- Text by Alex King, Video by Ed Andrews
Walking down Camden High Street, Jonwayne draws a lot of attention. Even without a camera trained on him he would struggle to blend into the crowd: as a big white dude with long hair and sandals, he cuts a distinctive figure. Most passersby would never guess this unlikely-looking rapper was the raddest guy in hip hop today.
Digging through the crates in Out On the Floor Records, he talks about his earliest memories of vinyl; playing Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade at high speed and “dancing around the room with my brothers like I was on cocaine.” He’s still fascinated by manipulating sound, sampling in unpredictable ways to get something different and unexpected out of old tunes. Looking back, these early musical experiments as a child were just the first steps to becoming a killer beatmaker.
The more we talk, the greater the disconnect appears between the thoughtful guy leafing through soul LPs and the rapper who has the world at his feet. Jonwayne is in London for the first time to perform at Gilles Peterson’s massively respected Worldwide Awards. Earlier, he hinted at his aggressive transformation, but no-one in the room is prepared for the badass who takes the stage. Supported only by a sampler, he singlehandedly holds the attention of everyone in the room. And then blows them away. After dropping the best performance of the night, he walks off with the Album of the Year award, for Rap Album One.
Until recently, hearing his name would have made you think of another Wayne, the cowboy and symbol of wooden Hollywood conservatism. But the rapper (born Jon Wayne) is on a mission to take the name back for himself, after the actor (born Marion Morrison) stole it from his great uncle, an American Revolutionary War General. As he keeps throwing it down harder and harder, it’s already happening: right now, Jonwayne is the name on everyone’s lips.
You can grab Jonwayne’s awesome Rap Album One from Stones Throw Records.