BSB Records

For the last seven years, Troy Ave has been on an earnest mission to prove he deserves rap’s utmost recognition. There hasn’t been one project, one interview, one song or even one bar where Mr. BSB hasn’t expressed his constant drive to be in the heart of hip-hop’s spotlight. Although he very much intended to do so via hit records and classic albums, Troy currently finds himself in that spotlight for all the wrong reasons as a result of a shoot-out at a concert in New York last month. However, the rapper brings the focus back to his music with the new mixtape, Free Troy Ave.

Prematurely titled Real vs. Fake now named Free Troy Ave, the tape drops as the Brooklyn-bred rapper patiently sits in prison awaiting trial for his pending attempted murder charge. Ave caught the case after a shooting that transpired during a T.I. concert at Irving Plaza in New York City on May 25. Based on the mixtape’s title alone, it’s easy to see where Troy Ave thinks he should be -- a free man on the outside world.

Most listeners might dive into this mixtape with the expectation that it’s going to be a  bunch of songs that Troy quickly recorded in prison over the phone -- all of which pandering to fans that he’s undeniably innocent. Surprisingly enough though, it isn’t. Aside from a couple in-jail recordings, all 12 tracks are previously recorded cuts that have no real relation to his current indictment. In fact, the majority of the tape is upbeat and flossy; plenty of gold chain and designer cloth talk.

The tape kicks off with “Intro” -- one of the three in-jail recordings. Based on the amount of times he claims innocence in that 90 seconds, it could probably double as his closing court statement. He details his side of the story by rapping lines like, “Pussy nigga try to do is assassinate me/I took the gun from him and turned the tables ‘round like a G.” Troy even states his optimism with lines like, “I’m innocent/It ain’t the end of Troy Ave, not at all/This just the beginning/I’m innocent.” An extremely predictable opening track but something he obviously felt required to include on a tape specifically titled Free Troy Ave.

“Chuck Norris” is really the tape’s only super highlight. The twangy horns and catchy hook are undeniably infectious in their own right but Troy’s rapping takes it to the next level. “Yousa Kit Kat, gimme a break/I'm head to toe in Versace but don't fuck with snakes” is as a clever as it braggadocios. It’s this type of record that we’ve been looking for from Troy; something that will ring off in the club speakers but doesn’t sacrifice any lyrical potency. It might even be the type of record that will make people forget that Major Without a Deal sold less than 5000 copies its first week.

Young Lito assists “I Love the Game,” which is the sonic equivalent of a sunny Saturday afternoon in Battery Park. Robbie Nova’s beat is fluffy, fun and the lyrics are as carefree as can be. "That’s My Bitch,” on the other hand, has a way darker backdrop in which Troy’s multi-syllable rhymes float cunningly over top. Both the lines and beats together are so slick that when he claims to be on some “smooth criminal shit," it's easy to believe.

The 44 seconds that are “Intermission” serve as a mini eulogy for loyal BSB member Banga, who lost his life during the night of the shooting -- but it isn’t until the next track “Thank You Jesus” where things really start to get emotional. Troy delivers a rap gospel over a church organ beat that is cheerful on the surface but actually quite chilling. Bars like, “I got a lot of close friends sitting in jail/I pick up all their calls and answer their mail/I easily could’ve been in there as well” are haunting to the point of goosebumps.

The last half of the tape is definitely a good listen but not exactly show stopping. The top half dozen songs that are the best of Troy Ave whereas the bottom half dozen are fairly basic. There is no doubt that “Dealership,” “Right Now” and “Mama Tears” will be the least downloaded cuts on the tape simply because they don’t have the same captivation as the opening few.

At the end of the day, Free Troy Ave works well for Troy for two big reasons. For starters, he gets a chance to share his side of the story everyone is talking about. It must be incredibly frustrating hearing all the falsified stories while behind bars with no real chance to defend yourself; so for that reason, the current updates are well received. Plus, it's always good to have new music for fans to digest while away for an extended period of time. By the looks of things, this case won’t be over quickly and by releasing this tape, Troy manages to keep positive momentum swinging his way. At least for now.

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