Much of Diverse’s One A.M. confounds expectations: It’s the full-length debut of a young and hungry MC, but it shows more polish than fire. It’s stacked with production by studious beat-makers, but it never sounds too smart for its own good. It has no skits or fillers, its guest stars keep themselves in check, and it lacks a flashy single. In short, it’s the kind of record Talib Kweli or Common could be making if the hunger for fame weren’t messing with their heads. Diverse could learn a little lyrical patience from those guys, however: The Chicago rapper (aka Kenny Jenkins) occasionally unpacks his themes in a chorus or a breakdown, but much of the time the words speed by at a pace more conducive to abstraction than absorption. And unlike your average dictionary-diver, Diverse would do well to slow things down sometimes: At their best, his sociopolitical observations display a sense of purpose and character that’s positively menschlike. It’s most effectively expressed on the chilled-out “Blindman,” which boils down to the line “If you could see me through the eyes of a blind man/For vision like that I would quest an entire life span.” And “Jus Biz” reduces nicely, too: “Looking outside the cubicle/The usual doesn’t seem suitable.” But it’s the beats that make One A.M. a keeper. RJD2 handles about half the disc, continuing his slow flirtation with commercial appeal but rooting each groove in classic b-boy aesthetics and funk esoterica. Prefuse 73 delivers three bottom-heavy tracks that shake his broken-beat habits. And jazzbos Madlib and Jeff Parker (yes, of Tortoise) each aim for elegance, with the former hitting the target closer to the center. The disc’s MC play pals provide perfect distractions, too: Cannibal Ox’s Vast Aire sounds more easygoing than ever on “Big Game,” Lyrics Born lights the fuse on “Explosive,” and Jean Grae matches Diverse syllable for syllable on “Under the Hammer.” Maturity, graciousness, and restraint aren’t exactly sexy selling points for a hiphop, but on One A.M. the beats and the bass lines drop just the same, and Diverse comes across as the rarest of hiphop anomalies: an intelligent rapper who doesn’t have to broadcast it.—Joe Warminsky