Whether you’re a casual listener or an entrenched aficionado, those who have been following hip-hop for the last decade or so will be familiar with the narrative of The Bronx lyricist, Remy Ma. Back in May of 2008, the US Supreme Court handed Remy an eight-year prison sentence after being charged with the shooting of an associate, Makeda Barnes-Joseph. Fast-forward to now, and following a six-year stint behind bars, Remy’s back and sounds hungrier than ever on her first post-prison body of work, I’m Around.

The introduction for the tape is a spine-tingling amalgamation of various news reports from the days surrounding Remy’s arrest and sentencing. This is quickly followed by a slew of reports pertaining to her release, finished off by an inspirational rant from Terror Squad affiliate, DJ Khaled. It’s a fitting opening and perhaps provides some closure that allows Remy to focus on her future. From here, the tape dispenses a few tracks that will most likely end up in the recycling bin, however, the first standout cut comes from the Tie Stick-produced “Gangsta Bitch.” The sound is heavy, fierce and belongs in the club. The bars are simple, but Remy’s flow is sharp, on point and cuts through the track seamlessly.

The only feature on the tape comes from Papoose (of course) on “Black Love.” In line with the track’s title, the Tamia-sampled cut witnesses the pair running through a plethora of successful and famous Black couples: “Name one good man / Will Smith, Jada / Melo, La La / Mandela, Winnie / Swizz, Alicia, Tupac, Afeni / T.I., Tiny” etcetera. And for those who are scratching their heads thinking they’ve heard the lyrics before, Remy and Pap’ flirted with the same lyrics in their 2014 BET Hip Hop Cypher.

Remy egresses from the tape with a 90 second ode to her city on “I Run New York.” The cut is laced with a fiery, piano-ridden beat that’s accompanied with some daring bars: “I’m the epitome / I’m the equivalent of the Statue of Liberty / I’m right at the port, holdin’ the torch / With a crown on my head / Yeah I run New York,” Remy bestows.

What’s perhaps most interesting about I’m Around is Remy Ma’s experimentation with a variety of beats and sounds. One look at the liner notes for the tape illustrates an array of producers including Ron Browz, Sean C & LV and Buckwild, among a string of others. There’s R&B infused sounds (“Always”), nods to DJ Mustard-esque production (“Dying To Be Me”) and hard-hitting Big Apple beats (“Go In Go Off”). Although her attempts to conform to contemporary platitudes are apparent, they also work. And work well.

With one spin of the tape, it’s clear Remy Ma is having fun, and deservedly so. Weighing in at 41 minutes in length, straddling over 12 tracks, the project is an apt size, offering enough excitement to help quench demand but leaving ample room for Remy to explore some untapped territory on her next effort. Yet despite Remy’s laudable effort, there are a few passable tracks, most notably “I’m Around” and the sensually detailed “Wassup Tho.” With this said, the tape is perhaps more befitting to a pre-night turn up session in lieu of a forced listening.

During her time behind bars, the rap game has experienced a period of elongated change and nowhere has this evolution been felt more prominently than in the women’s branch. Since Remy’s arrest in 2008, the likes of Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea and Rapsody, to name a few, have all elevated the female hip-hop game to new heights; consistently topping charts, gaining features in spades and perhaps most importantly, forcing their names further into the conversation. It was always going to be testing to see whether Remy Ma could rekindle the flame of her storied past following her release, but with I’m Around, the flame appears to be flickering strong and has further propelled the excitement surrounding her sophomore project. Welcome home, Remy.—Henry Mansell

More From XXL