Kid Ink's got a lot to prove. Despite gracing the cover of this year's XXL Freshmen issue—as well as releasing three well-received mixtapes (Crash Landing, Daydreamer and Wheels Up)— the Los Angeles native still has the arduous task of shaking the weight of naysayers and skeptics who tag him as unoriginal. That's no biggie for the tatted MC, however—or, at less, he makes it seem that way, as he lets his talents shine on his debut indie release, Up & Away. "Don't worry about me, bitch I came for the doubt," Ink promptly affirms on the album’s intro “No One Left.”

On the 12-track release, he effectively displays his songmaker potential, and though he doesn’t mesmerize lyrically, sonically it gels. If the infectious single “Time Of Your Life” hasn’t become an eardrum fixture yet, then joints like the breezy “Is It You” or the head-spinning "Walk In the Club" and indelible “Lost In the Sauce” will. Aside from a few average joints (“Drippin’,” “Rumpshaker”), the album possesses a potent cohesion of stirring songs. On the chest-pumping, carefree anthem, "Neva Gave A Fuck," the Alumni Music Group rapper coos the confidence of a champion—boasting, "Signing titties all night, still I won't sign a deal"—and later shows there's no need for an X-Ray to see what he’s made of on the reflective closer “Hell & Back.”

Backed by head-nodding production from the likes of Jahlil Beats, Cardiak, Ned Cameron and more, the indie LP exhibits why major labels have been courting the 2012 XXL Freshman. As he puts it on “Hell & Back,” “Long way to the top I could barely see the steps/Yeah they sleeping on me still, but I barely need the rest…” —Ralph Bristout (@XXLRalph)