By Theo Barrett
Joyner Lucas goes against the grain of contemporary american rappers. And by that I mean he can actually rap. Instead of spitting about drugs and expensive clothes, Lucas tackles the more gruesome aspects of modern America, using imagery from his own life and broaching key issues such as racism, economic struggle, national disillusionment and mental health. On top of this he makes a point of attacking the so called mumble rappers for being all about the image with no substance to back it up.
So where does Lucas fit into the current arena of verbal gladiators? With a sound that sways effortlessly between RnB, Hip-Hop and Trap, Joyner is a master of his craft. He refers to himself in one of his songs as “Your favourite rapper’s worst nightmare.” The title is all too fitting, considering how his pastimes include remixing popular songs by other artists and absolutely destroying them in the process.
Among these underrated songs, which only feature on YouTube, there is ‘Mask On’, the response to Future’s Molly Percocet pushing trap tune ‘Mask Off’. A lesson in rap supremacy, Lucas doesn’t hold back in delivering crushing blow after blow, while still using Future’s original beat. What a diss indeed.
Another stand out is ‘Gucci Gang’ originally by Lil Pump, with notable lyrics such as “Gucci Gang” and “Gucci Gang”, in this version Lucas unleashes an atomic rap that takes shots at big brands and those that sport them. He shatters the notion that Hip-Hop is about money, and confirms that that expensive clothes and cars don’t make you a better artist.
If you’re looking for more remixes, ‘Bank Account’ by 21 Savage is also attacked, and does not disappoint. However, Lucas is not only an expert musical marksman, he is also an exceptional lyricist and storyteller, and his flow puts him up there with the last great American presences still on the scene.
‘I’m not racist’, his most famous song to date, tells the story of a white man and a black man hashing out their frustration towards each other, and expresses some ideas that have been at the root of racial tension in the States for centuries, in a way that anyone can relate to. It humanises both characters, not only in that Lucas voices the black and white characters himself, lending them his words and his views, but he does not paint either to be the bad guy. He paints a picture of white and black being akin to two brothers who fell out and lost their way long ago, and are trying now to find a way to understand one another again, but don’t quite know how.
If you’re feeling starved of quality content from the States, and wish you could find someone with the same energy as Drake, but ultimately way more talented, and who actually went through the struggles he raps about, unlike his Canadian-child-star counterpart, check out Joyner Lucas.