March 28, 2014

Johnny-CincoEvan Nabavian is inside the above vehicle.

I remember a Joe Budden screed on a DJ Clue mixtape where Budden decried “Singin’ ass niggas”. I probably nodded in affirmation from my perch in suburban New York before running back a Paul Cain verse. But times change. DJ Clue becomes DJ Esco, sour diesel becomes dirty Sprite, and rappers sing like it’s 1967 and they have five minutes in Berry Gordy’s office to show and prove. I haven’t descended from my perch though. So while you miscreants are listening to Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug, I’ve moved on to Johnny Cinco. Who’s that? Fine, I’ll indulge you.

Cinco arrives somewhere between Future and French Montana where the melodies are more grayscale than candied, though no less liberal. “No Choice” is sooner taken for a narcocorrido than a reference track for Ciara. Or maybe that’s the latent dancehall influence among Atlanta’s singer-rappers rearing its head. Cinco’s singing sounds more considered than the one-take ditties you usually hear over trap beats. “Wrong Nigga” has more nuance in its delivery than the standard Migos-era anthem.

On Cinco, genre tropes find their logical extremes. The eponymous mixtape could have been called My Styrofoam Cup Runneth Over. Johnny slurs his half-sung raps about “Hussein money” and designer labels into near-incoherence and he suffuses tracks with adlibs: screeches, chirps, gasps, and bleats make it sound like he records with a chorus of hypemen in the booth. This is how he distinguishes his voice in a scene packed with wild cadences.

Future is exploring his full potential, Young Thug is turning heads, and Cinco and Rich Homie Quan are trading diss tracks. The soil is fertile and the scene has more voices and experiments to come with summer looming on the calendar. I’m just glad I stopped listening to staid East Coast rap long enough to appreciate it.

MP3: J0hnny Cinco — “I Got Em”

ZIP: Johnny Cinco – Cinco

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!