“My generation taught me simple hatred.”
Jon Waltz is a young MC from Memphis, TN, the breeding ground for party monsters like Juicy J and average-ass crack rappers like Yo Gotti, and the town that basically invented the trap beat, which very quickly became boring and played out. Memphis is a pretty rough town (their basketball team’s motto is Grit and Grind); it was the site of MLK’s murder and the ensuing riots. Recently, it played host to a Klan rally. Very few people live downtown, even fewer of the people who do are white, and the main attraction there is an ugly, hedonistic stretch of road, where neon-lit dive bars vie for attention by yelling at you as you try and cross the street, beckoning with toothless grins. Read the local paper and watch the news: the amount of negativity that people possess can get pretty overwhelming. This unanimous obsession with darkness and death infects every aspect of Memphis’ rich music history: blues music is about how much your life sucks, rap music is about how much life sucks but you’re going to make it, garage rock is about how boring and suckish being alive is… the list can go on. In fact, half the reason this piece is so negative is because I’m listening to Waltz’s new EP while writing it.
It’s only natural for someone like Waltz, who obviously possesses considerable talent and a keen ear for good beats — most of which are produced by Zayd, who’s washed out, filtered sampling is good enough to stand by itself — to become frustrated with the gloomy, pessimistic Memphis attitude. His rhymes reflect this on standout tracks “Coming Down” and “Bang,” where he talks about taking drugs and dealing with women with the same lethargy of The Weeknd and laments the difficulty to break the endless cycle of monotony that currently exists in the world of hip-hop. Although Waltz takes clear cues from rappers who are successful because they stood out — elements of Drake, A$AP Rocky, and Danny Brown can be found in his voice and production — I get the feeling he’s not trying to emulate them, but rather uses these larger-than-life MCs to develop his own sound. Waltz’s intention is clearly to break away from trap music, where the rest of Memphis is currently wallowing in it’s quagmire, and we can only look to the future to see how he succeeds in this respect.