Every now and again there’s an artist that stops you dead in your tracks, forcing you to stop, listen… and collaborate? Hobo Johnson is just such an artist.. and on a day that’s not so far, you’re going to hear him, whether you like or not.
I count myself incredibly lucky that YouTube’s algorithm served up unexpected gold in the form of a link to Hobo Johnson (Frank Lopes) NPR Tiny Desk contest entry.
I’m going to pretend that it’s because of my incredible taste in music that the algorithm deemed me worthy, but it’s more likely that I’ve hit repeat on Anderson Paak’s tiny desk concert a hundred times.
Regardless of how I got there, I was instantly enthralled. Assaulted by a flurry of words. Sharp as a knife and smooth as butter, he turned to the mic and launched into a rhyme “hi whats your name. how are you? hows your life? oh you got a man? are you in love? if so, what type?…”. 3 minutes later and I’ve hit the replay button… and again… and again… and now I pass the baton to you.
Stopping, starting and juggling words with impeccable timing, Frank flits effortlessly between lyrics and beats, with the impact of a spoken word poet and a warm familiarity of a good friend. His songs feel like a poem, if it was a conversation, wrapped up in a song.
In a time where mumble rap reigns supreme and we’re plagued by the gucci gang, Hobo Johnson is the rapper we need, not the one we deserve. A conventional rapper, Frank is not. He’s fun, he’s quirky and his music, more like poetry than lyrics, is timeless and could be appreciated by your grandmother.
With his infectious smile, and heart on his sleeve vulnerability, it makes it hard not to like the guy and it makes you feel like your little brother is pouring his heart out to you. Where he truly shines is in his ability to convey emotion through both his word-smithing and his delivery, and for this reason, his live performances are amazing. They convey a human touch that the recordings on the album simply can’t capture.
His song ‘Dear Labels’ is a punch to the gut about following your dreams, and the desperate desire to be liked and wanted. It’s also about struggling; the frustration that causes and persevering through all of it. Lines like ‘I’m fucking starving can’t you see. Dear labels, look at me, I’m the one that fucking bleeds tears and sweats every day of the week, now look at me‘ and ‘please help me, please help me buy my mom a house that I could go to every fucking weekend‘ tug on your heart strings and put a lump in your throat.
Romeo and Juliet on the other hand is a heartbreaking tale of the highs and lows of relationships, divorce and being a child in that situation. It took me right back to my own memories with my parents and had me tearing up, which is something that lyrics usually don’t accomplish.
Don’t take my word for it though… go and listen to Frank, you won’t regret it.
Frank’s album, The Rise of Hobo Johnson is available on Spotify, Itunes and most other places you can access music. You should also go and read these two articles (here and here) about him and check out his website.
Frank, if you’re reading this, thanks for being an artist with a certain special something. You’re one of the most exciting artists I’ve heard in years and I can’t wait for you to get the recognition you deserve. Don’t change. Go independent, get yourself a patreon set up, kickstarter that shit, whatever it takes. Be you…