finest elder statesmen of southern rap. A hardened pimp? Of course. But one rich with OG wisdom. Life’s Quest imparts much of it. —NMB