Bronx rapper John J thrives in the world of rap, but unlike some of his peers who direct their energy towards shock factor and distortion, John J, threads dense rhymes through his raucous vocals and catchy refrains. Built on 8 tracks his latest project “Never at Peace” sees the artist expanding his world of hard-hitting with darkly textured soundscapes, while delving into the varying degrees of menace that cloud his outlook. John J avoids the proclivities of the mainstream, promoting the bowels of the fierce underground he comes from. It’s easy to write off artists like John J, regardless of him being consistently more compelling than his peers. The Bronx rapper and his ilk are capable of falling into edgy areas of exclusivity that may sometimes undermine the genuine artistry they have to show to the masses
John J’s last album treated him well. Now, though, with “Never at Peace”, we not only see him on his own again, but he’s also displaying moments of ulterior growth and versatility. John J is kind of everywhere on this album, which is a credit to that versatility.
He’s more aggressive here than ever before, always retaining the grit that made him stand out on previous releases. He tackles weighty subjects with the relative gravity they deserve, but he never lets you forget that he can go the hell off on any type of banger, or stroke his ego, and put his talent on a pedestal with the best of them.
John J is surgical with his delivery and execution from track one. This is what makes “Never at Peace” a force to be reckoned with. I have always found that John J is severely overlooked, and truthfully he’s always had top tier flows and lyrics that put him above his peers. Once again, as “Never at Peace” kicks in, John J cements himself as one of the best at creating hard-hitting, aggressive hip-hop while telling vivid stories in the process.
The songs “Day One” and “My Boombox” both make use of somber, but bouncy, glisteningly eerie instrumentals, as John J’s lyrics hold a sinister and insidious message, likening his emotional state to a balloon ready to pop. One of the many things I love about this album, is John J’s excellence in writing catchy hooks.
It’s almost impossible not to praise his lyricism or flow but the man deserves a lot of credit for writing and performing catchy hooks, “Behind the Smile”, “Both Shoulders” and “Losing It” all have fantastically potent and engaging hooks that really give this album some lasting impact.
This is followed by the soulful and melodic banger “Gone Cold” with its eerie repeating female adlib. Though soulful, John J retains the abrasive and unapologetic flavor in his raps, as his messages remain unfiltered. On “Under Snow”, John J once again presents himself as a dynamic rapping talent, simultaneously showing a heightened ear for melody and overall quality of sound.
The Bronx rapper’s evolution is at the forefront of “Never at Peace”. His music has always had a combative edge, but on this album he shows that he is capable of supplementing his raw energy with an enhanced attention to detail. John J bars are loaded with substance, and attitude, once again showing why he should be regarded amongst the elite in his category.