Winterize the Game (Grand Man Records)

Height is the kind of smart, free-thinking, serious student of hip-hop who was conspicuously absent from VH1's The White Rapper Show. Winterize the Game positions him as the first standout of indie-rap's third wave, a worthy student of iconoclastic rhymers like Grand Buffet (who makes several guest appearances) and Cex (who stayed fun when Anticon got weird).

Years of taking copious notes on Run-D.M.C. pays off on Height's third disc. It's an old-school smorgasbord of retro synths, murky funk, and hypnotic loops. Guest producer Bow N' Arrow takes a double serving of sampled power chords and analog drum fills on "Smash Your Face," the kind of rumbling rock track Jay-Z probably paid Rick Rubin six figures to make. Rhyming like it's '88 all over again, Height drops a tough-nerd manifesto that satirizes rap's baller culture. Two more albums like this, and he could be well on his way to having 99 problems of his own.

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