Winston-Salem artist Emceein’ Eye is probably better known as one-half of the brother duo Speak N Eye, who have been part of the Cold Rhymes family and recorded with Height Keech before. He occasionally steps out on his own, such as in 2016 when he released the EP Eye Am That I Ain’t. Now he’s back with his most personal solo effort to date, Never Comply.

With production handled by Height Keech and Brett Fullerton of Off the Meat Rack, you get plenty of the banging garage rock/hip hop beats that we’ve come to expect out of a Cold Rhymes album. While all that sounds good, it does mean that it’s up to Emceein’ Eye to deliver the goods on the mic and establish himself as an emcee that can separate himself from the rest of the crowd. Fortunately, he’s up to the challenge as he comes through with a deliberate delivery that makes sure all of his words are clear and spoken directly to his listeners. This is important to Eye because he’s pouring his heart out about the struggles he’s been through over the last couple of years, whether it be with alcoholism, bipolar disorder, or just the struggle to balance a day job with a creative life in an unstable music industry. It can be a tough listen in that sense, but at the same time it’s very rewarding as he digs deep to deliver these songs. It also helps that he’s balancing these discussions against some really rocking beats, such as on “Sprained My Chakra,” and also weaving these issues into day-in-the-life narratives, putting you in his shoes and letting you know how hard it was just to perform a show while dealing with these issues. Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom either – there’s room for a barn burning posse cut with PT Burnem, ialive, and Height Keech all hopping on the mic for “Use a Mic,” as they all rep for each other as a crew, each with their own unique voice. There’s also something to be said for Eye’s economic use of space on this album, getting eleven tracks done in just 23 minutes, but never feeling like he’s cutting things short. He does this by conveying a lot of information in just a few words, such as on the folk poem tale of addicts drying out in jail on “Make It Stop.” The imagery really gets the wheels in your head spinning, but then gets out of the way without spelling out all of the lurid details.

Emceein’ Eye put a lot of himself into Never Comply, and wrote really smartly and effectively about his struggles over the last couple of years. The album bumps, deals with some serious shit, and then it bounces before it wears out its welcome.