This Baton Rouge-based rapper masterfully mixes tales of underclass struggle with stories of spiritual awakening on his second album, due in stores Tuesday. A strong sense of helplessness emanates from Bleed's often deadpan delivery, but his raps also have an uplifting quality that adds a needed balance to the painful, no-nonsense atmosphere he creates on such tracks as "Give and Take" and "To Be a Soldier." In "Blessem All," he demands that blacks stand up to their oppressors, while in "All They Lef' Me Wuz' Da' Streets" he searches for an escape from the destructive nature of the streets.
The music backing Bleed sounds as if it might have been lifted from Curtis Mayfield's songbook. These soul-stirring, bouncy rhythms are built on thick bass guitar licks, chilling piano chords, airy keyboard patterns and choice background vocals. It's a sound that stands in stark contrast to the formulaic backings employed by many chart-topping rappers. Bleed's polished poetics and innovative production are among the best in hip-hop.