Following a breakthrough campaign in 2013, which included the release of his Almost Home EP, RCA rapper Kid Ink has released his debut album, My Own Lane.

Included on the 13-track set is lead single "Show Me," while a deluxe edition boasts five bonus tracks including "Money and Power," "Bad Ass" and "Bossin Up."

The number of guest features on the LP match the amount of track titles at 13, with notables Chris Brown (twice), Machine Gun Kelley, Pusha T and Tyga all chipping in. Meanwhile, production credits include Danja, DJ Mustard, DZL and Sak Pase.

My Own Lane Album Review

Putting ink to flesh is a powerful thing. Elaborate patterns spread on the back of a warrior can signal status in an Amazonian tribe. A simple word printed on a forearm can remind a son of the father he lost. Lines of scripture can express a religious belief; a thorny rose can express strength and beauty. Kid Ink, born Brian Collins in Los Angeles, California, is a walking canvas. In between visits to LA’s tattoo parlors, he’s found time to swap the ink needle for a ballpoint, and his skin for a notebook. A new contract with major label RCA and the release of his independent debut capped a successful 2013. Now, with his proper debut offering, My Own Lane, Ink aims to put his stamp on the hip-hop landscape, a new tattoo for a new year.

In setting out to find just what his own lane is, Ink blends in more than he stands out, and borrows more than he innovates. The album kicks off with Hello World, a clichéd take on the “hello world, allow me to re-introduce myself” concept that nearly every artist feels the need to tackle (a la Public Service Announcement). It’s followed by the even more clichéd “let’s start a movement” track, The Movement. Both cuts have serviceable production, the latter by former Timbaland protégé Danja, but ultimately suffer from uninspired verses and tired takes on tried concepts.

Fellow Angelino and producer of the moment DJ Mustard attempts to spice things up with three track contributions, and it’s with his bouncy, melodic sound that Ink’s simple lyrics and agile flow work best. Largely due to Chris Brown’s hook and Mustard’s Robyn S.-sampled beat, Show Me has burned up the urban charts and put Ink on the map. Another of Mustard’s, the instrumental on Rollin sounds like what Mario (the video game plumber, not the sweet-voiced R&B singer) would bump as he rode Yoshi on the way to the club. Ink provides little in terms of lyrics or depth, but his crooning on the chorus and Mustard’s production make this a fun middle of the album offering.

Purely as a rapper, Kid Ink doesn't do much on My Own Lane to show us who he really is or what he’s capable of. Sure, his basic rhyme patterns and simple flows suffice over an outstanding beat or side-by-side with a quality hook, but his tone isn't distinct and his lyrics do no more then fill the space between catchy hooks with words. No Option is the album’s lyrical peak, but King Los’ witty guest verses hardly make up for a lackluster musical foundation and a repetitive hook. More Than a King is easily the highlight of the album, and really its only true gem. The shifting instrumental, provided by Bay area upstart Ned Cameron, is downright filthy. Gravely vocal clips taken from an unidentified film dialogue precede each verse, punctuating the two-part beat rather nicely.

Having “a lane” is a double-edged sword that artists must navigate with care. To the listener, knowing an artists’ lane can add clarity to a certain style and simplify expectations. To an artist, however, claiming a lane can stifle creativity and lead to vague definitions of just what that lane is. On his second full project release, Kid Ink felt confident enough in his style to claim a lane. Influenced by what The Pharcyde did two decades ago, what Drake perfected a few years ago, and what many others have attempted since, Ink’s melodic tastes and rhyming style draws from all of these influencers. The problem is, he can’t quite charm like Wiz Khalifa, rhyme like Big Sean, or create art like Drake. Yet. The R&B tinged rap star lane is bumper to bumper at the moment; will Kid Ink have to slide over?

DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins

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