Guest Post by David Dawson
Joyner Lucas shows again why he is considered one of the best in the game with his jaw dropping second album.
ADHD is the highly anticipated and long awaited second album from skilled lyricist Joyner Lucas, and in a time of quarantines and isolation was frankly something I welcomed with open arms. I have been looking forward to this for a long time and reveals of big collaborations such as Chris Brown only pushed my expectations higher. The album is titled after the condition that Joyner himself has dealt with all through his life and follows a string of teasing single releases, including a surprise feature with logic on Isis, and the hard-hitting Revenge.
Firstly, let’s address the skits. There are four in total which is fairly standard for a rap album, however these can be split thematically into two and two. The curtain rises on the album with Screening Evaluation, where in a young Joyner character is being asked a series of questions by a doctor, this is later continued towards the end of the album with Comprehensive Evaluation. Both skits feature a back drop of eerie piano music and offer equally powerful scripting, with the doctor not only shouting at the Young Joyner but also advising him to turn to drugs to help with his ADHD. It is unclear whether this is entirely based on something that happened in Joyner’s past or more a symbolic interpretation of his experiences with doctors, either way it gets the album off to a very intense start.
The other two skits come as more of a light relief, featuring both comedians Chris Tucker and Kevin Hart through answering machine messages. Chris Tucker’s skit involves him trivialising Joyner’s ADHD in a much more humorous way, claiming Joyner is using it to gain sympathy, boost sales, and as an excuse for the long wait for his album. The truth behind this is uncertain but with Chris Tucker’s expert comedic delivery it’s hard to take it seriously. The skit with Hart involves him suggesting that he is owed money by Joyner who borrowed it to keep up the pretence of a lavish lifestyle while he was broke, before Hart threatens that despite not being allowed on the rides at Disneyworld, he could still kick Joyner’s ass. The honesty in this one seems maybe less likely, particularly in the way that Hart delivers it whilst obviously stifling laughter towards the end, but with good reason as it is frankly hilarious. I think it works well having these skits dotted throughout the album, and especially having the two different styles. The disturbing and arguably more meaningful skits offer a backdrop to Joyner’s suffering and the inspiration for the album, but four skits of this kind, or even just these two skits and no others would have maybe come across a little too dark.
Moving on to the music, the album kicks straight off at full speed with Isis and I Lied. Isis was actually released as a single a few months back and has been a favourite of mine since, but those who have not heard it before the album would be surprised to hear Logic coming in with a verse. I have to say, I love both artists and to see them address their past beef so openly in the tune, as well as simply two of the best lyricists around right now coming together on a track is so exciting. Despite all the anticipation, the song doesn’t disappoint, it has a catchy hook, clever punchlines and lyrics and an amazing drive behind it. I Lied follows in the same vein, hitting hard at the very start of the album and exciting us even more for what is to come.
These are followed by possibly my favourite song on the album The War, with a big feature from Young Thug. I have to say, Young Thug has never really been much to my taste with his heavily autotuned mumbles often muddying his delivery and for me making it difficult to engage with his verses. I do however concede that his performance on this song was exceptional with smooth melodies and the lethargic tone of his verse marrying perfectly with the rest of the song. Lucas more than matched Young Thug however, showing off his own melodic abilities for the first time in the album, his smooth rap as well as expertly delivered catchy hooks make for a vibe that’s equally laid back as it is intense. After such an explosive start with the first skit and two fast tempo hype songs, this laid back and easy listening tune is a really great break and shows off Joyner’s skill set perfectly.
Bringing us back to a peak in the middle is Devil’s Work. This is a great song and is hard to ignore purely based on its content. Firstly, the production is extremely clever, a minimalist beat manages to keep the tempo, intensity and drive but is not so overbearing that it distracts us from the real highlight of this almost poetic anthem, the lyrics. This is clearly intentional for this particular song and just shows the thought and work that it has taken to create this album. The lyrics in this track are what make it so heavy though, Joyner takes it upon himself to question God by underlining all the pain, suffering and struggle in the world before arguing “we supposed to be your children, I thought we family”. As if that wasn’t impactful enough, Joyner goes on to ask God why some of us die young and some don’t, and names examples like Donald Trump and R Kelly still being around whilst Nipsey Hussle, Tupac and Biggie Smalls all had to die. This is an extremely powerful message which is only strengthened by the anger and passion in its delivery, and despite first featuring on YouTube back in May 2019, recent events make this song more relatable than it ever was, and possibly was ever intended to be. I do however take issue with some parts in this track, as some of the people named by Joyner as those good guys such as xxxtentacion, Tupac and Michael Jackson, while all undoubtedly responsible for some great music, and all died younger than they should have, were not exactly angels during their lives. Despite this the song still delivers an impactful and thought-provoking message overall and the real drive behind it makes it an exciting listen.
The highly anticipated Chris Brown feature is a complete contrast to that of Devil’s Work, offering a much more easy-going vibe. The melody in the chorus is catchy and by the second time it comes around you’ll struggle to find yourself not attempting to join in. This is followed by a Timbaland feature which brings a catchy hype track feel. I have to say this was one of the more exciting prospects on the album but ultimately did not deliver as well as I thought it could have. I am a great fan of Timbaland’s rhythmic and percussion heavy production and I thought he would really take a track with Joyner to the next level but whilst being a good song it was unfortunately for me not as special as it could have been.
The title track ADHD also features in the latter stages of the album and was a very refreshing listen. Besides the skits Joyner had not really addressed ADHD much at all aside from a few mentions and a line in the chorus of ISIS. Considering it was the title I assumed it may be more of a feature on this album, so I was relieved when this track addressed my concern. Joyner takes the opportunity to document some of his struggles with the condition and does so with such affect that I ended up hanging from his every word by the end. Where as rappers often get accused of being too trivial or talking too much about drugs and money, it is always great to hear a song that pushes into some real experiences and issues. The production also makes this a very good song, the melody is catchy and is perfectly complimented by the beat. The verse is also well delivered, it actually reminds me a lot of xxxtentacion’s Sad!. One thing that has impressed me throughout the album is Joyner’s tone, he is able to really convey certain emotions or feels on a song using his style of voice, whether this is anger, pain or a more relaxed feel, and the much more reflective tone in this song really accentuates the lyrics he is delivering.
The album then closes off with two songs, Will and Broke and Stupid. These are both songs of a similar vein, catchy and entertaining, not to be taken too seriously. Will is particularly clever and despite being more of a fun track does actually have a powerful underlying message about idols, and how we should try and show our appreciation for them while they are still around, as Joyner is for Will Smith here. The track also shows off Joyner’s lyrical ability more than most other songs in the album; his aptitude to steer a rap of a completely different subject to include references to Will Smith and his career throughout is really impressive, and whilst the listener probably doesn’t take it too seriously, there is a lot of skill on display. Broke and Stupid is probably for me the perfect way to end the album, it works as almost a wind down to end on a song that is just simple and catchy rally gives a nice vibe for the final track.
I have to say I absolutely loved the album, song after song it kept me interested. Joyner showcases his versatility and ability perfectly with a good mix of upbeat hype like tracks, chilled out R&B type tunes as well as some more serious and intense lyrics. The only slight disappointment for me was the Timbaland feature maybe not having been as amazing as I thought. However, on any other album this would be a great song, maybe even a highlight, the only reason it is even slightly disappointing on this album is that when every song is 100%, the song that is 95% appears the runt of an exceptional litter.
I have to also give credit to the production and architecture on ADHD, each song is presented with a new catchy hook and the beats are perfect. The faster tracks are really driven by a powerful drums and bone shaking bass lines, it’s hard not to get lost in the sheer force that pushes the music on, but then when it comes to a slower track the much more laid back and relaxed beats makes for an atmospheric vibe wherein you just want to kick your feet up and enjoy. The beats also compliment the lyrics of each individual song perfectly, being aggressive when they need to be, but equally being much more relaxed and simplistic when it suits. As mentioned before, the beat in Devil’s Work encapsulates this the best, it manages to maintain an angry, up tempo feel that pushes an urgency throughout the track, but it does so in such a subtle and minimalistic manner that you barely notice it, you are purely lost in the preaching of Joyner, and it works so well. In terms of the architecture too, the album is ordered beautifully. The opening skit creates a dark and unnerving atmosphere, before two hard hitting hype songs smash through it, this is followed by an interlude of slower songs for us to catch our breath, and just as we are beginning to get comfortable we get introduced to Devil’s Work, strapping us in for the second half. A similar pattern is followed in the latter stages of the album, with stages of fast and slow, ups and downs broken up by more skits. The whole things feels like an amazing journey to listen to, and then to end it with two fun and catchy tunes leaves you with a smile on your face. I take no hesitation in saying that this album is by far the best new released rap album in the last five years, possibly even ten, and a real tribute to the skillset of Joyner Lucas.
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Hello! I'm currently studying Philosophy & Theology at Oxford University, UK. Having always loved writing and music in equal measure, and having always hated decision-making, I figured hey, why do I need to choose between the two?