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Damien Voxx

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Real Life Shit
200 Proof Endeavorz

Paranoia and poverty, deadbeat dads, single moms and custody battles -- Damien Voxx has a lot to get off his chest on his angsty debut, Real Life Shit. "My struggles ain't no worse than yours / they just affected me more," he raps on "Why Mama?" Fortunately, the Pittsburgh-based emcee has a knack for turning such shit into gold.

Real Life Shit is an intense collaboration between Voxx and his producer, Will Holt, a.k.a. Good Will. It's an apt pairing: Holt's brooding beats come swathed in epic pianos and synths that occasionally channel a bit of Peter Gabriel ("Pain"), while Voxx's rhymes range from earthy ("The Struggle") to apocalyptic ("The Disciple").

On "Run," Voxx starts to rack up the body count, yet offers this disclaimer: "It's a sad tale, I ain't claiming to be no gangsta killa / but I guarantee them shells'll hit ya, then my cash'll kill ya / I don't play, ain't no way fuckin' way I'm dyin' on curbs / And tell the truth, we got some fuckin nuts in the 'Burgh."

It's not all doom and gloom, though -- "Zonin'" captures Voxx in a rare (and self-consciously) upbeat mood: "This is my jam, my zonin' track / This a feel-good song so just relax." And whether it's the wide-open music or Voxx's oft-professed faith in Christ, there's a spiritual light shining through the gritty landscape and the flawed humans inhabiting it. In other words, it's a hip-hop record with a dark yet earnest soul. So here's to that darkest hour before the dawn.

Damien Voxx CD release with Spuck, Hillsville, Draztyk & Real Deal, Gambino, NTT Records, Priceless Recordings, and Basick Sickness. 9 p.m. Sat., Nov. 25. Hkan, 2210 E. Carson St., South Side. $5. 18 and over.

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