Artist: Various ArtistsTitle: Develop[Mental]1Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Brandon Edwards

Just because you play the role, it don’t mean you get the part. Mixtape newbies and comfortable vets take heed, Norcal DJ Icewater is exceptional at mixing posse cuts. The shouting echo of mixtape DJ’s was tired the day the trend began. Smooth blends and precise cuts make for easy listening. NatAural High Records give their artists a bona-fide chance to shine on the Develop[Mental]1 (NatAural High) compilation. The balancing of tables in the rap game has made the masses open-minded for an appropriate change in sonic logic. In other words, the Bay has something significant to offer: a vacation from bullet-riddled, doped up, club soundtracks.

Take a breath of fresh air and peep the choice sounds of NH’s flagship act. Holding strong in 3rd place on this compilation, Lunar Heights welcomes listeners with witty punch lines and playful skill from a backpacker’s notebook on “Da Music,” produced by DJ Vinroc. LH’s potential opportunities as underground emcees goes unscathed even with thumbs down for doing too much on “Shake” and failing to omit the lazy chorus.

Spank Pops has star personality. With his easy-going demeanor, eclectic hooks and straight out the Yay energy, you can feel the funk in the air, on your collar and under your shoes. “Like Me Now” is an official low-key club joint. Pops gets the ladies and gents involved while Jem Eye tosses a dime with light keys and a mellow bass. “Populate” is that s**t for the trunk, windows down, car parked, dancing on the hood, “From the Golden Gate, this is everyday.” A versatile-chopped up two bar flow and introspective mind surprises listeners on “Small World,” produced by and featuring Trackademicks. With a serious flow and pastoral approach, Spank Pops goes in, “Every rapper got a drink coming out/Trying to turn our kids into drinkers/What we need is some thinkers/ better schools and more teachers.”

The standout appeal on Develop[Mental]1 comes from Texas wordsmith Bavu Blakes. Rap pioneer, the D.O.C., deems Bavu as “one of Texas’ brightest new stars,” that sounds nothing like any rapper from Texas on your radio today. With classic material like “Play The Role,” produced by Symbolyc One, fans will undoubtedly look to this confident MC with jazzy vocals for future songs. Bavu gets at the pseudo-thug, wannabee starMC, white Rasta and permed out sistah on this cut. Dropping gems with an in-depth view of each particular circumstance, Bavu disassembles the loudmouth gangsta, “Are they punks trying to cover it up perhaps/So shrunk they can’t penetrate the naps/Now you know some kind of insecurities can be traced cuz folks be popping off at the mouth to save face.”

A solid compilation and meaningful contribution with minimal duds, Develop[Mental]1 manages to showcase star product and thoughtful commentary.