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Standout Track: No. 2, “Alone Again,” which puts Brown’s wistful ruminations on adulthood and finding contentment (uninterrupted by a hook) over warm, springy keys and extraterrestrial echoes.

Brown’s dense, jazzy beats have been praised by 9th Wonder and Pete Rock, but “Alone Again”—the first “official” track of the rapper-producer’s debut full-length album—boasts a beat from producer DJ Roddy Rod.

Musical motivation: “That’s why I get down in the dumps sometimes/Don’t come out the house for weeks sometimes/And take, like, three months to write one rhyme,” goes the track. And it did indeed take Brown about 90 days to craft the lyrics to the song.

But such a leisurely creative pace is unique to “Alone Again.” The track, which first appeared on 2004’s The Kev Brown Mixtape, is the only song on the album written before Brown became beholden to a record label’s timetable. Its composition took place amid the region’s infamous gridlock.

“I don’t know if I should say this, but I wrote most of that in the car,” he says. “This was when I had a little part-time job, way out in Frederick. I had, like, an hour drive. I’d have beats in the car, throw one on and see if I could write a couple lines if there was traffic.”

“I’ve swerved a couple times,” he admits, “but I never hit anybody or anything, thank God.” —Sarah Godfrey