The cover art for Montana Stax’s diss track, “N.I.N.A.,” pictures the Raleigh rapper dressed in semi-drag, standing in front of shelves of purses and red-bottom Christian Louboutin heels. The petty image was meant to effeminize Stax’s nemesis, the Raleigh rapper Nino Ru. But when you skip the layers of offensive gimmickry, the track itself actually captures Montana at his most potent, as he zings homicidal threats over another infamous diss instrumental, LL Cool J’s “I Shot Ya (Remix).”

The moment provided a perfect prologue for Stax’s debut LP, Ouija, a crime-ridden but vindicating crash course through this rapper’s psyche. “That’s why getting killed is not a problem to me/but let’s talk about this poverty,” he offers before delving into underlying issues of street violence through two graphic story lines that both culminate in death. “Real Life” is a parable about navigating social media’s real-life consequences, while “Good Day” borrows a page from Ice Cube’s diary classic “It Was a Good Day.”

Arriving for a brief verse alongside Raleigh rapper and singer Bobby James, Stax advertises his knack for spitting the coldest raps and his urge to “keep a scope attached/we still militant.” Ouija highlights an emcee who seems on the verge of eruption, his baritone delivering the catharses of angry storytelling in songs that demand he be given a watchful eye.

Label: Main Event Army