Johnny Smoke – “Self Titled” (Album Review)

Johnny Smoke is an upcoming hip hop artist who has just released his self titled debut on all streaming services. In the past, Smoke has been recognized as an award-winning producer and songwriter for John Legend, Fortnite, League of Legends, and Nickelodeon, to name a few. Growing up in a civil rights activist family, Johnny’s artistic drive has been fueled by the recent chaos in what has been a tragic year for American injustices. Furthering this, he is donating all profits from the record to ACLU to help end police brutality and systemic racism. With a powerful backing and message, can “Johnny Smoke” make a strong start to a promising career?

Stylistically, the versatility displayed by Johnny Smoke is focused and enjoyable to watch unfold. Setting the tone with the hard-hitting “Wonderland”, we watch the young MC go on a lyrical exercise filled with regret, remorse, and rage. On the more abstract side of things, cuts like “Picasso” and “Novocain” show that Smoke’s not afraid to play around with new sounds as we see him go from montone off-beat rapping to excreting his heart out. On the more straightforward side of things, songs like “High How R U” and “F**k Em” with Mr. Sin are just as enjoyable as the rest of the tracklist as Smoke’s memorizing delivery and technically proficient lyricism is a joy to breakdown. As a whole, Johnny Smoke shows he can thrive in multiple situations, which raises his overall worth as an artist in today’s musical climate. 

Sonically, the self-produced and engineered soundtrack matches the vocal side of the project perfectly. Off the bat, “Smoke Up Johnny” gives me Ghostface Killah vibes as the vocal clips from old superhero tv shows feel adventurous and audacious. Building on this touch, there is a ton to be admired on every corner of the record. From the hell-raising boom-bap cut, “Wonderland” and “F**k Em” to the psychedelic ‘Fade II Black”, there is something for nearly every hip hop fan here. “Off the Leash” is the best example of Smoke’s sonic bravery as he successfully makes an intense hip hop-rock cross over. Overall, Johnny Smoke’s talent as a producer makes him one of the most well-rounded hip hop artists coming out of the underground right now. 

In conclusion, “Johnny Smoke” is an outstanding entry point into a super talented artist world. The only reason the rating for this project is not higher is that I feel it lacks a narrative and depth, but right now, it is mere perfection for what this is. Going forward, I can’t wait to see Johny grow and progress as a rapper/producer, and if you are too sure to follow @johnnysmokez on Instagram!

Rating: 9/10

Highlights: Lyricism, Production, Versatility