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Standout Track: No. 4 “Not Give Up,” which layers ScholarMan’s dense grind-minded lyrics over a lush orchestral string sample. The track exemplifies the seamless marriage of classical music and classic hip-hop that takes place on ScholarMan’s tribute to the easy listening Russian conductor/arranger, who died in 1980.

Musical Motivation:Last year, an odd sleeveless record mysteriously appeared in one of the Bowie, Md.–based MC’s crates. “I put it on, put the needle down, and was cleaning, eating, doing other things, but I kept hearing good sample chops,” he says. Struck by the music, ScholarMan did some research and discovered the recording was of an orchestra performing Kostelanetz’s classical pop. He decided an all-Kostelanetz project was a good move from both an artistic and business standpoint. “A lot of my fanbase is in Russia,” he says. “When people show me love, I show them love back.”

Press Pause: When first mapping out “Not Give Up,” ScholarMan thought the track needed something more than just his lyrics and Kostelanetz’s music. He eventually decided to layer in a sample and started hunting for hip-hop snippets in keeping with the track’s theme of perseverance. He ended up choosing a Ghostface Killah line (“I will not give up!”)from the “Run” remix, but it wasn’t the first thing that popped into his head. “My initial thought was of Puffy, of him saying ‘Can’t stop, won’t stop,’ or ‘take that,’ but I was definitely not using that,” he says.