A bit of story time. Then music.

Four years ago, while first perusing the blogs that now form my daily diet, I ran across a rapper named Wafeek, a St. Louis transplant residing in LA. I was immediately gripped by his style, a combination of flexible, bass-y vocals that danced deliberately across tracks, occasionally dipping into melody and always extending punchlines beyond their expected space. His 2009 output felt like a crossroads of Lil Wayne and Kanye influence, wordplay that played with assumption and clear, syllable-stacked bars that combined traditional “consciousness” with dashes of personal reflection and recklessness, a compelling package matched by few other underground contemporaries.

As a blogger or a wannabe journalist of any stripe, you’re supposed have a measure of objectivity, an ability to step outside of your perspective and personal context and comment on music as is, not purely as it impacts you. This state, of course, is an ideal, a cultivated condition that proves difficult. As a listener, you’re always a fan; your iPod is populated with artists you love and pull for. It’s inevitable.

Wafeek and I cultivated a friendship over the years, encompassing shared hiatuses from music, occasional moments of being out of touch, and new homes for our respective creative output. Since we first started speaking, I always pulled for Wafeek, not as a friend, but as a fan of clever, well-constructed rapping. Our friendship colors my opinion these days; it can’t be helped. Still, I listen to Wafeek’s music and wonder how someone so capable of flipping common rap tropes with style and humor isn’t better known. Such is the new music ecosystem, a world of infinite choice, copious talent, and far more abundant bullshit.

I say all that to set up this: Wafeek sent over his most recent EP this week and it brought me back to my earliest days with his music, a return to the style he rocked when I discovered his work after detours into different styles and sounds. ERA: Act 1 features the sort of sharply focused lyrics–the balance of personal focus and worldly awareness–paired with golden-era-leaning production. A mixture you might not be used to hearing on P&P, but one that pleases the my ever present (if occasional hidden) pure rap fandom. Give it a spin below.