Choose Your Own Adventure, the latest release from local hip-hop artist Rockwell Knuckles, isn't just a nod to those well-thumbed paperbacks from your grade school library. The reference is both a mission statement and modus operandi. The record features a long roster of producers, including locals Tech Supreme, Trifeckta and Black Spade, while Trackstar the DJ serves as mixmaster for the whole disc and ties these strands together with his usual aplomb. Nearly every track gives Knuckles a chance to stretch out. The dusty soul licks on "Hero for Hire" offer a slow burn in place of his normally cocksure delivery. No doubt he's still self-assured, but the varied production here and elsewhere on Adventure shows consistency amid versatility. The next track, "Hell is Repetition," kicks off with a bit of funky campfire guitar, and those reggae strums create lightness and contrast with the spartan 808 beat and disembodied synthesized voices.
Of course, this sonic palette works because Knuckles fills up whatever space he's given. He has a booming cannon of a voice, able to stretch vowels like an Atlanta emcee and plumb the lower depths of his vocal register. The clacking beats and whirring keyboards of the anthem "Government Name" deserve the chance to fill up dance floors from coast to coast. The song is simple, reductive and totally addictive — a loving ode to the lost art of giving girls a fake name at clubs. But Rocky's even better when he keeps his eyes on the prize: artistic freedom, adherence to his personal vision and the pursuit of dreams in the face of adversity. Closing track "2 Go 2 Far" brings this message home with succinct force, an inner dialogue between playing it safe and reaching for the brass ring. With Adventure, there's little threat that Knuckles will switch into neutral any time soon.
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