Jonah Bromwich is so delirious.
There’s more than one way to improve. You can progress steadily – moving from a couple of funny lines, to being able to ride a beat, to storytelling, to a perfect verse, to a perfect song, all over the course of four or five mixtapes and/or albums. Or you can just leap into excellence out of nowhere, “with nails, hair, teeth, speaking coherently.”
Jonwayne wasn’t much for the steadiness. His new project This is False (like his last rap tape, Thanks Bro)is good enough to make you think you’re listening to a forgotten highlight from the Def Jux golden days, albeit with modern next-level production. But before we get to the raps, let’s start with the beats, always the babyfaced producer’s strong point. They’re uniformly excellent here. “Play Deader” is a droning murkfest that swallows both ‘wayne and Zeroh so they have to spit their raps from inside the belly of the beat. JWSB Bootleg #2 is a corroded version of Kanye’s “Gone” with glitches taking the place of the horns. But brass is not absent; it comes through on “Leaving Home, piped through the speakers like a salve from above on the tape’s most tender track. And an “obvious” Biggie sample on “So Delirious” adds the kind of excitement that haters might accuse this type of tape of lacking.
But this would all be for naught—plenty of excellent beat tapes are marred by dimebag raps that cling to superior sound like lint to cashmere—if it wasn’t for the verses. And Jonwayne is virtuosic. Check out the “Lotus Bootleg” if you want instantaneous proof. This is some tightly wound, itchy trigger finger shit. Over the type of low-key beat that Jay Electronica murdered before he went all Shawn Kemp, Wayne spits Kafkaesque gospel about surreal happenings, bars made of manganese, a mirage inducing, artillery-wielding, self-destructive monster. As he says here, “I dare you to grasp the way I rap over tracks or get the way I do laps around these wacker-than-thou rappers acting like housecats shitting in the box while I’m shifting in the box trying to make that shit knock.” I know we’re not supposed to use The Wire flippantly anymore but I can’t help but to give that line an “Oh, indeed.”
One of the nice things about the erosion of one-note gangster rap is that its counterpoint, the tedium of rapper’s rapping monotonically about nothing has also started to disappear. The disappearance of that dichotomoy allows rappers like ‘Wayne to go full Bukowski like on “Stacking Corpses,” where aggro poetics are diffused into nerdy beatspeak, and those who prefer not to wake and bake are as welcome as the Taylor Gang. The words form an “impossible rush of identity,” which summarizes ‘wayne’s stream of consciousness track-crushing over the course of the entire tape.
Just a warning—the mix on this tape is absolutely terrible (at least the version that I got) which means that you’re going to be fiddling with the volume throughout the course of your listen. But don’t worry. Your hands are going to so busy with the rewind button that constant volume adjustment shouldn’t be a major bother. Fill your heads, you sons-of-bitches–the duke needs to be getting more attention.
ZIP: Jonwayne – This is False (Left-Click)