So what if this is on track to be the mildest December on record? It’s still winter which means it’s the perfect time to cuddle up with someone and do what humans do. Let r’n’b relative newcomer Johnny Rain, birth name John-Anthony Webb, help you set the mood. After releasing his entirely self produced project 11 in January, the singer cum label head largely disappeared from the public eye until September when he dropped a single with perennial hipster favorite and RZA collaborator James Blake. That single led to the singer’s newest album, EP1, released on his self run label Odd Republic on December 15th.
If Kygo were to become the in house producer for OVO and Frank Ocean decided to go electronic, it might sound something like EP1 but even that doesn’t truly do this album justice. Rain is three mixtapes and one studio album deep and EP1 shows it; “Dance…” rumbles with deep trunk shaking bass, slowly chugging as Rain does his best PARTYNEXTDOOR impression, singing “mixing pills and weed, don’t wish me luck/way too young for us to give a fuck” while the following track, “…fuck” is an ode to a lover, ethereal as the drugs Rain seems so fond of.
This is not to say that EP1 is a repetitive album by any means; on “Sine Qua Non,” Rain lets his voice do the heavy lifting as an introspective piano slowly builds amongst the subtly arranged strings, crooning “Open up, I’ll be your fantasy / Give me all of you and I’ll be your fantasy”. By all accounts, Rain is smooth as a modern day Iceberg Slim, minus the misogny. Even when you think you’ve figured out the rhythm of the whole album Rain drops into a Future-esque crawling Autotune on “Reminder (My Nigga Song)” that would’ve sounded as at home on DS2 as on IYRTITL .
The project further builds on the back catalog of Odd republic, founded in 2010 by Webb as a “vision of a company purely about the art of creation and forward thinking”. So far the only artists signed are Webb, a producer who contributed extensively to Rain’s previous two mixtapes by the name of Omar Kraus (stage name Giftedhandz, no relation to Ben Carson) and another one of Webb’s collaborators, a female vocalist Taylor Elizabeth who performs under the name Xodiak. The cooperative nature of the label means that although many releases sound similar, each artist brings their own spin to their personal releases.
Even though it’s only 24 minutes long in total, EP1 feels like a more complete project than many other releases this month *AHEM KID CUDI AHEM*. The project is streaming right now on Spotify and if you’re so inclined, it’s also available for download on iTunes. Keep your eyes peeled for the second studio album from Johnny Rain, titled “Idol Blue”, set to release some time in spring 2016.