Tech n9ne, "K.O.D."

Out of adversity comes strength. That's the message independent stalwart Tech N9ne delivers on his most introspective project to date, "K.O.D." On the set, he raps his way through a vivid journey to hell and back chronicled in three acts: "Anger," "Madness" and "The Hole." Spurred by his mother's health problems, Tech N9ne's emotional journey also speaks to the pain, fear and helplessness that all of us have experienced at some point in our lives. The unflinching opener, "Show Me a God," dramatically sets the stage as Tech N9ne-accompanied by Three 6 Mafia and Strange Music colleagues including Krizz Kaliko and Kutt Calhoun-creatively winds his way past "Demons," "Horns" and "Shadows on the Road" and back into the light: the self-affirming title track, which stands for "king of darkness." Tech N9ne's engaging flow, theatrical rhythms and pithy lyrics make for a nuanced and memorable ride. Who says there's no substance in hip-hop anymore?-Gail Mitchell