It was a cool, summer night in Echo Park when I first laid eyes on the rapper, beatmaker, and Cthulhu-esque beast known as Jonwayne. After checking my ponytail at the door and sitting through a couple of lukewarm DJ sets, a figure emerged from the wings of the Echoplex stage with tiny square spectacles and a pizza box, which he’d proceed to eat slices from during his set, with renegade crumbs finding shelter in his scraggly beard. Throughout his performance, he’d often address the crowd with his mouth half-full, and when all was said and done (and eaten), sonically assaulted the crowd in ways that led me to the half-playful assertion that Jonwayne embodies the punk ethos and mentality more so than most these days.
Why? He makes his own beats, and when he performs, he’s his own DJ and “hype man” as he raps. His flows are nasty, witty, intelligent and occasionally socially conscious. Appearance is not high on his list of priorities, and often conveys a dgaf mentality. He verbally abuses his audience when it reacts like an El-Ey crowd often does: idle and uninterested. He raps with a viciousness and spits some impressive freestyles. His beats are heavy, disturbing. He’s a terrifying live presence.
But above all else, he subverts corporate logos in the spirit of true culture jammers. He and label Stones Throw had the chutzpah to release not one, but two cassettes with covers modeled after major corporate brand logos, namely Coca-Cola and Marlboro Cigarettes. In its newsletter, Stones Throw posted a copy of the cease-and-desist letter they received from Phillip Morris, which claimed that Stones Throw had infringed, among other things, the trademark of “the pyramid shape.” You can read Jonwayne’s amusing response to the “grassroots company” here. Oh, and he released a mixtape called “Jonwayne Fucks Disney,” which reassembles classic Disney tunes into hard-hitting fever-dream beats. To me, moves like these make him ballsier than most who label themselves “punk” these days. It’s safe to say that Jonwayne does not play it safe.
Anyway, check out his music. His beats are as catchy and unique as they are demented, and his flows are dangerous. Also take the time to watch his most recent Boiler Room peformance, or any other live show for that matter on the youtubes. Here’s an instrumental off his Bowser album, titled “Bowser I (Sigma Head)” which takes its name from a certain video game villain we all adore.