“You gon’ find/in every line I rhyme/is shit you can’t define/This is passion,” Jon Connor boasts in the opening namesake track While You Were Sleeping. Passion may be tough to peg, but this Flint, Michigan up-and-comer has definitely chiselled out an impression in his latest release­. Looks like the all-nighters are paying off.

The key word here is concentration. July’s mixtape premieres as one of Jon Connor’s shortest yet, with the largest set of collaborations. On top of regular All Varsity contributors like Optix and Brandon Bars, Michigan listeners will recognize their fellow natives Craig Owens, Mikey Wallace, and one half of the classic Ready for the World, Melvin Riley, in the mix.

The People’s Rapper takes Flint from its Old Skool MC Breed/Dayton Family roots, and into the wider breadth American of hip hop, with treats from Texas (Killa Kyleon, Bun B), Cali (Lia Mack, Kid Ink, Mistah F.A.B.) and Chicago (GLC). He even toes into international waters with Netherlands House DJ D Wayne, joined by suave-sounding Mr. Riley for a soulful from-the-hood narrative “Same Change,” worth more than one listen.

A grittier sound can be found in “Scriptures” and “Burn Notice,” as well as “Never Left,” four minutes of proof that Connor still has the quick mouth to more than hold his own over heavy production quality. To zone in on his rhyming, check out “Diamonds,” and the ironically named “Dubby, ” in which the emcee goes practically hoarse. His claim to “runs fifteen minutes long” loses no plausibility here.

No doubt, the man’s made his name as a spitter, ballsy enough to pull off raps over his biggest idols’ tracks, from Nas to Jay-Z to Eminem, and circulate them as his own World’s Greatest series. But this Flintstone’s said before that he aims to be as much a ‘music man’ as a ‘rap man.’ 

“Don’t Wanna Be” feat Lia Mack shows World’s Greatest Music producers walking the walk, and in unlikely places. The eclectic beat samples the guitar riff from Judy Clay and William Bell’s ‘60s soul track “Private Number,” and syncs it with a loop of sped-up chipmunks chorus from contemporary pop-rocker Gavin DeGraw’s hit “I Don’t Want to Be.” With such an uncanny-good combo of past and present, Jon Connor the artist lives up to his sci-fi time-warping backstory (read: The Terminator messiah).

R&B-flavored “Something I Know”, further backs up the music man credit– dude actually sings on the recording. The vocals, though simple, are smooth enough to make the girls up and take notice. “TGIF” could make it as a club number, but while Connor and Killa Kyleon’s runs here are solid enough, the chorus lacks in originality points.  

Each track has ample follow-through, but if the repertoire lacks any dynamism, it’s in the topic matter. Sticking to theme is great, but surely Michigan’s got more to talk about than just burning the midnight oil.  It might pay to stray more from universals and dig deeper into his history.

From dubbing himself Terminator prodigy, to spoofing Vinnie Chase and the kid Chris Rock, Jon Connor has taken on an expanse of personas.  While You Were Sleeping sees the artist start to solidify his name beyond these references. That’s a step for someone whose Wikipedia page has been written and deleted twice.

Check out the mixtape in full below.