Rocky Rivera is a former journalist (Rolling Stone) turned emcee from the Bay Area. She also performs alongside DJ Roza and emcee Irie Eyez as Pacific Division. After releasing her self-titled album last year on Guerilla Busfare, she’s returned with this mixtape on Beatrock, hopefully giving us a preview of greater things to come.

Rivera presents herself as a hard emcee, and she can hold it down on the mic. Occasionally, though, it can be taken too far, such as the opening track, “Pop Killer,” which features a transphobic line about wannabe emcees, where she states, “All you Nicki Minaj knock offs/ Rapping like a tranny ho that just cut his cock off.” She’s got the talent and charisma to make a full length interesting and entertaining from start to finish. I just wish that she’d be more mindful of her prejudices. I support a project called “Pop Killer,” but you don’t make yourself better than the pop hip hop on the radio when you use any ignorant hate speech.

The music on the album is a nice mix of all things West Coast, from hyphy to some slowed down, souled-out L.A. hip hop. There are plenty of guests on the mix, with fellow Beatrockers Bambu and Otayo Dubb alongside female artists such as Talia Taylor, Nitty Scott MC, and Irie Eyez. Some of the tracks I really dig, like “GRLZ,” with Irie Eyez. The production flips the melody line from the Beastie Boys’ “Girls,” while both emcees trade lines about claiming their own space. “Daydream,” with Nitty Scott MC, is another favorite, a sort of re-imagining of Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R” where they discuss their complex relationship with hip hop.

There is a lot to like about Rocky Rivera, and there haven’t been many releases from female emcees so far this year. Unfortunately, Rivera hasn’t yet learned to channel her creative energy in a way that is always positive. That’s not to mean that the music should always be upbeat, but that when you’ve got a specific beef or something’s bothering you, to use your words in a way that keeps it on a personal level and doesn’t instead resort to a language that hurts others in the process, whether its the trans community or anybody else. It’s not always an easy task, but I think Rivera can do it. I hope she can make it happen on her next full length.