Gio Real

Gio Real
19-year-old Australian rapper Gio has dropped the follow-up to his 2012 debut mixtape, Evergreen, and in an attempt to prove he's much more than your average rapper, he throws everything but the kitchen sink on it. It's an ambitious project, but Real just doesn't live up to its potential.

Producer Mark Belcastro provides a varied mix of beats that run the gamut from mellow hip hop ballads through banging boom bap, rock-inflected rap and club jams to end with a chaotic noisefest, many of which include noticeable live instrumentation. The beats are a highlight of the album, but the lo-fi quality of the recording will limit the appeal of the more commercial tracks to mainstream radio.

As a rapper, Gio is capable as he delves into topics like weed, girls, dead homies and the necessity to remain true to yourself on album. His lyrics are heartfelt and he's "keeping it real," but the topics are already well covered by others, plus he struggles at time with his delivery (see especially his double-time attempt on "You Were A Child"), and the music often tends to overpower his vocals.

At the same time, his potential is evident. Gio is an artist to keep an eye on as he gains more experience on the mic and in life, for new topics. In the meantime, check mournful "Fake Empire," a violin-heavy ballad about a deceased friend, and groovy feel-good jam "I'll Be There for You" for the best representations of his music. (Independent)