For a handful of years Jonwayne was an incredibly prolific underground artist. As an instrumental genius he dropped wave after wave of beat tapes, video-game inspired soundtracks, and rare odds-and-ends that fans happily ate up. Once moving into the rap scene, his series of Cassette mixtapes sparked interest among the alternative rap community; Jon’s rich voice and subdued delivery paired excellently with his Dilla-inspired production. Stonesthrow, his label at the time, seemed like the perfect home for his style. This culminated in his 2013 debut studio rap album, accurately named Rap Album One. Though it seemed as if Jon was still finding his voice on that record, the potential was evident and it was met with generally positive reviews. It seemed as though Jonwayne was destined for big things.
However, not all career paths can be so beautifully lineal. Jon’s mental health and lifestyle choices, namely those involving alcohol, quickly caught up to him. Things soured at Stonesthrow, leading to his departure. After battling through these issues and bringing a semblance of order back to his life, Jon would reintroduce himself to the music scene in 2015 with Jonwayne is Retired and Here You Go. A rap extended play, and a two part beat tape series respectively. After a little more waiting and teasing Rap Album Two found its way to eager ears on February 17th 2017.
As it turns out, the delay for Rap Album Two was well worth it. This record is easily Jon’s most personal work, and the lyrics offer a deep insight into his emotions, feelings, and the struggle of someone recovering from addiction. Though these are topics that have been explored extensively in various genres, Jonwayne makes it special by offering a sense of solidarity to those dealing with the same issues as himself; the most impressive part of this is that Jon manages to present what he went through without seeming as if he was purely seeking sympathy. The lyrics on Rap Album Two are bluntly honest, and he puts his own faults and shortcomings on full display.
The writing style on this album is also quite unique. There are times where Jon abandons conventional rap structures and is more in line with written and spoken poetry. The rhyme structures aren’t always laid out in a simple couplets patter, and his focus is very rarely on multi-syllable schemes. This can take a bit to get used to, but ultimately it’s a refreshing journey away from the expected.
And on the way I know I gave away some friends,
And every day I wish that we could speak again,
But every time I wanna make it right I freeze up,
and the visions of the shadows of my demons who went out of sight,
They went out of sight,
(Out of Sight)
Unsurprisingly, the instrumentation on Rap Album Two is superb. Jonwayne established himself long ago as one of the many talented producers to build on the influence of Dilla. The thriving west coast beat scene offered the perfect incubation environment for his style, and it has blossomed on this album. Jon’s production has always had experimental elements mixed in with more classic hip-hop sounds, but he’s finally achieved a sense of balance between the two. The beats are rustic glory updated for modern times. They fit his spoken poetic rap style wonderfully,
And that’s the thing about Rap Album Two. None of the tracks on this album jump out as better than the rest of the group. They all pay together perfectly, and the album is best experienced as a long play. Every song has its place, and they transition very well.
I just cancelled my tour,
I just woke up in bed,
I had last nights dinner on the sheets,
I had a burning in my throat I couldn’t swallow,
I had shuffled to the mirror and saw death over my head,
If i was sleeping on my back I would’ve died,
Jameson in my blood,
Jameson in my eyes,
Jameson on my mind,
I know I need to stop,
But if I’m flying, it’s Jameson on the ride,
This how I’m making money but a cost to my life.
There are some moments on Rap Album Two that feel slightly out of place. “LIVE From The Fuck You” and “The Single” in particular are uncharacteristically humorous in the midst of an incredibly serious album. That being said, they do serve a bit of necessary comic relief to cut the tension. Aside from that, Rap Album Two is a juggernaut of cohesion. Jonwayne’s all encompassing creative control shines through on this album, and a meticulous attention to detail is evident. Though none of the songs really jump out on their own, Rap Album Two is a powerful complete listen. It’s the kind of album that seemingly needs to be listened to in its entirety; moreover, it’s also the perfect length for this sort of release at 44 minutes.
Rap Album Two feels like a modern album that captured some of the magic of rap’s golden era. The emotional connection Jonwayne is able to establish with the listener far outweighs any of his technical flaws on the mic. If you’ve been through any kind of struggle in your life, which most have, this album will offer some degree of solace. And it is an absolutely gorgeous listen, if not one that is a little challenging. Welcome back, Jon, and thank you for the album.