Downtown: Life Under the Gun is an impressive introduction to New Orleans native August Alsina, a singer and songwriter who experienced enough hardships through his teenage years to sing the blues for a lifetime. As he looks back in the title track, "No one told me life would be this way." A former drug dealer who lived through his father and stepfather's crack addictions, as well as the shooting death of his brother, Alsina established himself through YouTube clips uploaded as far back as 2007. Even as a fresh-faced youngster covering Lyfe Jennings' "Hypothetically," his voice ached. Although he now has as much arrogance as anyone else on contemporary R&B radio, his lingering pain remains, punctuated by a handful of between-song monologues that are all the more chilling for being expressed in a matter-of-fact tone. The gritty realism in ballads like "Hell on Earth" and "Nobody Knows" hints at future greatness. He's singing about his life, not romanticizing it. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

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