It takes guts to sample a song like Foreigner's "Cold As Ice" on your mixtape. True, Taka Black also takes cues from Rihanna and Adele on Pure Imagination, but that nod to classic rock shows where part of the rapper's head is at. From "Best Man"'s free-and-easy flow to the electronic beats of "The Warm-Up," the Clevelander reveals slices of his life. Taka Black's early years weren't easy: He grew up in foster care and got his clothes from the school lost and found. He addresses childhood struggles on tracks like "Too Hard" ("You ain't never met an underdog that's hotter than me," he raps. "Couldn't be close if he was up under my family tree"). But it's not all downer material. On "Gimme," he mocks hip-hop bravado: "Damn, you da man/How many hoes you got?/Many." Bold and worth your time. — Danielle Sills
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.