Though classical strings and R&B-rap vocals is a combination you may not expect, Johan Lenox shows that making “weird pop music” isn’t so weird at all.
After introducing himself with three singles off of What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up, Lenox not only proves his top-notch talent as a producer-composer, but also unveils his instantly catchy vocal chops — blessing listeners with elegant, anxiety-driven ballads fused with hip-hop and classical elements alike.
On his debut album, Lenox rounds up an unlikely cast of characters to assist him with popularizing the classical sound in mainstream music — taking fans on a journey through the uncertainty, struggle and hopefulness of getting older and growing up.
This aspect is Johan’s specialty, especially given his prior work with artists like Ye, Nas, Lil Nas X, Big Sean and many more. His ability to curate immaculate strings comes from his background as a composer, opting to compose for live strings rather than programming them on a digital program.
Every track is meticulously crafted down to the last detail, giving seamless transitions from each song to the next as transcendent production layers complement each other perfectly. Even within this niche fusion of experimental classical/pop, Johan manages to find diversity, from the melancholy sounds of “Fuck This Town” to the ethereal “Don’t Be a Loser” and everything in between.
Johan has been as open as possible during the creation of this project, citing Kanye West as one of his biggest inspirations. This project definitely shows that influence, bringing on an army of support for Johan’s orchestral movement.
“What Happening” may be one of this year’s most unexpected collaborations, bringing us heavenly contributions from Kenya-born star-in-the-making KayCyy as well as the esteemed Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Lancey Foux pops off on “I’m A Mess,” ad-libbing the whole track before crooning a spacey verse of his own.
“You Up” is currently Johan’s most popular song, as he and fellow Ye collaborator Ant Clemons put together a track more effective than any late night booty call text. Another unprecedented appearance was from SoundCloud legend Thouxanbanfauni on “Get My Shit Together,” where he delivers a verse so eloquent it could be considered spoken word poetry.
070 Shake, Mr. Hudson and RMR all bring their vocal talents as well, each bringing soulful energy to their respective tracks. Cousin Stizz makes yet another appearance on the previously released track “Phases” for a motivational verse before the album comes to a close.
Johan Lenox’s performance
Evaluating Johan’s performance is difficult to differentiate from the production, seeing as he is so heavily integrated in the instrumentation. As a singer, he is able to keep up with some of the best on these songs, showcasing his frustration with the world through lyrics about trepidation and other concerns he has as the world continues to spin.
Despite there being so many features, solo songs like “Hitting Different” and “Don’t Wait for Me” showcase his ability to stand alone on a track, weaving his voice into the colorful fabric of complex instrumentals. The overarching post-apocalyptic themes of the project are accentuated at every turn, creating a truly cohesive, immersive experience.
Simply put, Johan has made enormous strides in his quest to bring classical music to the masses, and this project shows that the addition of these sounds can be more fluid than forced. Formerly known mostly as a producer-composer, WDYWTBWYGU demonstrates to doubters that Johan Lenox has more than enough potential as his own artist — well on his way to greater heights
Listen to ‘WDYWTBWYGU’ by Johan Lenox below!