Joho – Youth In Retrospect

 Joho – Youth In Retrospect

Joho – Youth In Retrospect – Album Review

With a quick recorded message reminding Joho he’s got love coming in, “Red Soda” starts us all gliding into Youth In Retrospect smoothly.  You notice key things about this entertainer quickly, like Joho being willing to handle his business on the mic from the hooks to the bars, the sincerity he brings to the melody, the versatility in his capabilities, and the beat being extremely enticing as well.  What you won’t know on that first spin through the record listening to this song for the first time, is that it’ll remain one of the highlights in the midst of a set full of strong cuts…”Red Soda” is both a great start & a great song.  Stellar dreamy vibes, some of the most captivating hooks you’ll hear on this album, “Red Soda” completely has it goin’ on and makes for the perfect gateway into Joho’s new record.  Dude puts in a solid performance in both aspects of what he brings from the bars to the hooks – but you gotta give the man the extra props for creating a short & sweet track where melody reigns supreme and invites us in.

“Nightlight” immediately starts twisting the sound of the record, giving you a dose of audible uniqueness in the sample before this second cut begins to really move.  Whether or not Joho can sing isn’t up for debate – he’ll prove that he’s more than capable of killin’ it on several tracks throughout the course of this album.  “Nightlight” reveals there’s still room for him to evolve in that respect – Joho’s written an exceptionally challenging part for himself on the mic, and you’ll hear him excel through parts like the main hooks, and have a tougher time getting to the melody he’s looking for in others without sacrificing a little quality in tone or energy in the pursuit.  That being said, it’s a credit to the writing, and the majority of “Nightlight” still comes out with a sound designed to be enjoyed by many for the jazzy energy and flashy vibes Joho creates on this second cut.  Even on a cut where a corner or two could be rounded out a little bit more, you’ll find the majority of what this artist creates is on-point in execution, and pretty much exceptional when it comes to ideas every time.  “Nightlight” has a lot of appeal to its vibrant sound and memorable chorus hooks – ultimately the people will have no problem digging this.

Bringing the horns out to fuel the melody on “Droptop” through the hooks before dialing everything back to let the man on the mic make his magic happen, this becomes quite the intense cut overall.  For myself personally, it was the most spacious moments of “Droptop” that came out the most impressive – like listen to the second verse spit with pretty much just a piano backing up Joho – that’s a huge moment!  I’ll put it to ya this way…clarity can sometimes count for a ton and make a massive impact – “Droptop” has a LOT goin’ on in the mix at its most intense and becomes a formidable beast in trying to wrestle every sound it contains into the track.  All things considered though, even if it might not be my own personal favorite, there’s no question about the modern-day appeal in the versatile swirl of sound on “Droptop” and its anthem-like chorus hooks.  Plus, if you’re lookin’ for bars y’all – Joho proves he’s got’em – yo!  Charisma and personality play a huge role on “Droptop” as the man flexes a completely different direction of sound yet again on Youth In Retrospect – but listen to how Joho raises the stakes and standards right around the 1:50 mark.  Stringing together a killer set of bars, the man starts strong and finishes even stronger, punching right back into the main hooks of “Droptop” post-breakdown and capitalizing on the energy he’s generated for a big finish to what’s been a seriously wild ride for sure.

Come on now people – how much awesomeness and warm vibes can you pack into a minute and thirty-nine seconds right?  Well…prepare to test the threshold of what you think you know, because Joho is gonna surpass all expectations with “Bayou Freestyle.”  Here’s what I can tell ya…the upbeat vibe completely suits this guy…there’s like, no question about it; secondly, if this is what the man comes out with on a freestyle cut, I’d recommend throwing the paper & pen away forever, cause this is awesome!  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the aggression in a cut like “Droptop” – but this…THIS…what’s happenin’ in the chilled-out sound and delicate vibes floating through the “Bayou Freestyle” is bound to be loved by all – and I’d imagine instantly.  Pay attention though, cause it flies by quickly – by the time you realize just how much you’re loving this track, you’ll be reaching over to your stereo to hit repeat to hear it again.  Dude’s got great personality on the mic, he’s stringing together complex words to hit his bars with – and then LISTEN to how he STILL finds time somewhere at the end of a track that’s only 1:40 in length to drop an absolutely killer last hook on ya.  Short as it is, “Bayou Freestyle” still stands out.

“One Of Those Nights” has single potential sound – and hey, would you look and listen to that, it’s our boy Kiev taking on some bars as well!  Where I’m at with this cut is pretty black & white – both emcees slay their verses with confidence on the mic and solid performances – the main chorus, has additional hooks that could work really well – but in truth, that part probably needs a bit of a remix to make it rise to the full potential it has.  The spark is there in the verses, both Joho and Kiev take care of their own for sure – the hooks of the chorus are catchy and memorable, but really low-key in energy and in the mix…so for many people out there listening, it’s bound to be the main verses that stand out most, or the way the whole song livens-up towards the end.  Smart moves like the mix around the 2:50 mark give the song added depth…and really, credit where credit is due – this is another seriously stellar song on Youth In Retrospect; so maybe it needs a slight tune-up, the bottom line is the ideas are seriously strong.  I mean, it could be as simple as a bump in volume for the vocals that could give this all it needs – at the end of the day, even as it stands now, “One Of Those Nights” has hooks that are bound to stick with ya.  Like I’ve said many times when it comes to Rap/Hip-Hop…when the verses outshine the chorus, that’s never a bad thing anyhow considering how much effort you can hear has been put into the performance through the precision, passion, and professionalism coming from this collaboration as they pass the mic.

I’m impressed with a ton of the material to be found on Youth In Retrospect – it’s humble stuff, sometimes even a lil’ raw like the falsetto parts of “Foreign” perhaps, but genuine.  Overall, Joho has got tons of highly memorable parts in his writing…and there’s a ton of them on display throughout this whole record.  Personally I dig that they have that natural & organic sound in the production quite a bit of the time, it makes moments like “Foreign” seem more down to earth & audibly real when we listen.  Even though the end results of what we hear from Joho are decidedly different in the sound of something like say, Bone Thugs N’ Harmony, you can hear on several of these cuts that he likely grew up listening to them and has a respect for the blueprint they laid down long ago.  He does the Rap/R&B combo really well and always has something in the mix, in the writing, in the music, or in the vocals that’ll grab your attention and keep you listening for that next twist or turn.  I think “Foreign” has some real advantages right from the drop however…it’s got a sparkling & shimmering sound that’s freakin’ gorgeous to listen to as it floats from the lefts to the rights and Joho & KD put the magic into the microphone.  “Foreign” is essentially a love song; but genuinely sincere, and real – which is fully on-part to how it’s performed…they get the meanings and the feelings into these words in ways that translate right to us.  You might connect to the entire song’s worth of lyrics, or maybe just a few of the words, but one way or the other, you’ll definitely feel it the vibes created on “Foreign.”

“Left On Read” was more of a questionable inclusion on Youth In Retrospect…or at least it was real close to the fringe until Jonesy showed up to add a few stunning bars towards the end of the song.  Even still, chances are this song will sit more on the fence with listeners than some of the others on the record by comparison.  But that’s kinda been the thing here…one way or the other, whether it’s the full song or just a piece, Joho’s done a solid job of finding smart ways to flex reasons for you to listen.  “Left On Read” goes for a classic approach to R&B in a modern-day setting, which gives it solid appeal in the writing…and Jonesy really does give the track a verifiable finale and true highlight at the end.  Ultimately, it’s songs like “Left On Read” that give a mix-tape feel to what Joho’s lined up for ya throughout Youth In Retrospect – with cuts all standing out when they branch out further than the rest in one direction or another…and there’s value in that too.  For me personally, “Left On Read” wasn’t my favorite cut on this record by a fair stretch, but that speaks more towards the strength of the set surrounding it – “Left On Read” is still a solid cut, just likely not quite as memorable as the rest of what you’ll hear on this record.  Considering I also know what’s about to come atcha through the audible punch to the face that “Stone Cold” is about to readily supply ya with too – I know how easy it is to forget that anything else is even happening in the world once this next track starts gettin’ loud on ya.

Joho!  Goddamn bro!  Dude comes out swinging hard on “Stone Cold” and brings an energy to the mic that is straight-up supercharged.  Unrelenting, Joho keeps the words flowing fast & furious, creating a song that is as in-your-face as music can be, explicit as fuck, and sounds completely large & in-charge.  I don’t know how big Joho is in real life, but if I had to guess after listening to “Stone Cold,” I’d probably guess somewhere in the range of…hmm…forty or fifty feet tall?  Tall enough to stomp out the nearest village, how about that?  Dude is MASSIVE on the mic throughout the verbal savagery of “Stone Cold.”  Talk about throwing your weight around!  It doesn’t get much more massive than the way Joho owns the mic throughout “Stone Cold” – he’s got a gigantic cut here with undeniable hooks.  As explicit as it is, even with it being as different as it is from the majority of this record…I’d still be looking at this one hard as a potential single to draw the people in to listen.  And that’s coming from a guy that likely feels much more attached to the melodic-side of Joho’s music too…”Stone Cold” isn’t my usual jam, but when you bring it THIS straight to the mic like the man does on this cut, believe me, I’m your number one fan.  No lie, “Stone Cold” gets me amped-up enough to wanna go overthrow the government or at least throw this chair I’m sitting on into the wall beside me.  The definition of owning the moment and an emcee in full-effect, “Stone Cold” has Joho gripping the mic with unmatchable confidence & all-out explosive bars.

I ain’t gonna lie…much like the experience of “Left On Read,” the wild extremes of diversity can play a role in the balance of how this album plays.  I just got all amped-up with “Stone Cold,” and then I’m back into the sweetness of “Everyday” right afterwards – and I’m not 100% convinced this isn’t a really large ask of most listeners as they hit this playlist – it might be.  That being said, the quality stays up and the ideas are flowin’ – and quite often you’ll find that, the shorter the cut on this album, likely the sweeter the results and the more accessible the song will be.  Thereby inducing a craving that keeps you coming back to this record over and over again – trust me on that.  “Everyday” is another soulful moment that flies by all too quickly, sweet & poetic, minimalistic but with a spectacular sound that perfects the vibe in the atmosphere as Joho drops some real beauty up on ya with the way he sings this tiny tune.

“Home” has one of the most effective and memorable hooks on the whole record when it comes to the vocals for sure.  And ultimately…I think between the sweetness in the sound of the singing and in the sentiment of the song, there’s a good chance that it’ll beat the odds on what could be a potentially grating sound with the rapid pace/tones of the keyboard melody.  It’s hard to say…I was never quite sure about exactly how I felt about “Home” – like I know the vocals go straight to the heart, and to me personally, that’s the most defining moment of what we hear…but I could understand if others out there focused on different elements of the music and felt a completely different way.  Basically when this song starts up, I’ve got an immediate smile on my face…because this cut has a highly inviting sound; as to whether or not he changes the music on this one up enough, I’m not as sure.  I think many ears are going to fixate on the repetitive nature of the main line in the music and potentially lose out on some of the awesomeness that’s happening in the vocal department.  Like once it all springs back into place for the final thirty seconds after a long breakdown without it, that melody line becomes much more welcome again in a shorter dose.  “Home” is such an oddity in so many ways; if you were to ask me, I’d easily tell ya it’s among the strongest ideas and songs on this album…but even when I’m listening to this one, I’ll admit I could never quite decide if I felt like every piece of this one was right where it should be in the mix, but I never stopped enjoying what I was listening to either – so try & figure that one out!

One of the shortest cuts, “Extended Blues,” is also one of the album’s most engaging moments.  I mean, this thing clocks in at just barely over a minute-fifteen – and somehow Joho comes out with a severely solid win.  On the smallest tracks like “Bayou Freestyle” and “Extended Blues,” Joho has managed to make some of his biggest impacts on us through short but highly focused ideas that give us nothing but the very best of him for the brief duration they last.  I don’t know how to express what I feel about “Extended Blues” other than to say it’s about as perfect of a moment in time as can be created – this is an incredible cut and though I wish there was about five more minutes of it, I’ll take everything I can get.

“Cold World” is another example of what I was talking about earlier with the humbleness of Joho’s hooks and how well it works in his favor at times.  Dude’s pretty much crushin’ it here – there’s no doubt whatsoever about that, and as far as a memorable hook is concerned, he’s nailed it supremely again here.  What does stand out to me as well though, and where I think Joho still shows the potential for evolution as an artist, is the difference between this dude as a rapper and as a singer.  As a rapper, if you ask me, Joho will show you tremendous consistency and confidence – he’s got that locked down.  As a singer, there are more noticeable ups & downs…highlights that will likely even exceed what he accomplishes on his bars when it comes to how the people will react to what he comes up with – but also moments where he exposes that the singing came second, rappin’ likely came first – you feel me?  Whether you love what he brings to the mic in either part is always going to be up to your own personal taste – I get that – but what can’t be argued is the way the man writes a song, because he’s aces at that.  When I hear the potential in a song like “Cold World” and how it could be a verifiable hit in multiple capacities, it’s staggering – like imagine it came out from a legendary soul artist like Toni Braxton, or a modern-day example of something more flexible & crossover like Post Malone – you can hear that a cut like this has genuine crossover appeal and the writing it takes to reach the top of charts & playlists around the globe.  Around the 3:40 mark, Joho gives you a full taste of what’s real though, letting loose what’s likely his biggest moment on the mic on the whole record and more than proving that he’s capable of holding his own.  Lyrically, thematically, and vibe-wise, you can feel the seriousness of “Cold World” as Joho examines his existence – highly relatable words that many people out there will surely connect with.

Okay…”Bitter” is freakin’ brilliant.  I love the combination of talent on this cut, including Joho, Maxgotthetracks, and Kaylie King – and the way this chilled out track contains such a large amount of  mesmerizing melodies and inspired performances is beyond commendable.  One serious highlight on what’s been a record full of versatility and great ideas, “Bitter” is a true gem that stands out, even amongst so many other solid tunes.  Almost no doubt about this being the album’s best cut if you were to ask me…everything about this song is locked-down so perfectly from the unbelievably chilled-out sound of the music to the mastery of the many vocalists appearing on the mic throughout this tune.  Right at 1:17 when the chorus drops for the first time…I literally get chills, every…single…time.  And as much as I absolutely love the heartfelt emotion pouring through the vocals – let’s be real here – the music makes an equal impact with a brilliantly compelling & captivating sound that’s seriously mesmerizing.  You factor in the sincerity in the melody, the stunning harmonies and layers of vocals and how they interact…the wonderful texture in the sound & uniqueness of Kaylie King’s part and how she seems so far off in the distance like a dream you’re trying to recall – everything laid out here from what Maxgotthetracks and Joho surround her with…it all plays a huge role.  As amazing as any one hook or aspect of this song might be – it’s the overall combination of everything being in its right place and a perfectly designed moment in time, executed with vision & heart, that leads “Bitter” to being one of the record’s most undisputable gems.

You know…I’m not gonna hate on “Country Boy” – I think it’s actually really charming and sweet.  Joho is pretty much livin’ in Ben Gibbard’s world here on this song…and that’s quite an impressive transition and morphing of sound to get all the way from a song like “Stone Cold” earlier on in the lineup, don’t you think?  Versatility and the courage it takes to be this diverse with his music and material deserves real props – it certainly speaks to the multi-talents of Joho and his desire to do so much more than just one thing when it comes to his career, and that gets a full salute of respect from me.  Moments like “Country Boy” almost end up seeming to come so far out of left field that you’d never expect them – but you’ll be completely surprised at how well something like this will charm the living daylights outta ya.  I don’t know that it’s one of my favorite songs on the album, but I don’t know that it’s not either – I think this track comes out so much better than I’d have ever assumed and is one of the most surprising cuts in the lineup.  The sincerity in Joho’s vocals and sentiment in his lyrics, the sweetness in the music around him, and the unpolished melody at the heart of this song all sparkle and shine in their own respect.  By the time the finale comes around, I end up fully rooting for “Country Boy” – it’s got one of my favorite endings of any of the tracks on this record, and once it’s over, I can’t shake that feeling of having heard something that really stands out for all the right reasons.  “Country Boy” is a real loose tune in some aspects for sure – but there’s just something extra in the air on this song that makes it irresistible.  It’s definitely the song I expected the least from Joho, one of the album’s highlight moments, and easily the cut on this record that I fell in love with harder the more I heard it – “Country Boy” is excellent.

Putting on a real clinic when it comes to the metering and flow of his words with the beat on “BPD,” Joho dials-back the sweetness in exchange for a truly serious moment on Youth In Retrospect.  Battling himself internally and examining where he fits in & where he doesn’t in life, Joho goes deep here, rapping out his thoughts in real-time, unafraid to expose the darkest corners in pursuit of the light in his own truth.  Whether or not you feel the hooks always land in the execution or not may be up for debate on a few songs on this record, probably including the final moments of “BPD” – but I want it on record, the ideas are always there.  As a songwriter, Joho’s likely got a long and successful career in front of him – at the moment, you can hear he’s actually out-writing his abilities as a performer – he’s not far off the mark at all, and at times is full-on brilliant – but it’s the writing that continually remains the most consistent when it comes to the overall quality all-around.  Dude’s downright insightful when it comes to the lyrics he’s penned into “BPD” – it’s an absolutely exceptional cut in that respect, and you’ll find that Joho ensures this moment gets the support it deserves through an inspired performance to go with his words.  Keeping the music effective but minimalist by design, the wisdom and experience put forth in the lyrics from Joho on “BPD” hit home…it proves that the struggle has certainly been real – but listen close, by the end, the bars flip the script and reflect a great mix of confidence and fragility.  Like Joho knows the right moves to make to shift himself outta the darkest corners of his mind and into the light, but it doesn’t mean it takes any less difficulty to pull it off…and so you get these moments where he’ll sound sure in his words, but less in his performance, reflecting that push/pull perfectly in performance.

More than anything else, I really ended up admiring the ambition of Joho on the songs throughout Youth In Retrospect – this record is stocked full of moments that show how stellar his melodies can be, and he gives you a great one to finish the experience with high doses of sincerity on “Meet Me At The Park.”  Packing in an undeniably epic song for the finale of Youth In Retrospect – it’s one of those songs where you know you’re in for something truly special from the moment it begins.  All that being said, someone out here’s gotta tell this homie his Spotify remix is bizarre…sounds like this song comes with about two additional endings beyond the originally intended one.  I could be wrong about that, it could be a stylistic choice…but if it is, it’s a strange one, and oddly cut.  Aside from all that, “Meet Me At The Park” ends up being quite the ambitious and colorful love song, tying-in those emotions and feelings of what Youth In Retrospect is all about in one last dose of bold melody and true versatility.  Joho’s proven himself to be beyond borders throughout this record and shown that he’s got what it takes to entertain in several different facets of music…he’s a verifiable multi-talent for sure, armed with a plethora of exceptional ideas and a real gift for songwriting.  “Meet Me At The Park” is one last highlight of exactly why Joho deserves the spotlight, concluding the album with dazzling sincerity and undeniable passion.

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