When Mr. MFN eXquire started to buzz, many rap fans knew he was an eccentric character. Just from the cover artwork above, a depiction of parallel tastes between New York grit and foreign extravagances through a Ganesha, eXquire is far from ordinary. His first single “Huzzah” released in early 2011 was the first sign of his grimy raps, which he followed with three full-length mixtapes showcasing his incomparable style. Eventually, it led him to his recording deal with Universal Republic where Power & Passion is his first release under a major label. Throughout the EP, eXquire keeps his obsession with girls and worldly possessions in the forefront. But with the assist of hip-hop’s underground talent, he develops a more polished soundscape that makes Power & Passion worthwhile.

The EP is the definition of a rapper pushing the underground into the mainstream. eXquire first teased fans with this merger in his EP preview “Position of Passion,” and then in his collaboration with El-P and Gucci Mane on “Telephunk.” Released a few weeks before the EP hit the web digitally, the track describes his exploits with a voluptuous girl who is promiscuous enough to follow eXquire’s every move. It’s a typical song in his wheelhouse, but touches on his newfound success. “Money, hoes, Patron/Got damn I’m on/Looking back at the projects like I’m glad I’m gone.” The second half of the song shines with Gucci’s prolific verse, who rides effortlessly on El-P’s mechanical production.

There’s plenty more to listen on Power & Passion, especially the opener “CAri ZALloni” produced by longtime Kid Cudi collaborator Dot Da Genius. Backed by a choir of holy chants, eXquire describes how things have changed since signing to Universal. Now, he’s trading in his half gallon of Georgi Porgi for something a bit more exquisite: Cari Zalioni’s. And then, just when you get comfortable listening to eXquire rhyme about his “gangsta and passion,” the beat switches to a guitar-driven affair with his signature charisma.

While Exquire can supply bangers like “CAri ZaLIoni” and “Telephunk,” the EP does little to push the envelope. What it does establish is eXquire’s impeccable ear for producers, gathering hip-hop’s buzzing talent like Harry Fraud, SpaceghostPurrp, and BSBD to lend him a hand. On “Cheap Whores & Champagne,” eXquire uses his subtle humor to list things he doesn’t like in our hypothetical last days: “F**k this music. F**k these labels. F**k my contract. F**k my paper. F**k who I f**k? F**k who I f**k? My apartment and my cable.” Fraud’s production, which supplies a warbly beat with sparse drums, makes sense for eXquire’s raw and rugged flow. If you liked eXquire jumping on beats by Necro or El-P, these rising producers give him equal parts of dark and harrowing backdrops that are easy to intake.

As eXquire prepares to release his official full-length album, it's clear that he is on the right track in delivering heat to the masses. The last pair of tracks that end the EP— “AGGIN LAER” and “ The Message Pt. 1 & 2”—display his usual tricks of recycled one-liners (for example, flipping Jay-Z’s “Light Up” punchline at the end of his verse) and in-the-pocket delivery. But even with a major label audience supporting him, eXquire will always keep his BK ways. Much like what Kendrick Lamar has done in following his artistic vision on good kid, m.A.A.d city, eXquire plans to make a similar move with his music. What you’ll find in Power & Passion isn’t anything outside of his unorthodox style and New York bubble. Rather, it’s a fine appetizer before he gears up for an album debut. —Eric Diep (@E_Diep)