Standout Track: No. 1, the methodical “Can’t Hold Me Down,” in which the brash Bowie MC uses a broken sentence flow to denounce false friends, rap groupies, and buffoonery in hip-hop—while also challenging his peers to push for perfection. (“We all living in the now like, ‘Obama did it!’/Yeah that’s swell, but what’s the next step, though.”) That kind of language has become a trademark of the aptly named Bear Witnez, known for his imposing presence and aggressive delivery. Still, this five-minute song is the heaviest on an otherwise light-hearted EP, a prelude to the rapper’s full-length BEwARe, out in April.

Musical Motivation: Bear recorded the downtempo number in 2009. But while the track is almost two years old, Bear says its message is still relevant. The beat, crafted by local producers DJ Money and Mello, is a simple loop of wistful strings and soulful moans, which plays well against Bear’s prominent baritone—a trait, he says, that makes him the best MC in the DMV. Still, in a scene that’s flush with haters and isn’t always meritocratic, Bear has become used to “the anti-love,” he raps. “I can’t be stopped, regardless of who’s doubting me,” Bear says. “At the end of the day, the truth is the truth. My greatness is right there, and you can’t see it.”

Don’t Feed the Animal: While Bear’s upcoming full-length album is more upbeat than his previous work, don’t think the artist has gone soft. Sure, BEwARe has party cuts and numbers for the ladies, but you’d better stay out of the ring. “Right now, I’ve been turned into a circus bear,” Bear says. “But with a circus bear, he can still snap at any moment and destroy the entire crowd.”