“Music always knew it was a drug get me high never off of my prescription.” That’s the hook of “Prescription,” one of many worth cuts off C. Ray’s latest, Ray Gun. It’s his fourth album, but he’s stayed underground so if you haven’t heard of him, you’re forgiven. Until now.

It’s all self-produced, self-made stuff. It’s gritty gangsta stuff, but it’s not just war stories and boasts (but there’s plenty of that), it’s also honest and smart: “My son wanted to be a cop until he saw not only criminals but kids are being shot so now he wants to be a supervillain….Defeat the cops…I ain’t got no spare children, if I lost him I couldn’t go on livin’…” And of course it recognizes the masters: “Still Down Foe My Thang” is a tribute to Bones Thugz and Harmony, and it features Jae Mez and Layzie Bone. If you’re gonna pick a cover and guest stars, it’s hard to go wrong with one of the original members on your cut.

He also recognizes Eminem on “The Difference,” and not many rappers of color are willing to homage the white guy.

Only one critique: This album is long. 23 tracks. There was a reason record albums were finite in capacity. In these days of mp3s, anything you say can be available for download. But most artists need to learn to self-censor. Not everything is great, and even if it is, the sheer amount of music can actually be a turnoff—it can dilute your overall message. Like K-Rino, who dropped 7 albums in one day last month. He’s a brilliant writer and a great rapper, but I’m not even gonna bother with that. It’s just too much.

Still, when most of the cuts are as good as the ones here, it’s hard to fault C. Ray for not knowing what to cut.

Highly recommended.

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