Chris Conde is an emcee from San Antonio who has been performing for over a decade. Despite all of his experience, we haven’t gotten a solo album from him until just now. He takes a major step forward as he now drops that album, Growing Up Gay.

As you might have inferred from the title of the album, Growing Up Gay is a deeply personal affair, dealing with Conde’s journey to learn to accept himself as he is, battling with demons like alcoholism and drug abuse along the way. The majority of the album is produced by Conde and Fire-Toolz, with additional tracks by Ledef, Ryan Joseph Galvan, Venetian Snares, and Casey Keyworth. The sound is an expansive collection of underground hip hop beats that move from some really hard-hitting left field boom bap to abstract and noisy experimental beats to some moments of quiet and introspective R&B. Over the course of nineteen tracks, Conde opens up about very personal issues, with the main theme being the long process it took for him to unlearn internalized homophobia and learn to love himself as he is. It’s this raw honesty and openness in particular that make it so easy to form a personal connection to the music and feel like you really know Conde as a person in your life. Of course, it doesn’t help that Conde is an extremely skilled emcee, one who can rock all sorts of different flows, even giving us a few sung moments here and there, sounding very comfortable and confident on the mic. While much of the album is about his personal journey, that doesn’t mean that he ignores the long held tradition in hip hop of shit talking, which can be found on tracks like “Basic Rappers,” so there’s fun to be had as well. The only minor problem with the album is that it is a touch on the long side, and it might have benefitted from just a little more editing to make it a more digestible listening experience in one sitting. That said, having too much good and varied material is a good problem to have with a debut album.

Growing Up Gay is a debut solo album, but it certainly doesn’t feel like one. Conde is incredibly sure of himself, and he’s found a great combination of vulnerability and confidence on the mic to put himself out there with his music, and to share his journey with his listeners. It’s challenging, heartfelt, and fun to listen to.