Published Feb 17, 2017A warning to those of you that typically skip over the skits on hip-hop LPs: Jonwayne's Rap Album Two deserves more patience. Any and all skit cynics will be quickly won over by the far-better-than average voice acting on the first few minutes of "LIVE From the Fuck You," the second track on the California rapper's new LP.
The skit begins with the boyfriend of one of Jonwayne's fans approaching the rapper, inadvertently insulting him by implying that he doesn't look like a typical MC and then shamelessly begging him to spit a few impromptu bars so that he can impress his lady. The skit is totally relatable, given the lyrical whining about fame so many mainstream musicians resort to these days.
But aside from that quick skit, Rap Album Two very much lives up to its name as a meat-and-potatoes hip-hop LP. The first quarter of the album is dominated by minimalistic beats juxtaposed with elaborate, idiosyncratic lyricism. Mind-bogglingly unique punch lines abound on songs like "TED Talk," on which he spits: "Now they're kissing my crosshairs / When I rap on beats that sound like a video game's boss lair," over a skeletal instrumental that sounds like a heartbeat and a stethoscope mixed with foreboding knocks. "Human Condition," meanwhile, sports a wistful violin sample over threadbare, skittering hi-hats.
As compelling as those moments will be for diehard rap nerds, Rap Album Two's true highlights can be found on "Out of Sight," on which Jonwayne gives the lyrical non-sequiturs a rest and instead grows deeply vulnerable, spitting: "I'd have to own up / Little did I know that the Cognac was keeping me from growing up," before comparing himself to the Hunchback of Notre Dame and then equating humanity with animals.
Then there's "The Single," an excellent concept track that keeps getting interrupted by what appears to be your faulty bandwidth as you stream the song, until Jonwayne starts cussing and you realize he's revealing the frustrations of trying to record a track that just won't come together.
"Paper," which features Shango, is even loftier in terms of its lyrics. On it, Jonwayne raps about how his bones are "Just branches, saplings" before lamenting the "Paper mâché people / Construction paper skies / Newspaper brains." It's also the first somewhat musically accessible track on the album, thanks to its melancholy piano keys and a contemplative hook that's partially sung, partially rapped by Shango. It'll appeal to hardcore hip-hop heads and more casual listeners alike.
The same could be said of followup "City Lights," which features a jazzy flute-and-piano-filled instrumental and Jonwayne spitting vividly compelling lines like "While I'm grabbing on my Samsonite / The smell of leather lingers / As I watch the calendar slip through my fingers."
These tracks and more will make listeners eagerly await Rap Album Three, the next chapter in this truly inspired series by one of hip-hop's most uniquely gifted MCs. (Authors / The Order Label)