Last year, New Jersey's Arsonal Da Rebel, arguably one of the most popular battle rappers of all time, made his first trip to the UK to battle Don't Flop's breakout export, Shotty Horroh. The result was an entertaining, flow-heavy exhibition that sparked a bit of a kinship between the two rappers, culminating in Arsonal importing and hyping Shotty to battle in his "Ultimate Warrior" battle league and recording music together. The association made perfect sense, considering the many parallels the two shared; both rappers were technically outstanding practitioners of internal rhymes and extended schemes, both were controversial within their home turf, and both fancy themselves unique, irreverent figures, especially in their willful disrespect during battles. Their collaboration, "Dark Liquor" off of Arsonal's recent Haters Pivot Winners Travel mixtape, is another example of the unlikely acquaintances' similarity. Like Shotty's Dead Bodies and Junk Food release, Arsonal's tape hinges its success off of pure rapping ability and brash confidence while trying on a diverse selection of mainstream sounds. Unlike Shotty's tape, Haters Pivot Winners Travel doesn't add any layers of depth or interesting tweaks to the standard mixtape formula, instead trafficking the kind of cliches that make you wonder what exactly Arsonal is a rebel of. The entire tape is, like Cortez' The Exception, a great study in why technical skill alone doesn't translate to greatness. Arsonal can rap his ass off. Arsonal can craft entertaining punchlines. But, truthfully, that's where his bonafides end. Many of the tape's tracks are shallow, single-minded lifestyle raps about hustling crack and balling, mining territory that has been tired for years without any of the idiosyncrasies or depth that, at this point, should come standard. Being able to rap skillfully is fine, but without memorable lyrics, savvy songcraft, or a unique persona, what is there to show besides the benefits of practice and repetition? Arsonal even joins growing group of emcees in trying out his Kendrick Lamar impression on "Wrong Road". The mixtape's title is an allusion to Arsonal's globetrotting status as an in-demand battle rapper, which is ironic considering that, as an artist, he routinely fails to take the road less traveled. Taken in small doses, and with the benefit of other artists to offer contrast, many of the tracks on Haters Pivot Winners Travel would serve as a good sample of Arsonal as a rapper, but taken all at once, it's too much of the same of the same. The fact that the tape features a "rap song about rap" track imaginatively titled "Hip Hop" that affects true school hand-wringing on a record absolutely lousy with rote materialism says a lot about where Da Rebel is as an artist. That shortsightedness doesn't bode well for Ars' career, but maybe all those frequent flyer miles will translate into a new perspective. Haters Pivot Winners Travel is currently available for download from DatPiff.