The laid back, New Age instruction-rap thing has been done to death, but :Brownstudy manages to find enough lead in his pencil for a passable sophomore outing for Third Ear Recordings.

Life Well Lived is at its strongest when the rapper/producer (real name Jason Hogans) leans heavily on more modern influences (there's obvious similarities to Radioinactive, Latryx and Serengeti here, among others), but it has a tendency to fall back on weak, full-length instrumentals that sharper hands would have shaved into snippets or discarded altogether.

Displaying a compelling flow and lyrical dexterity to match most of his contemporaries, the album flirts with Madlib-esque modern jazz on the excellent title track, coming across like the missing link between Del and Kool AD, finding a satisfying halfway point between lazy and sharp-tongued. With a gloopy kind of synth-Rhodes sound backed by clompy, swampy beats, it's a solid, if unremarkable mood piece. Unfortunately, what surrounds it makes it look a little like a work of genius.

Ok, so opener 'In A Better Way' is funky and funny and not a million miles from Dudley Perkins. There's good ground to mine here, and the stripped-back feel of much of the material doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Kool AD's '51' mixtape got by with beats by Amaze 88 and Illingsworth that really didn't use much more in the way of embellishment. And :Brownstudy is clearly a very talented stylist with technique to burn.

The problems begin with track 2, 'Towards Improvement', where the deluge of life-pedagoguery turns at points glib, annoying and then self-contradicting, with lines like "Refuse the bread and circuses... Understand that your defeatist post-modern lazy spoiled attitudes towards your recognised everyday hypocrisy are bloody malice." The delivery isn't so much the problem - I've got no problem with the smooth deadpan - but the result just sounds like a sofa-sore tantrum. Similarly grating is 'Bitchslappin Motherfuckas to Hell' which puts witty, pithy rhymes over a beat so haphazardly slung together it undermines the whole enterprise.

As previously mentioned, there is also the issue of half an album's worth of instrumental filler. 'Wax Suckas (Decline)' is kiddie glitchcore, the kind of thing Prefuse 73 tosses off over a light lunch and subsequently drops back into the mixing bowl. 'Dead Doldrums' doesn't really go anywhere for a full three-and-a-half minutes, which would be fine on an 18 track album, but here we only get 11. A tightening up would have resulted in a really good EP's-worth of material interspersed with a couple of sparky interludes.

I don't want to be too harsh on :Brownstudy. Put this next to a Drake or Kendrick and the technique gap is huge. Neither of those two (who will headline festivals and sell millions of records alongside Kanye in the coming Year Of The Hip-Hop Rockstar) can claim the skill of Jason Hogans. And while the subject matter isn't blatantly foregrounded in the way Kanye managed with last year's basically stoopid-ass megaseller, the personality behind it may not necessarily be any less notable. The character just gets lost in beats that are frankly below him. Pair Hogans with a superstar production team and you could make magic.