The intro to Trae Tha Truth’s latest album Tha Truth feels like a mission statement. Comedian Lil Duval says, “Ain’t no music out here for the struggle right now. That’s what the people need.” He continues to explain that he knows people love to dance and have a good time, but it’s hard to do that when life hits you hard. It’s an accurate take on the current landscape of hip-hop. What’s hot in the club reigns supreme now and the tales of hardship are becoming irregularities in the scope of rap. Trae Tha Truth is here to rectify this with his new LP.

This is not new territory for Trae Tha Truth; the man has been power player in the Houston hip-hop scene for years, a member of the legendary Screwed Up Click and even had the city name a day after him for all the community work he’s done (The eighth annual Trae Day was this Wednesday). Sure, some of Trae’s music has fallen under the familiar tropes of Houston rap, but at its core it’s always been about the struggles to survive and endure in a cruel world. Tha Truth feels like a much needed reality check courtesy of a rap stalwart like Trae.

While Tha Truth maintains that overarching theme highlighted on the intro, it takes a bumpy road getting there. While it’s certainly an entertaining track, “Tricken Every Car I Get” featuring Future and Boosie BadAzz seems like everything Duval was speaking out against. That’s followed up by a Rick Ross guest appearance on “I Don’t Give A Fuck” which sees him follow Trae’s intense raps with a verse of inane bragging and boasting. But as the album progresses into “Doin’ Me" with Lil Bibby and Nipsey Hu$$le, it quickly finds its groove and settles into the type of content Trae is so good at administering.

“Why” is one of Trae’s most poignant tracks to date as he laments the violence involved in the street life over a thunderous beat. Trae acts as a narrator detailing the brutality and consequences of this reality throughout his three verses. “Children Of Men” is another highlight as Trae teams up with J. Cole over a soulful instrumental. The beautiful hook, sung by Ink, and the uplifting tone of the production creates a stark contrast to the narrative unfolding. The two MCs tell the story of a man’s journey through a rough childhood to his high school years where his actions lead him to a prison sentence. But once he’s a free man, the tale takes a dark turn as he struggles to adjust to life on the outside and uses drastic measures to rectify his situation.

While plenty of harsh circumstances are found on Tha Truth, Trae still delivers moments to champion the ability to persevere through them. He gets autobiographical on “Determined” as he takes listeners through his mindset as obstacles come his way and how he overcomes them. The DeJ Loaf-assisted “Real” sees Trae looking out at his peers in the rap game and realizing they don’t measure up to him. He raps, “If they ain’t chirpin’ over money, then they out there chirpin’ over hoes/I never put that for my people though they heart was froze.” Trae’s frustrated with what he sees, but also realizes his priorities set him apart from the pack.

Tha Truth represents Trae Tha Truth at his finest. Trae is able to dissect the pain of life and use it to craft provocative material. The album is not perfect, as tracks like the radio-pandering “Late Night King” or an unnecessary revamping of Master P’s “'Bout It, 'Bout It” on “Yeah Hoe” will show. But the tracks that don't work are small deviations from the overall scheme of Tha Truth. Trae crafts a captivating experience over 16 tracks that commands attention. He is as real as it gets and displays a keen ability to convey the message of the streets in a way that pulls no punches. Longtime Trae Tha Truth fans are sure to enjoy what he’s done on Tha Truth and new listeners should discover a rapper who deserves their attention going forward. —Justin Ivey

More From XXL