Arlington rapper T-Wrex brings social consciousness to his gritty, modern hip-hop on his debut album, My Life on Paper.

Aided by a global arsenal of backing sounds — from Native-American flute lines to classical piano phrasings and rhymes from sharp-tongued female MCs — his tough ruminations on street life in North Texas end up having a jazzy flavor. In “Dazed,” over a smooth trip-hop beat, he laments what he sees as a lacking local music scene and claims that his drive is all that keeps him going. In “Tasha’s Way Out,” he describes in detail the plight of an urban single mother, levying the album’s heaviest emotional impact.

My Life on Paper is not without its faults. T-Wrex (né Louis Gray) is metrically precise on the mic, but his intonation often falls a bit flat — better enunciation would sharpen the bite of some of his words. He also occasionally resorts to trite rap tricks, such as male posturing, pride in intimidation, and ego-tripping. In “Underground Theme,” he talks about going on an “ass-kicking campaign” and is enhanced by a digital effect that sounds eerily like gunfire. The production, which features a host of percussive accoutrements over typically thick drum ‘n bass loops, is also problematic. Most of the studio wizardry lends the album a unique flavor, but some songs are a tad over-produced, detracting from the natural rhythmic currents that build in certain passages. Had T-Wrex cut the old-school attitudes and tried the less-is-more approach, leaving only his pertinent lyrics, My Life on Paper would be an unqualified jewel.-Caroline Collier



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