Guru said it best: “[If] your voice ain’t dope, then you need to chill.” Jonwayne will never have to retire. Hirsute, bespectacled, and owner of the world’s largest combined collection of basketball shorts, Bukowski books, and open-toed footwear, he is one of L.A.’s most formidable rapper/producers. His voice sucks the oxygen out of a room and manufactures its own. It hits with the force of Thor’s hammer. When you’re backed by beats built to crack tympanic membranes and splinter floorboards, this is both an asset and a necessity.
The La Habra raised 25-year-old honed his skills behind the boards after innumerable sojourns to Low End Theory, ground zero for L.A.’s still vibrant beat scene. With his punishing, Nintendo-meets-MPC 2011 debut, Bowser (Alpha Pup), and countless DJ sets at the Airliner, he cemented himself as one of the scene’s preeminent emissaries. Over the next three years, he picked up the mic, signed to indie rap paragon Stones Throw, and released a trilogy of increasingly prodigious mixtapes via cassette. His debut LP, Rap Album One, received widespread acclaim and the Album of the Year award at the 2014 Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards.
Although 2015 was a relatively quiet year for the typically prolific Wayne, he was anything but inert. In addition to leaving Stones Throw and dropping nearly 100 lbs from his broad-shouldered frame, he premiered his EP, Jonwayne is Retired (The Order Label/Authors), via pirate radio broadcast and released the free, two-part beat tape Here You Go. The former features Wayne’s best rapping to date. Equal parts manifesto and memoir, incisive lines and internal rhymes about the state of rap are tempered with unfiltered autobiography. Rap this honest and compelling is rare. And, if you venture to the Airliner on a Wednesday night, you’ll undoubtedly hear the searing, innovative beats from Here You Go blaring from the speakers and moving bodies.
In 2016, Jonwayne plans to release several projects via The Order Label, the rap distribution arm of Alpha Pup. His voice will probably hit you first, but there will continue to be so much more worth listening for. There will be no chill.