Just two months ago, Jon Connor put his lyrical spin on Jay-Z’s classic instrumentals for The Blue Album. Now, the Detroit native is back with The People’s Rapper, a tape featuring reinventions of gems from Eminem’s catalog. Similar to The Blue Album, Connor terminates every beat with his own flare. At times, though, his bars are overshadowed by the timeless lyrics that made the beats famous in the first place. Despite his failure to completely fill the shoes of the legends he’s chasing, Connor does justice to Em on The People’s Rapper, showcasing his unique style while paying homage to the rhymes that inspired it.
“This good rap, I know you ain’t heard this shit in a while/You needed that real shit, I hope you’re listening now,” Connor spits on “Til I Collapse,” using a variation of the flow Eminem used in 2002 for the Eminem Show standout. He goes on to dismantle “Just Don’t Give a Fuck,” with rhymes as clever as Em’s in his prime. The Flint, MI native even manages to evoke similar emotions as the original on “Lose Yourself,” without the drama of a motion picture.
The Slim Shady-reincarnate’s don’t give a fuck attitude is on display throughout the tape, as he uses allusions to old Shady rhymes to tell his own story. On “Cleaning Out My Closet,” Connor utilizes Em’s flow to channel his own struggle. Yet, despite Connor’s tough blue-collar journey, at times, it pales in comparison to Marshall Mathers’ absurd story. The struggles of an upcoming rapper are many, but Connor’s narrative seems a bit more customary when matched up with the demons Em releases on the original version.
Other times, he is able to overcome the shadow of the original tracks and create refreshingly original concepts. On “Stan,” Connor flips roles with Em and plays the obsessive fan writing a fan letter to his idols 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. “I used to scream the words to ‘Juicy’ ’til my voice went hoarse,” raps Connor. “Now my momma smile when she see my face in The Source.”
Overall, Connor’s message is clear: I’m ready to play with the big boys. With constant references to slights and his memories of being overlooked, it is clear that he is growing impatient with his current spot in the game. “I want labels bashful like, ‘How we get this guy get away?’” he boasts on “Til I Collapse.” “Like, imagine all the muthafuckas that passed on Jay/Or the labels that heard ‘Jesus Walks’ and passed on ’Ye/I bet they still kickin’ theyself in they ass, to this day.” He plans to make them feel the same way. The trouble with taking a legend’s beats is that you will inevitably be compared to them. And while Jon Connor definitely holds his own, in the future, when he branches out and continues developing his own sound instead of leaning on the legacies of others, his value as an emerging artist will become even more evident. —Calvin Stovall