The Baudelaire of rap
Jonwayne doesn’t have the “physique” of a rapper – or so many people have pointed out to him. However, this prodigious emcee straight outta L.A. can brag about being one of the best of his generation. In his second opus, Rap Album Two, he comes back from depression and alcoholism filled with poetry and a powerful flow.Sneakers : Air Jordan 13
A few weeks ago, you did interviews with L.A. WEEKLY and The Guardian, the first one entitled “Jonwayne really didn't want to do this interview” and the other one says “don't expect him to talk about his personal story”, so should I have pressure on my shoulders today?
No you’re fine! (laughs) Well, I just think that’s just an editor’s job, right? It’s always like this you know, the magazines and newspapers want to get the most dramatic effect to make people read or listen! I know Jeff Weis personally, he would not have written that title. You journalists always have good intentions, but then the editor goes through it and says “Ok, this is the worst part of this interview, let’s make it the headline.”
“Rap Album Two” is the mirror of your troubles and private life, but it's completely full of hope as well; it's seems like you wrote a diary of what you went through over these last two years. How are you feeling today now your album is out?
Well you know, I think with all art, it’s almost like an ego death for something to be like your baby - it’s like your entire world when it’s yours. And then when you give it to everybody else, you go through the process of understanding that it’s really just like a drop in the ocean. You kinda have to just reset yourself and go “Ok, so that’s what that really means.” But you know, when it’s just your own, it means everything to you, but then when you put it out there, it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s a quickly sobering discovery, no matter how many times you go through it, it always happens. So I’m glad that the album is now your guys’ problem and not mine. (laughs) It’s very liberating.
There are no frills on this album, it's honest and we can feel the path from the first track “TED Talk” to the last one, “These Words Are Everything”. For example, we can hear rain at the end of “City of Light” and the next song is called “Rainbow”. What is your process?
When I sit down to make an album now, it’s a different ordeal from how I make a song. When I make a song it’s just how to engage listeners for that amount of time, you know, for how many minutes… But with an album, it’s like a movie, because when someone makes an album, it’s a shame if you can’t sit and listen to the whole thing. So when I make a record, I kinda of think of it as one long song, so it could be listened to from beginning to end without any interruptions or disjointedness. So I actually do treat songs like different scenes, like in a play or a movie, and the transitions like so.
“The Single” is a very special song on the album, we can hear three sort of false-start recordings and then you let it down. Why did you keep it?
The point of the song, and the point of it to be called “The Single” is to kind of open a backdoor to or for it be like a fly on the wall situation for the creative process. But also to make a point that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t make a song like that – with aimless lyrics and hard beats. I’m capable of doing those things, but for that record, it didn’t make sense. So it was much more like a statement of wanting to keep with the theme of the record as it was to… make a statement that not all albums need some sort of stand out single. Like, you’re able to make an album and not have that as a deviation. Labels, managers and people who have their hand in your pocket, they always want that song. And so, to put that song in there and name it “The Single” was just kind of my message to those kind of people.
Is it a way to say “Now I’m free to do what I want”, because you just created your own label, Authors Recording Company?
Sure, pretty much!
The first song you released was “Out of Sight” then “TED Talks”, but the only one with a video is the very strong and emotional “These Words Are Everything”, which is the conclusion of your album. Why did you choose to do this?
Well if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have done any singles, I wouldn’t have any lead of tracks…
“I was trying to rap in high school(…) It made me the weird kid.”
I prefer for someone to listen to the album from beginning to end, and I hope that people who discover me now are able to listen to the entire album. But the songs I chose to be released are the songs that rely on the album the least – like the first song, the last song. And “Out of Sight” is kind of like the most stand alone song on the album. My favorite song is “Afraid of Us”, but I can’t imagine that being like a lead song and having a video without having a $50,000 video budget because it’s such an extravagant piece. It was more just because those were the three songs that I could see being apart from the record. Everything on the record is so attached to everything else around it, that it would be a crime to single it out.
“I’d like to do a big book of poems and to distribute it worldwide.”
Let’s talk about how you fell into music…
I started making music or becoming interested in it around the same time I started doing theater in my high school - which is also the same time I started writing poetry. So, when I decided to make a music career, having the idea to pursue it further, all those elements kinda forged into the whole rap thing…
You use many religious terms in “Rap Album Two”. Do you consider music as a god?
I think all of the universe is about vibration. I mean, if you think about it, the difference between a gas and a liquid and a solid is just a different vibration of the atoms, right? Like, my atoms are vibrating at a higher frequency and are close to each other so therefore it makes a solid. The air is just a bunch of molecules bouncing around each other. That’s why I think a lot of people feel religious experiences when they listen to music, because music is essentially just vibration. Music has the absolute power to influence us on how we feel. You can’t deny that when you listen to a certain type of music, you feel a certain way. So when you really break it down…I mean what is god? God in that sense could be the very definition of sound and waves and vibration. And so in that sense I do believe that music is god.
“it’s very hard for me to find footwear that’s doesn’t look like church shoes or medical boots.”
In your last video “These Words Are Everything”, we can see you writing on a Sterling typewriter, which I’m guessing is yours. What's the story behind that machine?
When I was younger, I used to go up to my Uncle’s in Canada in the summer. He had a typewriter that didn’t work very well, but I’d always go on it and pretend to type. And then I decided that I wanted to gain inspiration from typing on a typewriter. I just went on the internet and I saw that a portable, 60s Corona Sterling typewriter was similar to what he had, and possibly what I was looking for. So I bought one. I write on it all the time – poems, rap songs. It makes you think about what you want to say before you say it. With computers, it’s so easy to just sit there and words vomit, so it’s refreshing to have some kind of responsibility in what you want to put down before you do it. And it really does affect the writing process for me.
You even released a book of poetry called “Line Segments”. Are you using music to sensitize people to literature?
I don’t necessarily think that I’m trying to do anything, I’ve always written poems and I’ve always made music. Bringing out a book of poems is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I hope to continue to do so. I have other stuff that I’ve written and I’d like to find a publisher. “Line Segments” is like 23 or 24 pages long, but I’d like to do a big book of poems and to distribute it worldwide.
In the second song from your album, “Live From the Fuck You”, we can hear a guy telling you “you rap and I’m not really seeing it.” Have you often been in this situation?
Oh yeah, absolutely. And it’s never the fans. It’s always people who want to prove themselves to someone else or someone who doesn’t believe… it’s just a part of it. Obviously, most fans have the intelligence to not ask something like that, they have that sense of respect.
You dress in a very casual way, is it finally a way to distinguish yourself from other rappers?
You know, if I had such an intention to distinguish myself from everyone else, I probably would put more effort in. You know what I mean? I’ve been wearing the same thing since I was in high school. I think I refuse to change-up my image or change-up who I am just because the audience that I have or the audience that I want to reach has any sort of expectation on it. Your work should precede any sort of superficial qualities of a person.
So you’re not interested at all by fashion?
Actually, I think fashion is incredible, I love fashion. I just don’t have the money or the patience or the time. I’d much rather buy a musical instrument or vinyls or something that I could use. I already have a girlfriend so I don’t need to dress up too nice.
- Shirt: Dickies
- Short: Dickies
- Shoes: Converse Chuck Taylor All Star '70
As you know, Shoes Up is a sneakers magazine. On your first album there’s a song called “Sandals”. If you wear sandals most of the time, tell me if I’m wrong, it’s not by choice?
Yeah, I wear sandals because my feet are very wide, they’re like in a 6E in width, so it’s very hard for me to find footwear that’s doesn’t look like church shoes or medical boots. I mean today it’s alright (he shows us his moccasins). I find wearing shoes like this or open-toed sandals much easier for me. I would like nothing more than to have fashionable sneakers but it’s impossible to find them in my size.
Is there a pair of sneakers you would like to wear?
I don’t know anything about sneakers because I can’t wear them! But if one of these companies were able to make shoes for me, I mean why not, I would appreciate that!
As you have a very special affection for words, I’d like to close this interview with a game. Can you tell us which word you find:
The most beautiful word?
The most boring?
Aww let me think about this! “Moist”, it’s a terrible word.
Probably something onomatopoeic like “Zoinks”. You know, Scooby Doo? Shaggy says it when he’s surprised. I would consider that to be a word! (laughs)
“Love” or “ART”.
The best word to finish this interview?