The Watchlist: Jonezen

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“I’m ‘Rock City, but both coasts gonna rock with me,” boasts up-and-coming MC Jonezen in his new single, the aptly titled “Bars,” a distinctive Rap/Rock hybrid that has earned the Detroit-bred spitter a spot on Acentric Magazine’s Watchlist.

On “Bars,” Jonezen matches producer Brian Bolen’s hard-hitting Rock grooves with a fiery intensity, weaving his speedy, acrobatic flow in and out of militant percussion and chugging electric guitar punches. He comes off more like a vocalist fronting a band than a rapper rhyming over a beat. Just past the one-minute mark, the track’s build-up reaches its climax as a snarling Metal riff makes its entrance – Jonezen responds by tightly unifying his in-your-face tough talk with the hammering rhythm of the riff. This is what would happen if a Nu Metal band had a vocalist who could actually rap.

Then, rather than conforming to a predictable song structure, he spends the last minute-and-half firing off matter-of-fact acapella boasts, addressing his authenticity, his disdain for his less qualified peers and their shortcomings, and of course, does not miss an opportunity to finish off with some pot shots at President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Since proving his versatility on his 2012 debut Live From Rehab – a mixtape he recorded while in treatment for alcoholism – Jonezen has flirted with guitar-driven production. In 2014, there was the Gucci Mane-assisted “Tear the Club Up,” which found some electric guitar loops alongside the familiar snare claps, bellowing bass, and bursts of 808 hi hats that you would expect from a song that features Gucci Mane. The guitars were more of an accessory, functioning like the guitars on Shop Boyz’ “Party Like a Rockstar.” On the following year’s “Feels So Good,” Jonezen hopped on a bouncy beat that gave some bluesy guitar licks center stage. He could not have sounded more at home with live instruments behind him.

“Bars”, however, uses guitars in an entirely different way. Jonezen’s leap into edgy, rock-driven territory has given his music a whole different type of crossover appeal, while still keeping things completely Hip-Hop. Is the guy trying to revive Nu Metal? Unlikely. But if he is looking to sharpen his lyrical attack by marrying it with some grittier, more menacing production, this sound is an exhilarating fit.

Here’s to hoping that on his soon-to-be-announced next project, Jonezen continues to explore more of this inventive Rap/Rock fusion. We willl certainly be tuning in.