By Cheo Tyehimba
Updated August 10, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Playing both street soldier and vulnerable confessor, this Oakland-bred newcomer delivers one of the most distinctive hip-hop albums of the year. Mystic’s strengths are her lulling, Sade-like song stylings and an ability to trade lyrics with both gangsta and ”conscious” MCs. Executive-produced by Bahamadia, ”Cuts” is full of catchy-but-meaningful songs (”The Life,” ”Ghetto Bird”). Make room for Mystic.