In this world that pumps out music just to fulfill a contract or simply to attempt to make the next hit, the lack of depth and thoughtfulness in penning lyrics is largely lacking. Under the mainstream circuits though, it is possible to weed through and find artists who are honest in thoughts that touch on much of what goes on inside people’s minds and emotions. This authenticity can be found with John Reuben who, after an eight year hiatus and parting ways with Gotee Records, is releasing his ninth project, “Reubonic”. Reuben has consistently been a genre bender, and his latest compilation is no different. While remaining true to his hip-hop roots, “Reubonic” blends hip-hop and regular instrumental sounds with a more muted, rather than heavy, beat. In the past, his previous projects have been consistently deep, offering more of a balance of fun and, what some may term as “dark”. “Reubonic” seems to stream more of John’s thoughts over the past eight years and the culmination of those thoughts is this project. This culmination, however, would fall under the “darker” category and comes across as cynical, with very few answers to the thoughts that are conveyed.
While Reuben’s rapping and singing wouldn’t be considered consistently good, there are a few tracks where his ability really does shine through. Some of these tracks are “Identity”, “One Drink Johnny”, and “Future Nostalgia”. The thing that sets John Reuben apart and causes him to truly shine though is his lyrical writing capability. The words are well thought through and penned in a way that flows seamlessly. It’s truly like he takes the disjoined thoughts that so many individuals think and arranges them in a way that makes sense to the listener. We see this with songs like “Age of Our Fathers”, which delves into the way each generation inherits the weight and choices of previous generations; “Identity” walks through the stories of what makes up our identity; and “Old As Religion” covers the selling of religion.
Another lyrical point to make, one of which will only be touched on briefly, due to this not being the overarching theme of the project or the point of it either, would be in the first two tracks, "Bury This Verse" and “Candy Coated Razor Blades", which has made this project more controversial in the Christian music genre. Both tracks contain a few usages of the word sh*t. While some would argue that Reuben is being honest and authentic to himself, the usage of sh*t on these tracks, and the placement of it in the lyrics, felt more lazy and that it was used for a shock factor rather than pure honesty.
Throughout this project, there was never the feeling or thought that John was portraying himself in any other way than…himself. It felt real, with very little held back. In a sense, this honesty is refreshing. To an extent, it was inspiring to hear the questions, doubts, and thoughts of another person in a musical format. It made me as a listener feel normal and “have someone to relate to”. In that though, while the honesty is appreciated, after the last track there was a feeling of wondering what the project’s impact was meant to be. Through all the cynicism and questions, what is the listener left with? Yes, thoughts are provoked, but will most listeners actually mull through the thoughts and pursue answers to the questions? It can be assumed that many will not pursue answers, but walk away carrying that feeling of cynicism.
Bury This Verse (3:51)
Candy Coated Razor Blades (3:31)
Age of Our Fathers (4:14)
We Live Best (3:24)
Future Nostalgia (3:27)
One Drink Johnny (3:34)
Old As Religion (Get the People Excited) (3:35)
Curious Part 1 (1:52)
Curious Part 2 (3:43)
Oh Baby Don't Waste Your Time (3:26)