Jonwayne, “Relaxation”

Blake Gillespie

Jonwayne Rap Album One

A Jonwayne write-up on Impose used to consist of expressing enjoyment in the music, but slightly discrediting the Los Angeles emcee over petty humors like his MS Paint artwork or being possibly the only rapper in sandals. Since signing to Stones Throw, Jonwayne has given us good reason to cut the jokes through his Cassette series, which no other hip hop release has managed to match in terms of packaging and design, and one-off tracks with an inner circle of LA rappers that includes Zeroh, Azizi Gibson, Jeremiah Jae, and Scoop Deville.

This is not to suggest we couldn't take Jonwayne seriously until he stepped up his album art game. This is about how through his visionary collaborations with Stones Throw designer Jeff Jank, he's done more than just shed jokes about sandals from the dialogue. Jonwayne turned his debut record Rap Album One into an event. He's operating on a level that could possibly cause a metamorphsis in how Stones Throw is not only perceived, but how it's run as a label. For now, these are theories to be dog-eared for later appraisal. Yeah, we're looking at a saltine album cover making a statement, but its presence is not going to out hype the music. We know this based on “Reflection”.

When Jonwayne gets ahold of a microphone it's always done in a manner that feels as though his grip isn't letting up for anyone else to get a piece of the action. From his appearances on the Quakers album to live sets in which he showcases his production and rhyme skills, Jonwayne presents himself as a man in control of his craft. The lead single “Reflection” finds Jonwayne pinging around his own psyche to a fractured piano track constantly unsettled by the presence of warped vignettes. In a recent interview with Passion of the Weiss, Jonwayne commented on fame and how rappers like Eminem and Jay-Z have built their own prisons to their personas and their fans are the wardens. On “Reflection” he interrupts an instrumental interlude with “I'm supposed to tell you I get laid everyday / and stay undefeated / since I was a fetus / working minimum wage / but that mind frame has got these players rhyming in cages / living half life radiation / stuck to the pages”. It gives the impression that by the time we've determined the magnitude of his efforts on his Stones Throw debut and the artwork that inspires lengthy diatribes such as this current mess I've concocted, he will have already put his prison break plan into action.

Jonwayne's Rap Album One is out October 29 on Stones Throw.

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