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Subtropical Spin

Released last year, Efon's The Free Album showed the West Palm Beach hip-hop impresario's serious determination and drive to put together a full-length mixtape of local talent. Add to the difficulty of shepherding rookie rappers the financial cost of production and pressing and it's clear that in Efon, you've got a guy relentlessly dedicated to elevating the scene by any means necessary.

Now he's back with the second edition, The Free Album Volume 2: Something for Nothing, another collection of unsigned MCs, this time spanning all of South Florida, plus Boston and California. Flaunting more than 20 tracks, Vol. 2 features a more diverse — and more uneven — lineup than before. Nobody expects total consistency from an underground, all-original mixtape, so the important thing here is to fast-forward the filler and get hyped on the highlights.

Fortunately, there are several hidden among the disc's predictable sip-this, smoke-that, get-money missteps. A couple of the best originate from within the 561, proving Efon's case for an expanding local scene. Sixteen-year-old Young Z busts out a ratatat flow over a club crunk beat, sort of like a flashback to old-school Miami bass as interpreted by an ambitious high schooler. Another West Palm entry is Turf Boys, whose g-funked ensemble piece flexes some brilliant interplay and lyrical dexterity. Both tracks take cues from the Dirty South sound but offer an original twist and confident delivery. Thanks for the intro, Efon. Now let's hear some more from these fellas.

Vol. 2 bounces into backpacker hip-hop with Whittier, California,'s Gifted Born, who flows with a quick wit over a slow bump and an acoustic guitar sample, and Miami's Oye, who comes through sophisticated and hard-hitting with one of the best-executed tracks on the album.

The rest of this stuff is, well, less than stellar. But don't sweat it, just read the title: It's something for nothing, so even one hot track makes the whole thing worthwhile. Four for free is a grand slam.

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Jonathan Zwickel