After increasing the anticipation last week with the video for ‘Cup Up Top Down,’ Houston’s own Kirko Bangz returns with his latest mixtape, ‘Progression 3.’ The rappe released the second installment to the series a little more than a year ago, and its highlight -- the addictively melodic ‘Drank In My Cup’ -- was a mainstay in the club and unquestionably a high point in his young career.

Kirko attempts to duplicate the success with ‘Progression 3,’ but it’s hard to pick out a song that has a chance of doing so. The 23-year-old spits in double time and sings and croons through the 14 tracks. Sadly, it’s clear Kirko Bangz is barely the jack of a lot trades, and the master of none as he inadvertently exposes his own weaknesses.

It’s a problem that makes itself apparent in ‘Awwready,’ the mixtape’s opening track. It shows Kirko can spit fast, but he sounds sloppy in the process. Simple Houston shout-outs become a struggle as a result, as is the case in lines like, “Pull up in the scene, H-Town king / I’m just trying to get more, you can call me Hakeem.” It feels like a sideways, footnote mention of Houston, rather than the presumed, Houston loud-and-proud intentions.

It doesn’t get that much better from there. Kirko stumbles through the majority of the mixtape as he whiffs the repetitive chorus of ‘What It Do,’ bores on the cheesy ‘Old Ways’ and grates nerves on the nine-minute bedroom track, ‘Came Here For Something.’

It's frustrating to hear Kirko hasn’t progressed all that much despite three mixtapes titled ‘Progression.’ It’s not a total disappointment though. On ‘Vent 2,’ he puts his cold-hearted lover persona aside to reflect on more hard-nosed struggles. “Rest in peace Lil Snupe,” he begins, referencing Meek Mill’s murdered Dreamchaser's signee. “I never met you, I’m affected man that’s f---ed up dude / N----s out here killing n----s and n----s still in school / Scared to go 'cause they can’t go if they can’t carry a tool.”

‘Progression 3' is lifted a great deal by its solid production. Jahlil Beats shows once again why he’s one of the game's more underrated producers with the druggy lullaby keys of ‘Awwready.’ Producer Sound Mob’s seductive clacks and booms on ‘Rain Down’ gets help from a few well-timed guitar strums, which helps make the track feel more moody than melancholy. DJ Mustard, KE, J.T and J. Oliver add production that ranges from lustful jams to call backs to an old-fashioned chopped and screwed track (‘Essay’).

Wale, French Montana, Trinidad James, Paul Wall and Slim Thug are some of the featured guests on ‘Progression 3,’ and while none of them really shine, they do serve functional verses. French Montana's trap artist-turned-club king style fits well on ‘Versace,’ and Trinidad James’ ridiculous combination of non-sequiturs and crassness is welcome on ‘Make It Mine.’

But are all the pieces enough to make it a notable listen? Unfortunately, no. In order for that to happen, the man at the center has to at least sound focused and ready. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like there's enough of that mentality from Kirko Bangz.


Listen to Kirko Bangz's 'Progression 3' Mixtape