Review: Jonwayne – Cassette 3: The Marion Morrison Mixtape

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Jonwayne recently released a new mixtape and The Auracle enjoyed it so much, he almost forgot to submit the review we asked him to write.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, folks: Jonwayne’s latest tape is all killer, no filler.  I’ve seen his name bandied about on Twitter and whatnot but never thought to give his tracks a proper listen until I was recently asked to review Cassette 3: The Marion Morrison Mixtape.  You’d have thought by now that I’d learn not to sleep on whose trending but being that we inhabit a world where I find a lot of things that typically get hyped are easily lost on me once I subject myself to them, it’s a big reason why I prefer to engage these things at my own leisure.  Every once in a while though, I discover that the hype is not without merit when it comes to really good music and Jonwayne’s does more than just tick boxes for personal musical requirements.  It’s just flat-out dope stuff.

We begin with Ode to Mortality, a downtempo yet luscious track that Jonwayne uses to spit each word with a poetic urgency that demands you listen to every single stanza.  The wordplay is rich here as the piano loop plays musical tennis with the vocal samples, each alternating perfectly between a minimalist rhythm.  The song’s addictive properties rival that of a Class A drug as you simply can’t just listen through it once.  You’ll find yourself rewinding to review punchlines and metaphors that beg to be listened to again.  After that, you’ll feel compelled to simply wheel the track just to listen to it all again.  Things pick up significantly with Numbers on the Hoard and Blaq Cowboy as Jonwayne opts to bombard your brain with insane lyricism while you break your neck bobbing to each respective beat.  Each track even comes equipped with some skull-crushing bars like “I got demons/shit, I eat with them/in fact, they’re the ones that tell me that I need more seasoning” and “These chins are getting checked without the power of a hook/Did y’all forget about the power of a book?”

Jonwayne moves back to some chill ‘ish with The Ritz and as per the opening three tracks, the potency of the lyricism isn’t sacrificed at all.  The Ritz is a sonic cross between the poetic freedom of Ode to Morality and the cadence of Blaq Cowboy.  Simply put, it bangs brilliantly and even comes equipped with that classic line M“I put it on my mama like I put it on the Ritz.” Mean Muggin’ and And Bullshit are both on some classic hip-hop cypher-on-wax stuff and each are a real highlight on the tape.  On Mean Muggin’, each emcee on the mic flexes some serious verbal muscle and there’s no hook in sight so there’s no time for breaks.   And Bullshit is slightly more forgiving where the lyrical onslaught is concern; emphasis on the word ‘slightly,’ because this is again another track where each emcee on the mic uses their slot effectively to rock it and rock it hard.  We then arrive at Blaq Prussian, a song that picks up the cypher where Mean Muggin’ left off.  They say that music is sometimes a time machine and this one definitely had the feel of standing on the corner with the boys as someone kicked a phat beat and everyone spitting was on their A+ game, tossing the mic back and forth to each other like an American football.   Featuring the same two emcees from Mean Muggin’ (Jeremiah Jae & Oliver the 2nd), Blaq Prussian has a bit more of a live DJ feel as the beat knocks something crazy in three variations: the first being rugged and rough; the second being grimier than a dirty bathtub that hadn’t been washed in six months; the instrumental outro washing all of it down with the swing and soul of an old school Slum Village interlude.  No question about it: Blaq Prussian is certainly the strongest track on the tape.

Altitude could be Cassette 3’s soul vibe track of choice but what I really like about this track is how Jonwayne couples his relentless delivery with profound, uplifting rhymes.  It’s quite an experience… plus you can never go wrong with a bit of scrumptious Rhodes piano on the beat.  Dog It caught me off guard in more ways than one.  On top of a seemingly simple drum pattern mutating into a mad world of muddy bass and slamming drums, I wasn’t looking at the track listening before Captain Murphy’s voice set it off.  The unexpected moments continue to come through: Captain Murphy’s verse stole the show on this one and Jonwayne’s decision to spit part of his with less urgency than usual certainly worked.  Dog It is also quite an infectious track so all in all, we’re dealing with a real banger here and you owe it to yourself to play this one at the loudest possible volume.  Notes to Myself precedes the madness that is Dog It and this one is a brilliant showcase of how brutally honest Jonwayne can get.  The whole verse is food for thought but the bar that I’ll take away not only as a substantial lyric but also as inspiration is this one: “I don’t speak for the layman/if you can’t see the gold in this shit, your Ax ain’t swingin’.”  Not only is that a masterful flip of one of my favourite SEGA games, that single bar inspires me and vindicates my own style as a lyricist.  It single-handedly reinforces the artistic belief that it’s not down to emcees or songwriters to make things plain, it’s down to the listener to decipher the lyric themselves and formulate their own meanings.  Considering art challenges thought and prompts discussions, it’s hard to disagree.

After a brief and thought-provoking preface explaining his name and that of country-western film star he’s constantly compared to, we get the title track (Marion Morrison) in.  Everyone should be familiar with the beat Jonwayne spits heavyweight bar after bar over (Rhinestone Cowboy by Madvillain) and right from the off, the man makes a solid point: “The world is unjust so I don’t plan to do the beat justice/DOOM set the bar so high, it’s got the munches.”  The rap lunacy thereafter is nothing short of sensational, with lines like “I’m on the fringe/Macklemore ain’t got shit on me,” “You would rather do lines than hear ‘em so I’m on the backburner as I contemplate the serum,” and “Even your mama knows I deserve it by getting a platinum plaque for outstanding service.”  They say mixtapes are made to showcase skill and if that’s the case, then Jonwayne has certainly done that and then some.  Cassette 3 is a rap masterclass that not only stirs but inspires.  Emcees that listen to this will certainly be inspired to go back to their respective rhyme books and step their own game up while those that don’t rhyme will be left feeling like they really want to.   It’s a tape more than worth the download and the space on your personal media player of choice.  Quite honestly, if you don’t pick this one up and you’re one of the people that complain about not hearing enough fresh hip-hop music that really gives it to the listener from both barrels (e.g. dope beats and dope rhymes), then blame yourself for bucking the wrong trend.  Jonwanye truly is iller than that fucking actor cowboy.

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