On his ‘Hunger Pains’ mixtape, Houston emcee Aeo blends honesty with the will to win and a hunger for more.

Nothing is more frustrating – or motivating – than trying to catch a break and rise above being stuck in a certain place. If you’re lucky, it’s not all bad. You might have a lover, for example, or support. But at the same time, you know this can’t be ALL there is for you.

That’s the message in ‘Hunger Pains,’ the latest mixtape from Aeo. Bastrop-born but Houston-made, Aeo is far from new to rapping. The emcee’s first mixtape touched down back in 2011; but he would take a five-year break before returning to the music with his ‘#GotDamnShawty’ project. ‘Hunger Pains’ was released in February, nearly two years after ‘Shawty.’

Fourteen tracks deep, ‘Hunger Pains’ features all original instrumentals from the likes of Gmoney Baby, YB Musik, Beatg33kz, and Primetime Beats, to name a few, for the rapper to do work over. And work, he does. There are songs on ‘Hunger Pains’ that you can tell are made for a certain crowd. “Good Day” and “On My Throwed Sh*t,” for example, are a one-two punch of radio-ready records, the former a catchy and singsong number and the latter upping the bass and slowing the beat for Aeo to spit and growl along. Standout cut “Come Over” and “Love Til The Sun Rise” function as a back-to-back set of records intended for the rapper to win over female fans.

But while Aeo is good at pairing tracks together, he’s even better at setting himself apart from his fellow emcees. On “Whoa,” in a complete departure from the seven tracks that precede it, Aeo sings over a triumphant, horns-and-snares-driven beat, his voice damn near made to sound like the leader of a choir. He summons the throwback sound of a Casio keyboard on “Strawberry” to sweet-talk a woman who caught his eye but who only sees dollar signs. “Dreamed Of” sneaks in a nice homage to Aeo’s home state of Louisiana with its bounce music leanings, the rapper pledging allegiance to his family between the thumping beat. And where most rappers would save their “thanks” and words of appreciation for the end of a project or even the liner notes, Aeo begins ‘Hunger Pains’ by shouting out the people who inspire and push him on ‘I Do It For.’ Whether it’s the “kids on the block selling rocks” or “the fans who love when (he’s) on a track,” Aeo wants it understood that he only works as hard as he does because he doesn’t want to let them down.

“All the time in the world, but it’s all borrowed.” Aeo places these wise words, amongst many others, onto “Distorted Vision,” the track that lies at the very end of ‘Hunger Pains.’ He knows as well as the rest of us that you only get one life, so you’ve got to live it right. By the time listeners reach the end of the tape, they’ll have gotten a full picture of who Aeo is, both as an artist and as a man. And in the process, they just might find themselves relating in more ways than one. For being the kind of rapper who isn’t larger-than-life, but rather, embodies the desires and the “trying to get beyond just trying to make it” spirit of the everyday millennial, we believe Aeo has #ThePulse.

Take a listen to Aeo’s ‘Hunger Pains’ mixtape for yourself down below. The tape can be downloaded for free via the rapper’s Bandcamp page.