Max Bell is not fragile.

If you’re reading this, you’ve heard of Jonwayne, the “rap game Sam Beckett,” the “open toed Blowedian.” (see here, here, here, or here). Yesterday, marked the release of Cassette 3: The Marion Morrison Mixtape, the third tape in the “Cassette Trilogy.”

Taking its name from actor John Wayne — his real name is Marion Morrison — Cassette 3 is the final cassette, and the best of the bunch.

Opening with a recording of Bukowski at a poetry reading, things come full circle. “Bukowski” was one of the standouts on the first Cassette tape, and the Wayne produced “Ode to Mortality” is no different. Aside from the fact that, for me, Bukowski clips are pretty much the rap equivalent of, ‘You had me at hello’, this is Wayne at his most, for lack of a better word, “poetic.” Over the tickling piano loop, he drops lines like, “Life is an homage to death.” This is the razor’s edge sharpness the most honest poets possess brought to beats and wax. It’s rare. It should be appreciated.

Wayniac produced just over half of the tape, with the other tracks going to Don Cannon (“Numbers on the Hoard”), DJ Premier (“Blaq Cowboy”), Jermiah Jae (“The Ritz”), Dilla (“Notes to Myself”), and Madlib (“Marion Morrison”). My favorites for the moment are “Blaq Prussian” and “Dog It,” beats that boom and command as much attention as Wayne does live. Though the softer, more emotive cuts like “Notes to Myself” also suit Wayne’s honesty.

The guest appearances are all above par, and you shouldn’t expect anything less. Wayne is a competitor. And good competition brings out the best in everyone. The standout guest verse, which comes as no surprise, is from Long Beach rhymer/the yet to be signed Zeroh on “And Bullshit.” Ideally, a collabo tape is in the works.

Lyrically, Wayne has been in the zone for a minute. Cassette 3 is no exception. At this point, fuck a “white handicap.” No one should question his ability to go battle rap bar for bar with any one. But it’s lines like this, “Did y’all forget about the power of a book? / I read like a worm, so you know I got ‘em shook,” that make me want to run to my shelf for my copies of Post Office and Mobb Deep’s The Infamous.

Is Cassette 3 worth your 37 minutes of your time? Yes. Is Jonwayne “iller than that fucking actor cowboy?” Depends on how much you like Westerns. Will he be better than Doom? It’s definitely up for debate. For now, he’s still the best-kept secret. “Tell your boys not to keep it.”

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