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First Thoughts: Jonwayne, 'Rap Album Two'

Never taking himself too seriously, his lyrics go from saddening to self-deprecating to enlightening.

Jonwayne, the biggest rap star who doesn’t look like a rap star, is back with his second album, conveniently titled Rap Album Two. After nearly a four-year hiatus, he returns discussing his battles with alcoholism, music career, mortality, and his relationships with loved ones. Never taking himself too seriously, Jonwayne’s lyrics can go from saddening to self-deprecating to enlightening, often within the same verse. With a new fresh breath of life in him, Jonwayne details his personal struggles throughout the last few years and makes himself as vulnerable as any rapper in the game today. Let’s check out a few of the standout tracks.

"Out of Sight": Being the lead single, Jonwayne probably highlights his alcoholism on here better than any other song. The unique toy piano production style along with minimal drums, not even a snare, takes the focus away from the beat so listeners can really take in his thoughts. Jonwayne reflects on mistreating his friends and on how he should go about mending those lost relationships. The track boasts an existential vibe and feels just as much therapeutic as it is creative for him.

"City Lights": While most of the album can feel somber, on "City Lights" Jonwayne seems to turn the page and choose to come out from his gloom. He gives advice to the youth, noting that with the fun and highlights of a rap career comes some hardships and troubling situations. Again, another song with no snare which, for some strange reason, works on this album.

"Afraid of Us": Thematically, this 7-plus-minute anthem encompasses the album in its entirety. Jonwayne self-reflects on missing his nephew's birth, ruining his friends set during a performance, and alienating his fans. It's his way of apologizing through music. His lyrics show the difficult dichotomy of his choices to both pursue a rap career while having to miss certain major life events and make tough decisions on what is important to him. He eventually tells reveals that there is no right answer and admits, “I need help.”

"Blue Green": This song details an incident in which Jonwayne woke up after a heavy night of drinking with his throat burning from vomiting and was later told he would have died had he have been asleep on his back. While the album has spare features, this one finishes out with Low Leaf singing beautifully over a harp instrumental.

"These Words Are Everything": After all the somberness, it’s great for Jonwayne to close out the album with a little bit of ego and remind everyone he still has incredible talent and self-awareness. While the debate occurs every day in hip-hop of lyrical rap vs. mumble rap, Jonwayne reminds people that his words are what will live on after he passes away. It is a little bit of a "f--k you" to the doubters, but when you do a rap album as enlightening, unique, and thoughtful as this you can get away with one song.

The album's production features lots of unique sound textures and is surprisingly instrumental-heavy, lacking a lot of the dense drums (or even choruses) that are commonplace in hip-hop. Honestly, this is what I had hoped J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only would sound like.

So now it’s just wait for Rap Album Three.

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