Only one objective measuring stick truly matters when it comes to determining the validity of a rapper proclaiming his status as "real": Does he make you feel like a badass? On his latest LP, Life Goes On, Houston's Trae does exactly that. By the time I made it halfway through, I had already punched someone in the head and thrown a glass bottle at a baby. The album reveals Trae, in his overtly pained and to-the-point manner, as a surprisingly versatile artist. He effortlessly navigates beats ranging from futuristic techs to trunk-rattling Southern soul, solidifying his status as one of Houston's most authentic rappers. Highlights include "Give My Last Breath," a chilling internal monologue remembering slain Houston icon Big H.A.W.K.; "Nuthin' 2 A Boss," a raw, synth-laced track with a laid-back grind featuring Slim Thug; and "I'm Good," a stormy, seething track driven by an '80s-style saxophone and eerie piano. Although a hard life isn't exactly thesis material, Trae's pounding, relentless flow possesses a sincere ethos that gives Life Goes On a powerfully destitute realness, and helps it successfully follow up 2006's street staple Restless.


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