Cuts For Luck and Scars For Freedom, Mystic Goodvibe Recordings

On the introduction to Cuts For Luck and Scars For Freedom, Mystic asks her listeners to open their minds and just “ride” with her. This is probably the best way to approach her debut album.

Mystic commands her audience”s attention through 16 tracks by mixing her well-honed rhyming and singing skills with lyrics that are both socially observant and deeply personal.

The Oakland, California based Mystic has been making a name for herself in the past few years on the West Coast for her ability to switch between emcee and vocalist without compromising her talents in either. We saw Lauryn Hill do this three years ago, but Mystic has something Lauryn didn”t have, or at least didn”t show: An edge. Mystic has no problem calling things as she sees them. “Ghetto Birds” is a prime example of this, as Mystic urges people to stop ignoring the forces that are actively oppressing their lives. Also, she suggests these forces are less discreet than we”d like to think. The track critiques both sides of the coin, the oppressor and the oppressed, in a way only a few artists have done.

“The Life,” which follows the same premise of “Ghetto Birds,” is the album”s lead single and features Mystic”s vocal talents almost exclusively. It serves as a ghetto anthem of sorts by calling on people to rise above the pain and negativity put forth by others. Mystic”s voice floats over a head-nodding beat and when it”s time to rhyme, she brings it back down to earth demonstrating her excellent capacity to shift gears between two differing vocal styles.

On “Fatherless Child,” Mystic shows she isn”t afraid to bare her soul or personal tribulations. The song is dedicated to her father, who was mostly absent from her life. She openly criticizes his womanizing and violence towards her mother, but mourns his 1999 death from a heroin overdose. After recounting being raped while in high school, Mystic wonders, “would it have, could it have, should it have been different if I had your hand to grab?” It”s a valid question, but difficult to hear her ask it.

Mystic”s album is so candid it”s almost brutal, which is refreshing. As one guest rapper put it, “it”s really nice to find sisters bigger than the fashion designs,” and that”s true. However, these deviations from the norm of popular music could turn some people off.

On the surface, this is a somewhat dark and pessimistic album. Going beyond this initial read, Mystic”s album needs to be heard word for word in order to appreciate it. The “cuts” she”s experienced have produced a debut that”s memorable and praiseworthy.

Grade: A-

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