Sixo--the indie hip-hop producer hailing from Ft. Worth, TX--is not exactly a household name. The beatsmith has spent the better part of the last decade honing his craft, with his name appearing repeatedly, if inconspicuously, in the liner notes of albums by hip-hop’s underground denizens, like The Shapeshifters and 2Mex.

As a whole, Free Floating Rationales--a collection of Sixo's work with a range of different vocalists--speaks to the broad possibilities of rap as a platform for ideas that sit outside of the genre’s safe zones (success, sex, wack rappers, shady label types, being good at rapping, killing people by accident, etc... ).  Here, many of the artists tend toward deliveries more akin to poetry or spoken word, telling vivid stories and/or ruminating on life.

Unlike some producer-led projects that bring together a bunch of unrelated guest verses from MCs who appear as cosigners first, artists second, Free Floating Rationales offers up a collection of tunes with relatively focused subject matter, despite what the title might suggest. Many of the artists featured on the record opt for anti-establishment themes which illustrate the marginalization felt by society’s everyman and -woman. Although the beats are well-done, creating intriguing sonic textures and moods, they are seldom the focal point on an album that contains so much density on its lyrical front.

The album boasts guest appearances from Awol One, Moka Only, and others, who all contribute much more than just throw-away verses. Heir Max and Poindexter give a bleak projection on “Everscape,” making thought-provoking assertions that demand reflection: “Playing hide-and-seek with a God that doesn’t exist / Looking for a break, but the Earth will always spin.” Indeed, the ideas here are uncharacteristically heavy for a compilation record of this nature, which comes as a refreshing surprise.

Maybe this will be the record that allows Sixo to become a mainstay in hip-hop production circles; maybe not. Either way, it is an interesting listen worthy of any hip-hop aficionado’s attention.

-Dylan Grier