Do lyrics and rhyme schemes mean anything anymore? If recent rap and hip-hop culture is any indication, artists seem to rely less on lyrical content and technical ability and lean more to the sound at hand, slightly catering their lyricism to whatever flow someone else made from a soundboard a thousand miles away. No real sounds, no real words, no real technique. Or words of any real meaning. The Bronx rapper, John J, is one artist doing his part to justify rap and hip-hop as a prevalent means towards enlightenment as opposed to the troubling theme of the genre’s regression, slipping into substance-deprived voids mumble raps and trap. Since a while now, John J has climbed up on his proverbial soapbox to speak his mind. He has watched, he has listened and observed. Now with professional lyricism, thoughtful perspective, and nuanced flows, John J brings us a series of new singles and collabs.
“Reckless” ft. King Low and Stotty P, is filled with soulful and pensive hooks by Breanna Marin, with John J and the crew constantly spitting fearlessly, dissing a hateful rapper who obviously has a whole different philosophy and modus operandi in his game. John J delivers what he knows.
He gives us a song intended to destroy his superficial and vacuous antagonist, and leaves him stone cold with the ultimate line of disrespect: “You’re the reason that rap is dead”. The delivery is solid and John J drives the intended message home – his heart and head in the right place.
The one thing John J knows how to do, is beat selection. He has an uncanny ear for melody, and specifically understands the impact of impressive hooks. I have been reviewing his music for a while now, and have never heard him deliver one single song, that didn’t have a beyond stunning hook.
“Save Me” is no exception to the rule. The spine-chilling hook creates a dramatic backdrop for the rapper to build intense and introspective, psyche-exploring rhymes. John J is a perfect example of triumph against the major record labels, and not buying into the mainstream-forced sound that inhabits the radio, contaminated with superficiality.
John J has been on the scene for many years now dropping classic sounding joints that the real heads have always loved. He always spits fire in the booth and with this series of new singles he raises the bar above and beyond. Not one to shy away from collaborations with his kin, we find him sharing the spotlight with Salese and Ks Rocks on “Better Days”.
I’ve always been a fan of the one emcee and one producer track. I guess because back when I was first falling in love with the music that’s how it was. But when you encounter determined and well-executed collab-enhanced cuts like this one, you can only tip your hat in awe.
The song is soulful and rich in its sound. It swirls around pulling you in but never jarring the senses, while John J and Ks Rocks infuse the song with a feel of adulthood struggles, against a backdrop of hard beating drums. It’s grown man rap music. It’s not driven by fads and fleeting thrills. It’s grounded and respectful but with enough kick, demons and vices to remind you it’s alive.
Once again, on these three singles John J has opened up his journal and let us in on his inner most thoughts. He makes profound statements and offers solutions with his rhymes. He’s comfortable with his position and not afraid to express himself. In a time where hip-hop is largely driven by sponsorships and pushing products, John J continues to be a breath of fresh air.