If R&B is built around sleekness and Hip-Hop comes from an edgier place then they find perfect union in Johnny Crown’s musical creations. D’Usse (other brands of Cognac are also available), the first single from the album Drunk, blends a slick urban vibe with a slow rolling R&B groove and the heavy kick of a trap backbeat. It is effortlessly cool and as a sound track seems to describe the heady lifestyle of the great and good, or at least the aspirations of one. And whilst it is easy to level accusations of self-aggrandisement at many artists working in similar fields today, D’Usse aims to be sensual and sassy rather than posturing and self-serving, it is seductive and elegant rather than brash and boisterous. Did I say aims to be? This is actually right on target and also perfect for both the commercial market and the more discerning, underground listener.
And D’Usse is the perfect calling card for the round of musical drinks that the album is built on. 12 songs all with titles referencing different alcoholic beverages and cleverly working the qualities, features and effects of those drink into these uptown bar tales. And just like the liquor itself, each song is a heady mix of flavours, Hello Henessey is built around a edgy and warped groove, all alien electronica and staccato beats, Crown Royal is blend of old-school soul and futuristic R&B and Ace of Spades is a finely tuned, spacey and spacious glitch-hop trip.
It’s a clever concept, one which in lesser hands could end up cliched and over worked, but Johnny Crown isn’t your usual bar fly, where some would find only the seedier side of life, he finds a much classier world, a world of eloquent wordplay and elegant, state of the art music, one of desirable women and high living and one that looks so much better with a drink or two crossing through his veins. Drunk? Maybe but it is the good life that he is intoxicated with.
If the single shows that Johnny Crown knows how to pen the perfect commercial song, the album as a whole really opens things up and proves that he can take his music in almost any direction he likes, rooted in the same core elements of soul, hip-hop and R&B but not afraid to push those sounds into fascinating new territories. Even in the crowded musical scene of his Los Angeles base, Johnny Crown is certainly one to watch.