A lyrical and sonic balance must be maintained when one emcee teams up with one producer to craft a full-length project. At it’s best, the combination of two artists working together exclusively forms the ideal marriage between beats and rhymes; content and cohesiveness; raps and replay value. One outshining the other is the most common albatross between capitalizing on the promise of the collaboration and inadvertently creating a polarizing LP that rocks harder as either an acapella or as background music.

For his third studio album, Chicago emcee Pugs Atomz enlisted his Windy City brethren, Grant Parks, to provide the soundscape for his Coal Mine Music/Fat Beats Records release, Kinda Like A Rapper.

The album opens with its most emphatic offering, title track “K.L.A.R.” Producer Grant Parks’s Soul-laced strings and anthemic horns provide a solid sound bed for Pug’s forceful introduction. Here, the Chicago rapper kicks “Maneuvering through the game / Precision with my Rook / A black Bobby Fisher that came here to cook / Torturing y'all squares / I’m just in first gear / You can peddle faster but your still in the rear” -- a nimble extended metaphor that becomes an unfortunate outlier as K.L.A.R. continues. The minimalistic bassline and siren-like Soul sample on the album’s lead single, “Rocket Love,” feels summertime ready, although the meaning of the song (love of achieving success) is never clearly translated. This hook-heavy cut only contains one verse, the bulk of which consists of braggadocio cypher rhymes like “I own this beat like city cops with billy clubs strolling they streets” and “competition I’m not talking to / 'Cause they hearts pump late, cream and sugar too,” that never fully commit to the stated definition.


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