Moe Green, an unheralded diamond from the bankrupt streets of Vallejo, CA, passionately displays an intriguing and improving—if still somewhat rough—set of spitting skills on his new free EP, Lionheart. Rhyming with a seriousness that belies his relatively young age, throughout Lionheart, Green mostly tackles themes he knows well: Financial difficulties, employment issues and dreams of stardom. True to his previous tapes' form—albeit in a lyrically playfully and sonically more sophisticated way—the non-hyphy rapper from NorCal's content captures a lot of what the everyman can identify with.

Though his voice and delivery aren’t overly distinguishable and are, at times, swallowed up by Bedrock’s and other producers’ solid background work, the emotion that Green lets loose on Lionheart makes it memorable. Boasting a collage-like mix of disenchantment and despair (“OWTB”) with happiness and hope (“Dreamin’”), Green evokes everything from sobs to smiles. No track better captures the full array than the Rob-E produced “Déjà Vu,” where, over a chilling sample of Sia’s “Breathe Me,” Moe rhymes, “Bouncing ideas all off the wall/Cell phone but no one to call/Fuck workin’ for you, we want to own shit/But got to take care of mine, I want my own shit.”

Though certain cuts meander and offer half-hearted boasting (“Grind Season” and “Extra, Extra”), for the most part, Lionheart deserves an ovation for overtly displaying Green’s potential.

In typically honest fashion, on “Masterpiece,” Green’s sing-songily spits, “My heart beats for the mic needs me/And when I get up in this game, I hope she might keep me.” Based solely on Lionheart and the progress it illustrates, Moe Green is well worth keeping an eye on. —Tzvi Twersky