Review Summary: "A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes."
It’s easy to get lost in the hyper-existence of one’s life, which eventually boils down to singular moments of greatness, and then some failures. In these quick stop sections, we begin to piece together the value of our lives, our success and our downfalls. It’s with these fleeting pieces of information, that each of us carve out a caricature of what he want to be, or appear, so as to satisfy our own egos, and have the world understand us as how we allow them to. Actions, rather than words, go a long way in cementing yourself in the world, and to leave a lasting impression on the people within it. But with a pen and a paper, with ideas and emotions, Jonwayne sets up the platform from which the young rapper will move and capture the great imagination. His project, an ode to his own existence, is not just meant to personify what he strives to achieve, but also to give the listener an insight into the mind of a man admitting his own mortality, while seeking to be bigger as a result.
Aggressiveness packed into a punch, delivered with a layer of cyanide; that’s how I began to assess the new project from Jonwayne (real name Jon Wayne). Cassette 3: The Marion Morrison Mixtape
is the third in the series of cassette-tape based releases from the young L.A. rapper. However, the differentiating factor as opposed to its predecessors, is that this album arcs out its ambition as we hear Jonwayne embracing this one as a personal testament to the nobodies, the ones that history is slow to embrace, but their impact is immediate.
The mixtape is the blunted compilation of Jonwayne and friends laying out the hyperbolic fatality of the world and the struggle a young rapper must strive through to achieve success. The openers Mortality
and Numbers on the Board
contain epic stream-of-consciousness verses laid out over production that sounds like a warped recordings of pots, hymns, lost jazz rhythms, and happy-go-lucky samples. Mostly self-produced, the rhythmic barebones of the album is rich in weird piano loops, raspy drum patterns, and mind-melding bass. He joins the battle-esque hardness of boom-bap rap sequences with sharp psychedelic edginess that creates a sound very reminiscent of Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein
. On top of these hypnotic bones, Jonwayne lays down heavy muscle of dead-pan delivery that lays out his aggressive approach to lyrics, choosing to mix sharp punchlines, with a breathiness of passion and a slew of palaverous diatribe for other rappers within reach. A presence of a JDilla beat also signal his connection to the experimental-within-tradition idea that has been abandoned (for the most part) by rappers going leftfield.
“I know I got a heart that could be harder than some granite/This graphite in the hand it's getting drastic, crafting/Something that if you didn't know what I could do you'd call it magic/My blood is lavender, they call me a romantic” he raps on Altitude
, with a slow piano-loop playing melodically, yet very cacophonously, as Jonwayne talks about the hardship he struggles with, feeling the world turning on him at any moment. And Bull***
takes a sultry and dark soul sample, and chops it up to become a psychedelic trip with bass-thumping drums and a funky guitar line that drives the pace of the track. Frequent collaborator Jeremiah Jae, sporting a similarly hazy strain of stoned raps appears on three songs, including Dog It
– alongside Flying Lotus’s alter-ego Captain Murphy – where he flows with his perfected off-kilter precision, “Where the Pharaohs are kept/They fill my body with preservatives, I move past the urban binge/You turn milk sour for cheese, I detergent-spit a verse and then dip it in diligence/The opposition desolate.” The only other two featured artists are Brainfeeder residents Oliver the 2nd and Zeroh, both of whom complement Jonwayne’s drug-induced aesthetic and minimalistic approach to this project.
Perception is the essence of longevity, as Jonwayne confides in his listener towards the end of the tape on [i]Notes to Self[/I,] acknowledging the pop-cultural implication of his rap pseudonym. Instead however, he argues that his name-sake owes him something, as it’s his ancestry that was the inspiration for the existence of “John Wayne” in the first place. With this recognition principal touted, the rap arena lays marked with blood, scattered bones, smoked blunts and discarded naysayers, as Jonwayne ascends towards the haze-filled steps that lead to glory. He has made a spacey/noisy/uncomfortable step in rap music, casting aside the conventions of standard touch-and-go hip hop, forcing us to acknowledge that within this crucial step in his career, appears the forbearing of an ugly, rugged gem. Get this, cast aside your cynical congregation and buy into the idea; it’s only about get stranger from now on.