There was a time in my life when I would stay up till 5am in hopes to catch a 30 second verse from an MC that I felt was doing something special and unique. Most times this included having the antennae wires wrapped around my toes because it was the only way I could get clear reception, so I would sit in one place for 4 hours with hopes of catching that ground breaking nu-nu.
It has been a long time since hip hop has made me feel that way or that I would sacrifice hours of sleep for the sheer exhilaration that comes with having our mind blown and an artform redefined. I don’t know if it is because I have gotten old or because I started making my own music and got to close, or if the music just wasn’t that interesting anymore. Maybe I syphoned off all I could get and now the tank was dry, running on fumes. Probably a combination of it all, and frankly the reasons aren’t that important.
What is important is that for the first time in a long fucking time, I have felt that feeling again thanks to Rap Album One by L.A. rapper/producer/Stones Throw artist – Jonwayne.
Chills bro. This fucker gave me chills. It is the kind of album that slowly creeps into your sub-consciousness filling up all the little unexplored nooks and crannies, until you are somehow changed by the chemical reactions. Rap Album One is brilliant. I don’t know if it’s a masterpiece, but it is god damn close. It meanders a bit, on some Siddhartha finding its bliss shit. The way it moves around, especially early, it feels like walking on sand, kind of shifting around and not really sure of its footing yet.
There is the dark and semi-experimental vibe of "After The Calm" and "You Can Love Me When I’m Dead" both are deliciously open and free. They feel like they are riding in on the breeze. Slowly building and twisting around until they find a home in your heart, you can’t help but want to invite this fucker over for some tall boys and soft cheeses, you get a glimpse at the depth of his artistic vision, but really it is some just the tip shit.
After teasing you with the tantalizing depth Jonwayne comes at you with the rap shit. Four straight tracks of rapping to show you how good this fucker raps, and this fucker raps really fucking good, I can’t front for a second. "Find Me In The Future" sounds like one of them perfect deep album cuts by Gangstarr that helped cement them as legends beyond the singles. "The Come Up Pt. 1 (feat. Scoop Deville)" which might be the best straight up rappy rap song of the year. The beat bangs so fucking hard and Jon and Scoop trade verses sounding perfectly at home with each other. It is some dream boat shit. "The Come Up Pt. 2" starts dabbling in a bit of the weird biographical steez, still rappy as Fuck and still nodding my fucking head (HARD), but by "Yung Grammar", which might be the only song that doesn’t resonate with me (feels a little self-indulgent, but whatevs, I’m sure for other ears it is the fucking shit), I was starting to worry that we might be stuck in the cipher.
And just as the doubt started to seep in this fucking asshole Jonwayne goes and destroys my world. Holy shit! "Reflection" happens and that's when Rap Album One takes the Fuck off. Through the rest of the album this fucker is a journey. Jonwayne wanders, feeling the space, testing out the limits. Finding the warm corners of the room turning into some sort of rap hybrid version of Jon Brion, so moody, weird and perfect; it is at this point that Jonwayne takes everything I knew about rap, pours gasoline on it and lights it ablaze. "Reflection", "Zeroh’s Song" and "How to Be a Gemini" go deep. They find a vibe, tweak, mold it into something else and then free the butterflies in your stomach. It is that rare grouping of songs that can elicit a physical reaction. It is amazing. "Black Magic" kind of loses it a bit for me, it's not bad, it is more breathing room. a second to recollect between the three headed dragon we just discussed and the all but perfect coda that is "Sandals" which sticks the landing as it takes us out, so casual and easy. Some early morning drinking shit.
Rap Album One isn’t perfect but it is damn close, and even if it isn’t perfect, it is gorgeous and unique. Jonwayne creates his own world that is so enchanting and exciting. It captures something, bottles it, I want to spray it on my lady friends neck so I can sniff it all in. It is intoxicating bro.
All Things Jonwayne: