Javon Johnson

At this point you might be wondering what else we could say about Javon Johnson. To that, we would say you know it’s a sign of a genuine, risk-taking artist if you can say something different every time a new release hits. And if you’ve been paying attention to the powder keg that is 2016, you know Johnson is going to have a lot to say about the current state of affairs.

Here’s the thing about Johnson – the dude is completely unafraid. You’ve seen him talk about it in the interview we did together a while back if you follow the link up top, but what really stands out is the one time he told me he’s real because it’s the only thing he knows how to be. He puts on zero airs, and he knows his story. Johnson is outspoken because, well, why wouldn’t he be? Of course, the Texas based rapper/hip-hop artist/thinker/creator (call him what you will) is also a risk taker.

He makes you think about what’s going on around us, and he’s fearless in challenging your comfort zone. He does it on his latest EP whose acronym we’re not about to touch, but you get it. Boundaries are a temporary border that get pushed back when he begins speaking. As for us, and maybe a few others who are uncomfortable typing out the acronym? It doesn’t matter – he’s doing this for him, and that, at the essence of it all, is where true artistry lies. You combine all of these and many other avenues, and you get how his latest work, which features massive production support from Sahmbeau, turns out the way it did.

The EP is by no means an about-face or change in gears stylistically. Rather, it’s a man looking at his creations so far and picking out how he can grow various aspects of them. “$/₵,” from his Windows Media Player EP, is probably the best glimpse if you’re looking for a connecting link across his narratives. Stylistically, you’re looking at more jazz influence. Lyrically, you’re looking at a man turning that inward reflection outwardly. Thematically, you’re met with some uncomfortable truths in a jolting way only he’s capable of.

A narrative is woven through the music that’s way too common in the 21st century – what it’s like to be a black man in the United States? You hear it in Javon Johnson’s words, and you better believe you can hear it in the sounds Sahmbeau creates. A track like “Somnambulism Circus” harkens back to 70s soul and R&B activism. “Part of the problems in this world we live in, everybody dragging everybody down with them.” So not only does he have to defend himself against forces beyond his control, he also has to watch his back around people who pretend like they have his best interests in mind. Then, as you look for him in the darkness, Eric Christopher’s sax acts as a guiding light.

“The Black Hole” is rapid fire, ‘day-in-the-life’ delivery. From the second he wakes up in the song, Johnson runs out of the gate, which makes sense if you’re following what he’s doing. This is a guy who has had to rely on his closest friends from an early age – for example, his school system wouldn’t send transportation to his neighborhood due to its locale, so how are you supposed to respect an authority that makes decisions like that with a child’s life? It’s a rare view as to why community is so vital. As “¿” sets in, you see things start taking shape. He sees racism as something beyond simple trolling – it’s in the roots of so many people, and the only way to destroy a tree is by taking out the roots. But moments like this and those who doubt him or consider him too raw give him energy. Symbolically, he gives the most time to Sahmbeau’s production, a piece that’s designed for contemplation.

Standing just a notch above the rest is the decidedly confrontational “The Talk.” The thing is though, it’s not aggressive, and if you’re being alarmed by the opening broadcast announcement and content of the track, maybe the issues lie within you. Johnson has bars for days – no more being the victim; it’s time to start stepping towards the layers of methodical injustice rather than running away from the issues. Trying to parse it all down into a few words seems trite, so just trust us when we say this is his career’s standout track thus far.

By the end, Johnson knows what he was born for. Someone has to take on the heaviness, so it might as well be him and his gift. If anyone has the gift and wherewithal to take on such a task, it’s definitely the man who has basically become a SoundChips staple. Joey Smith