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The music of California's Mystic is like the streets she comes from -- full of smooth curves and hard turns. She's seen both sides of those mean streets, and she hasn't so much left them behind as not let them drag her down. On Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom, Mystic tells of her bumpy journey over reflective tracks.

Working with a variety of producers -- including the Angel, Digital Underground's Shock G, Sample 208, the Elements and A-Plus of the Hieroglyphics -- Mystic wraps her half-sung half-spoken vocals around crisp rim shots, spare bass and plaintive pianos on tracks that, no matter the producer, flow smoothly.

Alternating between contemplative crooning like Lauryn Hill and stinging stabs like Eve's Scorpion, Mystic avoids the pratfalls in which most female MCs currently mire -- raw sexuality and financial security by any means necessary. Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom is a consistent collection of sweetly harmonized laments and introspective tales of the positive things and people we pass on the street every day.

Mystic performs on the Family Tree Tour at EarthLink Live Fri., July 6.

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