When Rich Homie Quan announced in February that he had “stepped away from the Rich Gang a little bit just to get back to Quan," it came as a surprise to just about everyone. The Atlanta MC's formidable partnership with Young Thug and Birdman had produced one of the best mixtapes of 2014, Tha Tour Pt. 1, and the highest-charting song of his career so far in the summer hit "Lifestyle." But the 2014 XXL Freshman had already made a name for himself before he teamed with Birdman and Thugger, and his first effort since the split, If You Ever Think I Will Stop Going In Ask Royal Rich, is a return to the solo form that produced his first big hits in "Type Of Way" and "Differences."

If You Ever Think... marks the fifth installment of Quan's Goin' In series and is a true solo effort in every way, without even the hint of a feature over the tape's 20 tracks. He wastes no time laying out his thesis on the intro track, which doubles as one of the best cuts on the whole project: "'Some Type Of Way' went gold, yeah I got 'em for a plat'/Then 'My Hitta' went platinum and I went and got me  some racks/Got a Black Card, Visa Cards, I don't like to walk around with cash/I might kiss in the front just know I don't kiss no ass." The sentiment is clear: Quan doesn't need any help to navigate the rap game.

The production comes from a slew of beatmakers—DT Spacely, Izze The Producer and Only 1 Scoota all have multiple credits, but the rest come from all over the map—but generally stick to the trap-based sound he's built his career on so far. It's in his lyrics and delivery that Rich Homie Quan really shows his growth. Now that he and Thug have both released solo projects since Tha Tour showcased their contagious chemistry together, it's easier to pick apart who was responsible for which areas that made that tape so infectious; Quan, for his part, brings a level of unpredictability and melody to the table that he puts on full display on If You Ever Think...

The tape is packed full of standout tracks. The intro is a love song to the streets; "I Get" is a creative boast throughout; "Flex," his latest official single, is catchy as hell with a fun, carefree hook; "I Swear" uses a stripped-down beat to showcase Quan's varied flows; and "Forever Millions," the only cut produced by London On Da Track, reunites the MC with his former Rich Gang collaborator with a spitfire delivery (conspicuously without the beatmaker's Thug-sampling tag). But the two that rise above the rest are the smooth, heartfelt "Now I Know" and the emotional, resolute "Daddy," which closes the project. The latter addresses the September incident in which his father was shot multiple times during an attempted robbery at his Atlanta barbershop. It marries Quan's melodic songwriting with a more personal sentiment, letting listeners in to his psyche in a way that some of his other turn up bangers never could.

If You Ever Think... showcases a duality in Rich Homie Quan that shines clearer than his other mixtapes; it's a project for the streets, but it's a step forward for him as an artist both lyrically and stylistically. The tape is definitely too long—20 tracks is going to be too much for anyone, especially with no features—but it's an important statement ahead of his long-awaited debut album. With Rich Gang in the rear view mirror for now, Rich Homie Quan needed a project like this to prove that he could stand on his own again. Point taken. —Dan Rys