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Rap Album Two *
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  • In December 2016, Jonwayne posted a typed recollection of a near-tragic incident two years earlier that prompted him to seek sobriety and retreat from the public. The producer and rapper had a deal with the revered Stones Throw and admiration from his peers. Just as notably, Rap Album One had been awarded Album of the Year by Gilles Peterson's BBC Worldwide Winners poll, previously won by major inspiration Flying Lotus. Wayne nevertheless felt that withdrawal was necessary for survival. There were intermediary releases, including a few on Wayne's newly established Authors label, but Rap Album Two -- the release of which was announced at the bottom of Wayne's missive -- marks a full-blown return. Over a selection of predominantly low-key, off-center beats that are downcast yet subtly invigorating, ultimately functioning as comfort listening, Wayne offers verse after verse of plainspoken poeticism. That includes addressing the conditions that led to his break, the event itself, the absurdity of "playing rapper" ("This how I'm makin' money but it's costin' my life"), and a healthy dosage of nonsense boasts. Other than obvious exceptions "LIVE from the Fuck You" (set up by a skit with replay value) and "The Single" (100 seconds of antagonistic false starts leading to a paroxysm), and the ambient noise evoking other settings, Wayne throughout sounds like he could be reclining with his feet propped on an ottoman, sitting up only occasionally to add greater weight to a point. Wayne does it primarily alone, receiving a little instrumental and production assistance with keyboardist Jameel Bruner, harpist/vocalist Low Leaf, and fellow producers such as Oliver the 2nd and Mr. Dibiase among the players. They augment a thoroughly compelling, no-nonsense narrative of anguish and recovery, one that -- to quote its maker -- could be titled Married to the Game But It's Complicated. ~ Andy Kellman
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