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“Live clean, die nasty,” as suggested in track three, “19:04,” seems to be the prevailing theme of this rap album. The four men behind it — Kostik, Tank, Mute, Kalibur — paint a tough-as-nails portrait of themselves and the San Diego they inhabit on the album’s 20 tracks, providing an in-your-face look at a harder side of the city.

The production work on the collection is solid, and the compositions are compelling — some tracks feature string and guitar intros, which is a refreshing departure for the genre. The beats are well mixed behind the vocals, which are executed with enough timing and talent to distract one from the album’s biggest shortcoming: the lack of originality in its lyrical content.

Despite a dedication to the craft that is obvious, the quartet doesn’t tackle anything new. The self-promotion, however creatively put (“we’re nastier than a shit salad with tampon croutons,” declares track “Ain’t Fuckin’ Wit Dago”), is a standard element for a hip-hop record, and the violence, too, is a stale subject. References to magnums and gunshot samples are heavily used, interspersed between quick bites of androgynous screaming for emphasis. “Hang Up and Drive” is a funny, on-point exchange between buddies on the way to a drug deal — they shoot up a car that won’t let them get over for their exit — but the excess use of the theme remains tired.

The Live Sick Compilation isn’t exactly family-friendly, one should note. With a healthy dose of “motherfuckers” peppered throughout, it is probably more for the 18-and-up set. Definitely not appropriate fare for the car ride to Timmy’s soccer game.

Album: The Live Sick Compilation (2009)
Label: DieNasty Records
Where available/price: iTunes, $9.99; CDBaby, $9.99 for CD, $5.99 for mp3
Songs: 1) Alpha 2) No Mercy 3) 19:04 4) Expect the Worst 5) Highside 6) Hang Up and Drive 7) Ain’t Fuckin’ Wit Dago 8) From the Blood Pumper 9) In the Meantime 10) Solution 11) Gimme Room 12) To Catch a Predator 13) Rockstar 14) Never Changed 15) Killin’ It 16) How We Got Down 17) N-I-4-N-I 18) Hardheaded 19) What Do They Mean? 20) Omega
Group: Kostik, Tank, Mute, and Kalibur; featuring Tech N9ne, Crooked I, Kutt Calhoun, Ecay Uno, Siccmade, Crhymes, C-Doublez, and more

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