Last night at the Echoplex, Stones Throw rapper/producer Jonwayne sauntered on stage with zero fanfare. In a t-shirt, basketball shorts and his now signature sandals, Wayne looked as though he'd just rolled out of bed, as though rapping on stage was a hobby in the same way the denizens of Silver Lake do yoga. Yet this was no pretense; no attempt to uphold some carefully crafted aesthetic. It was just Wayne: raw, uncut, and unfiltered. The rhymes spoke for themselves.
A self-proclaimed bookworm, Wayne knows drama. He also knows the sounds coming out of Low End Theory first hand. Thus, before picking up the mic, his dark mane shrouding his face like Cousin Itt, Wayne dropped trap flavored beats backed by operatic choral chants. Then, with the stage dark, the mood set, he launched into "Ode to Mortality, the first track from his recently released mixtape, Cassette 3.
A song like "Ode to Mortality," a slow and down tempo suite with tickling piano keys, may seem like a poor opening song for a rap show. But it works for Wayne, who's able to shift melancholy to melee seamlessly. The jump to the battle rap battle cry that is "Numbers on the Hoard" was nothing.
Though Wayne's frequent partner in rhyme Zeroh didn't appear, he brought out producer/rapper Scoop DeVille, whom many know for producing Kendrick Lamar's "Money Trees." Together they dropped some of their hard hitting, high-energy collaborative tracks, and DeVille proved a great hype man when Wayne moved onto solo material from his forthcoming Stones Throw debut, Rap Album One.
Wayne's set was near flawless, his delivery and his rhymes as affecting as they are on record. However, during the latter half of his performance, a song from somewhere else (probably upstairs at the Echo) began coming out of the speakers, clashing with Wayne's beats. The consummate showman, Wayne was unfazed and rapped a cappella until the issue was resolved.
Towards the end of his set, Wayne confessed that he'd "been drinking all night" before saying, "This is a very casual night for me." Given his performance, one wonders if, like writer Charles Bukowski -- Wayne's named a song after him and sampled him on Cassette 3 -- performs better when drunk.
Ending his set by performing his song "Royalty," Wayne gripped two mics, looking like he was ready to devour them, cables and all. He then refused to leave until the crowd participated in a call and response, shouting the lyrics, "It ain't the crown that makes the royalty / It's the crowd and their loyalty," as though it were imperative he gain the latter. When he walked off stage, there was no doubt that he did.
After Wayne's set, it was time for English electronic duo Mount Kimbie. When the smoking patio cleared before they went on, it became evident whom most of the crowd had come to see. The duo started the set with fast tempo, head nodding beats. And their fans jumped and gyrated in agreement.