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Jonwayne Has One of the Best Rap Albums of the Year

Jonwayne

Courtesy Stones ThrowJonwayne

Jonwayne dwarfs the plush lounge chair he sits in, on the back patio of his parents' large La Habra Heights home.

He recently moved there in an effort to save money while touring.

The 23-year-old white MC's official debut album, Rap Album 1, drops today on Stones Throw.

The cover is nothing but a saltine; he's basically calling himself a cracker.

His rhymes, however, are certainly more substantial than said carb-heavy snack.

"I'm in love with the words themselves and trying to construct something as eloquently, yet as brash as possible," he says in his deep, sonorous voice.

His brown Labrador by his side, the bespectacled, longhaired and bearded Wayne is barefoot, sporting a black t-shirt and red basketball shorts, an outfit not unlike those kind he wears on stage. In conversation he chooses his words carefully, talking about his predilection for naps (he recently put out a mixtape that literally promotes napping), as well as his attempt to get sponsored by the company that makes his preferred sandals -- Wayne's feet are too wide for close-toed shoes.

Formerly an electronic musician affiliated with Alpha Pup, Wayne has made a transition in the last two years. "It's not so simple...doing something completely different," he says. "You have to build your career all over again."

"It's hard for me to gain ground in the music industry because of my attitude and my inability to compromise," he adds.

That may be, but it's this mentality that's garnered so many converts to his work. Rap Album 1 is, in the opinion of this critic, one of the best rap albums of 2013, and will no doubt bring more fans and followers.

Made over the course of a year in a makeshift studio-cum-bedroom set up at the Stones Throw offices, the work emerged from dusk to dawn recording sessions. (He produced most of the tracks himself.) The work showcases his almost Shakespearean ability to shift from dark to light, from the morbid to the comic. Its beats and bars are forward thinking, but the subject is Wayne himself -- here and now. "This is the first album that fully encompasses what I want to do and all the parts of who I am," he says.

As for his live show, it's minimalist. With only a 404 sampler and a mic, he commands attention. It's not an inborn skill so much as a practiced one. Wayne was enrolled in theatre in high school, and even performed professionally for a short while after.

Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf was first impressed by Wayne, in fact, after randomly hearing him perform one night.

"I was with Mayer Hawthorne and we were by the bar and my back was turned away from the stage and I heard this voice and was impressed and then turned around and saw a big white guy wearing sandals and was confused," Wolf says. "It was his voice and lyrics, but also his stage presence."

Towards the end of the interview, Wayne receives a text with a picture of the promotional poster for his album. It depicts Wayne in black shades, his head covering part of his name. Below his hirsute visage, in large white and bold lettering, is simply the word "Rap."

Wayne smiles. The shoe fits. "That's tight, right?" he says.

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