The late Biggie Smalls popularized hip-hop's twin themes of spiritual darkness and redemption. His two major releases, Ready to Die (darkness) and Life After Death (redemption), are classics of the canon. Consciously or not, Stik Figa has borrowed from Biggie's spiritual template. Alive & Well, another collaboration with local producer D/Will, is Stik's decidedly more upbeat sequel to the duo's earlier release, Hellogoodbye. On that album, Stik departed from his trademark swagger to produce a surprisingly intimate, dark and, at times, suicidal self-portrait. In Alive & Well, Stik once again assumes his bright B-boy stance. Few lyricists within a 100-mile radius of Kansas City are more contemplative, cocksure or downright capable than Stik. His immediately distinctive Southern drawl and raw poetic affirmations place him among a handful of local rap artists who can usher the city onto the national stage. D/Will provides a surfeit of laid-back beats that complement Stik's mic skills. There are only nine tracks on Alive & Well, but if the collection's brevity disappoints fans, what is there is enough to assert Stik's re-energized lyrical dominance. Redemption has rarely sounded sweeter.