Nearly a decade ago, the Chapel Hill-via-Cincinnati emcee Aaron Russell went by the rap name Young Fluent. The juvenile handle fit his position as the sidekick and friend of Chapel Hill hip-hop veteran and once-relentless rap underdog, Kaze. They were an inseparable pair, with Young Fluent thriving on Kaze’s confidence, even if he lacked the skills to keep up.

But when opportunities soured for Kaze, Russell regrouped, dropping the “Young” from his name and attempting to build his own career. Eventually, he debuted with The Delorean, named less because of the album’s throwback or futuristic feel and mostly because of Fluent’s Marty McFly-like grandiosity. He was both future and past, he seemed to think.

Such posturing isn’t rare in hip-hop, of course, but it continues to backfire for Fluent. Though he hasn’t clocked much time on the local circuit lately, his newest LP, Supreme Victory, collects high-profile rap company only to offer baseless braggadocio. Produced by reputable beatmaker J. Cardim (Jean Grae, Joe Budden) and boasting a guest list of names like Action Bronson and Nipsey Hussle, Supreme Victory might seem like a guaranteed success. But it manages to collapse in all of those highlighted places and deliver only pieces of what’s promised by the tracklisting. We get hooks instead of verses from Nipsey Hussle (“Hustle Till I’m Ballin’”) and Action Bronson (“Medallion”) and a verse from Joe Budden on “Take You Down” that’s so lousy it does just that to the track. Fluent is an accommodating host, though his guests don’t seem too interested in hanging out. When he’s home alone, he actually knocks out songs like “Death of Me” and “Hold On To My Life.” He finds less bluster, more ambition.

Supreme Victory ends with “World Go Round,” where Fluent raps alongside his old friend Kaze and Detroit’s Guilty Simpson. “I hope and pray I don’t fall victim to my priors,” says Fluent. He might not, if he could only learn to keep it simple.

Label: Diamond Media 360