Plenty of R&B singers have set out to incorporate hip-hop influences into their work – many with considerable success – but hip-soul hybrids as raw Rocki Evans’ latest effort are few and far between. Never one to sugarcoat or pull punches, the restlessly-creative crooner backs this inaugural album leak with an instrumental straight outta one of rap’s most highly-regarded sets. Here, the gritty, Large Professor-produced boom-bap groove that backed Nas’ Halftime is repurposed (with minor tweaks courtesy of Blue the Engineer) as a backdrop for some of the hardest bars I’ve heard come out an R&B singer’s mouth in a minute. Unflappably smooth in his delivery, Evans advises listeners not to twist his words, but rather “just leave it raw like the f*ck I meant it” – implying dire consequences for those who don’t take him at face value. No Mix is certainly a bold experiment, but is the result fresh enough to justify raiding Illmatic for beats? If you answer in the affirmative, then you can expect plenty more dope surprises on simply twisted, due out sometime in the near future.
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