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Royce Tuff Love

Chicago-based foursome Royce's unorthodox blend of hip-hop, synths, and emo is so hard to classify that the group's DJ resorted to dubbing it "gangster pop." The description fits: The group layers deep bass and focused beats with floating melodies and vocals (sung and rapped), the whole thing infused with a driving earnestness and sense of place ("South Side will always be home," they note on "Milwaukee"). The album's biggest drawback, though, is the sense that the quartet has something more in them; that they could just let it rip if they wanted to.

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