Hobo Johnson – The Rise of Hobo Johnson
Recently, one of the most exciting voices in modern indie music has emerged from the suburbs of one of America’s major cities. Years of experience in a local DIY scene has lead him to seamlessly blend elements of indie rock and hiphop, drawing on his background in spoken word to craft lengthy streams of consciousness lamenting young love, loneliness, and suburban ennui. The result is playful, yet vulnerable music that encapsulates the uncertainties and anxieties of Generation Z, and speaks to a potential future as a torchbearer for the kind of hiphop championed by artists like Chance the Rapper.
That artist is Kweku Collins.
The halfstached young man you see above is “Hobo Johnson,” a Sacramento-based artist who makes music best described as the bastard child of Twenty-One Pilots and the Front Bottoms. Dickhead Sconeson has recently been praised by such esteemed outlets as “UNILAD Sound,” the Facebook promoted video advertising, and people from your high school who think John Green is the greatest author of all time. Through this completely organic buzz, his “live from oak park” series on Youtube has managed to accumulate quite a number of views- chief among them the now (in)famous video for “Peach Scone,” where he has captivated millions by getting uncomfortably close to the camera, swallowing his mic whole, and wriggling around like an eight year old with a full bladder. In it, he claims, “I’m actually not a rapper, I’d like to say a musician,” implying that he’s somehow above the mere label of “rapper”.
Visiting his debut record, The Rise of Hobo Johnson, reveals this to not be entirely incorrect, because being a rapper requires rhythm, cadence, wordplay, charisma, vocal technique, stage presence, and pretty much everything that Tangent Cosine doesn’t have. Instead, he uses “spoken word” as an excuse to formlessly ramble about his abysmal love life, his parents’ dysfunctional marriage, and his abysmal love life, making Lil Pump (ooh) look like Aesop Rock in comparison.
Within a scant nine tracks, he manages to tick off every stereotypical “nice guy”, proto-incel checkbox there is: believing he’s owed companionship for mere perseverance on “Mario and Link,” preemptively cursing women for leaving him and being miserable with other men on “Romeo and Juliet,” complaining about “Chad” and “Stacy” types in “The Ending,” moaning and groaning about being unlovable and ugly on “Sex in the City,” and basing his identity and self-worth completely in relation to women around the entire record. Whatever tender or genuine moments this album may have are completely ruined by Blowjob Nonsense’s inability not to say weird shit, including but not limited to: poorly-aged declarations that he’s a combination of Will Smith, Michael Cera, and Kevin Spacey, a completely random tangent about police brutality during a declaration of love, and a rumination on a hypothetical Alien-Predator sex scene. While the instrumentals are completely unremarkable and inoffensive, this unfortunately works against Yoko Onoson, as there is absolutely nothing to redeem his vocal performance and lyricism.
Now, subject matter alone is not enough to damn this record. After all, the pantheon of straight dude rock music contains many artists who’ve committed sins greater than Rowboat Consent’s nice guy whining: Father John Misty wrote “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” about objectifying his wife as something that belongs to him and bragging about her “[getting] down more often than a blowup doll.” Rivers Cuomo wrote “Across the Sea” about licking and masturbating to a letter from a high school girl. Even John Lennon wrote “Jealous Guy” about the fact that he was a cheating wifebeater. What is damning is that Dateline Hanson still somehow manages to come off as significantly more pathetic and detestable than any of the artists above. He presents his behavior without a shred of self-awareness— petulant but never repentant, self-pitying but never self-reflective— and doesn’t even have the talent to write a moving melody or lyrics.
Typically, the art is separated from the artist. However, given how egotistical and self-centered the record is, in order to fully understand it we must understand its context, which is the delusion that “females” love him, obsessive behavior over a woman who wants nothing to do with him, and perhaps most disgusting, an enjoyment of Hopsin. While I will concede that Frank Lopes the person is probably at least trying to be a decent guy, considering how he’s been handling the many nastier criticisms that’ve been levied against him, Hobo Johnson embodies a fundamentally unlikable, toxic mindset and attitude. Stylistically, his music is equivalent to the trend-hopping Korean taco truck run by white people who have never had either Korean food or tacos, and substance-wise, his lyrics reflect the maturity and skill level of the average high school freshman, and would likely warrant a call home if presented in English class.
I’d hate to end on that note, so instead I’ll suggest alternatives: listen to Hotel Books, Listener, Milo (who’s headlining Culture Shock 2018), or the aforementioned Kweku Collins. Watch Button Poetry’s content. Drink a big glass of Respect Women Juice. But whatever you do, do not listen to this album.
BEST TRACKS: “CREVE COEUR 1,” MARGINALLY
WORST TRACKS: EVERYTHING ELSE
Dan Lee should probably be writing with a pseudonym.