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“At 19 years old, Jon Waltz puts the typical college sophomore/aspiring rapper to shame” – Pigeons & Planes
“(Jon Waltz) is pushing culture and social issues in a way that young people can relate to” – Sway’s Universe
“Waltz has drawn comparisons to Drake for his ability to craft hooks and seamlessly weave between rapping and singing, as well as his introspection, but with the world his tight lyricism paints and his recurring character Alyss (Waltz’s Sherane), comparisons to Kendrick Lamar should also be fair game.” –Complex
Stoic faces, downers, and the digital glow of phone addicts encircled Memphis artist Jon Waltz as a teen, his city’s violent undertow threatening to drag him under. Armed with nothing but USB bedroom mics and a storyteller’s pen, he holed up to stay afloat, soon revealing his gifts for the first time with 2014’s Alyss.
His debut EP documented a then-19-year-old mind fighting back against depression and disloyalty. Acclaimed by coveted publications (HotNewHipHop, Complex, RESPECT, Pigeons & Planes), unfiltered, and just 25 minutes long, Alyss signaled the arrival of a multidimensional perspective sorely missed both within and beyond Tennessee’s borders. The moonlit growing pains of high school misfits set a distinct tone that resonated with tens of thousands.
Cigarette addictions and bloodshed lace lead single “Bang,” a slice of cinema that established Waltz’s penchant for infectious melody tinged with creeping despair. In his appraisal of “Bang,” writer Jeff Weiss (LA Times, Pitchfork) bet that “if [Jon] keeps it up, he could be one of the few artists that actually figure it all out.” “College Girl,” another Alyss highlight, departed from rap tropes to render a fully formed female character, and went on to soundtrack university parties despite its subject matter. It didn’t take long for industry titans to notice what was brewing down south; public cosigns from the likes of Lyor Cohen and Jaden Smith soon followed. Collective buzz had Jon positioned to blow.
And then 2015 hit.[wpex click for full bio] Waltz, unfazed by the skyward trajectory Alyss afforded, opted for radio silence. Fans accustomed to hearing new music every other month found themselves waiting six or eight. Jon revisited the drawing board and rolled the dice. Last October, he revealed his deeply personal single, “Anna.” In a matter of weeks, it was clear his gamble paid off. The redemptive, swing-pop ode to Waltz’s prior muse surpassed the million play mark in just six months—far-and-away his best-performing song. Next up was 2016’s “Justified,” following in March, and the guitar-guided throwback anthem netted that same feat in half the time. Named in honor of fellow Memphis native Justin Timberlake, “Justified” convinced Sunset Boulevard’s bigwigs that this box-evading country boy had a place amidst Hollywood’s lights.
“Riot” is poised to push Jon past the tipping point. Politically charged and infused with old school soul, Jon’s finest work to date kicks open the doors to his first-ever full-length, White Fun, the result of two years of laborious tinkering. A surrealist illustration of the cultural pocket where Jon was raised, the album finds him orbiting, with light-footed grace, a cultural divide in a city equally known for high crime rates and award-winning cuisine. Growing up middle class and black meant the day-to-day balancing of racial fault lines in Barack Obama’s America, where progress still can’t ensure safety and conflicted stereotypes stifle identity in cul-de-sacs across the country. Jon’s sound mirrors deep-rooted conflict. He spins a story scored by the bluegrass of yesterday one moment and industrial futurism the next, moving through time to discover the ups and downs of life for kids who don’t fit in.
Memphis’ Jon Waltz Returns with “Riot,” Premiered by Zane Lowe and the FADER
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