“I can’t wait for the sky to fall/picture me rising up until I burn like a comet from the ground/bones turn to dust, I’m a desert in the urn/never seen my guts, may they fatten up the earth.” Um, as far as opening rap verses go, this one is rather dire.
Jonwayne’s always been one to speak his mind. He has made many open and blunt notions about his temporal existence in songs like “Ode To Mortality”, “Passing Fancies”, “Non-Living,” “Find Me In The Future,” but beyond that is his persistence to speak his mind regardless of how the listener might take his words. Jonwayne speaks the truth of his mind, unvarnished by style and unfettered by trend. What he avoids in the usual ass-n-gunclap iconography of hip-hop he more than makes up for in disconcerting statements such as these or snub-nosed wordplay a la “Numbers On The Hoard”.
The 22-year-old LA rapper and producer has proven his worth in such a way for a while now, on the various singles dispersed throughout the internet and his marvelously elusive Cassette series, and that does not stop on Rap Album One, his austerely titled debut on Stones Throw Records. The rhymes are just as elevated and transcendent and the beats, mainly produced by Jonwayne himself, provide the melodic boom-bap or zonky BGM beats he has an affinity for.
Jonwayne’s insistence on pulling “triple-double no assists” allows him to make his intentions manifest on whatever he creates. “You Can Love Me When I’m Dead” features his heady lyricism, giving himself some head-turning thumb-ups: “killin’ the beat like a martyr singin’ an alma mater/Maury Povich, ‘cause you know my style has no father.” In turn, the beat follows that stride as the dour piano chords and off-beat drum patterns create the deranged and surreal aesthetic that his rhymes perfectly flow over.
One of the album’s best songs, “Yung Grammar”, sounds like the nerdiest song Sean Price would hope to make for these same reasons: the beat is a eery and skeletal symphony, almost like easy listening for Funcrusher fans in the best possible way, but dude runs through this thing like the Juggernaut on speed wearing Puma shoes. It’s that good.
Likewise, a more straightforward track like “The Come Up” consists of a soul record sampled, chopped, and looped for immediate effect. It’s a solid song, but his pocket is more ground into the groove, much like a custom-made saddle, and the a cappella portion at the end shows his sovereignty over the matter. That free reign does have its downsides, however as certain spots feel rougher than necessary; “Reflection” has a sluggish opening and a ultra-cheesy instrumental breakdown at the end. It drags down the album, and the magnum filler opus of “Zeroh’s Song”, which boils down to Zeroh marbling over a docile beat for four minutes, does not makes things any better.
In short, enjoying Rap Album One can boil down to the amount of leeway you give to Jonwayne’s brand of dull yet intriguing introspection via erudite writing skills; he creates music that an El-P or MF Doom lover would appreciate, and that’s because he clearly is one himself. It does not grab as much as Cassette 3, sadly, but his undertaking of an entire project mainly on his own and the overall quality of the endeavor are noble.
3.5 out of 5
You can buy the album on Amazon.