A role-reversing rapper who mixes giddy pranks with priestly earnestness, Cex has been easing toward stardom since he started storming the glitch-electronica scene with gameful rhymes and stage-stealing porn moves. Alongside laptop defacer Kid 606, the white MC from Baltimore helped goose the studious realm of IDM with brash beatscapes and cartoonish boasts. But while all signs pointed to one-note irony, Cex has never been easy to pin down as a novelty act. He makes it even harder with Tall, Dark, And Handcuffed, which casts him as an on-the-make star propped up by swagger and uncertainty. Featuring songs that made him an unlikely party-starter on recent indie-rock tours by The Dismemberment Plan and Death Cab For Cutie, Handcuffed expands Cex's past rap hooks into fully fleshed-out flows that mix old-school naïveté with smart writing and ace delivery. "Brutal Exposure" carves into Cex's own outsized persona, railing against critics who believe press releases, and slinging high-concept battle boasts like "Thought my enemy spit a hot line against me? He didn't / What you witnessed was Cex's expert ventriloquism." Even when flopping around in pools of champagne and menstrual blood, Cex's lyrics wrap around their literal meanings like vines, approaching their outlandish conceits with the mind of a high-rolling hero and an underdog geek. "Intangible" revolves around a barely existing rapper whose towering success stems from his utter failure. Equal parts brainy and silly, the album ditches Cex's past production prowess for merely serviceable hip-hop beats, but Handcuffed bounces beneath enough blazing word trails and sing-song hooks to stretch its premise well past its breaking point. Cycling through childhood memories of "Molotov dodgeballs" and world-dominating bike rides, Cex comes off like a conflicted prodigy making a home in the sandbox of rap. He's not building castles quite yet, but Tall, Dark, And Handcuffed drafts foundations worth moving in on before the market prices them through the roof.