Even with Lauryn Hill taking an extended sabbatical, no one has stepped up in her absence to carry the hip-hop/songbird flame. That was, until Mystic. With her debut, Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom, Mystic seamlessly bridges the gap between soulful harmonizing and introspective lyricism; and no one since Hill bridged this gap so effectively. "Cuts for Life" is a soulful blend of spoken word poetry and introspective lyricism. Mystic effortlessly manages to implement her vocal and lyrical chops on the sublime "Neptune's Jewels" and the A-plus-produced, breakout single "The Life." Unlike other songbirds, Mystic rarely gets boxed in, or fixated on one style, as she ably floats between repping the West Coast's virtues with fellow Cali up-and-comer Planet Asia on "W" and questioning hip-hop's image-conscious nature with "The Gotta's." Mystic's voice contains a natural duality; as it can be gentle ("Forever and a Day") and pessimistic ("You Say I Say") at any given moment. Similarly, her vocals unfold with an emotional warmth that only a woman can provide, as it conveys a deep, motherly like understanding, offering that tender shoulder to cry on ("Fallen Angels"), but at the same time demanding respect for herself and her fellow sistas ("Girlfriend Sistagirl"). While the extremely vivid "Fatherless Child" is a sympathetic and scolding account of her father's losing battle with drug addiction. While Foxy Brown and Lil Kim push the envelope with their uninhibited brand of punany power, Mystic's socially relevant and personally revealing topic matter is just as uninhibited. Yet, while Mystic features the same voluptuous package (check the artwork for verification) as the aforementioned, instead of augmenting her breast size, Mystic's artsy Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom augments the mind -- ladies first indeed!!
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AllMusic Review by Matt Conaway