There are a few constants in this universe that you can rely on: The Earth spins on its axis. What comes up, must come down. Water is wet. Just the same, there are few underground voices that you can completely depend upon like the faultless discography of JON. For the entire short lifespan of our website, we have repeated ourselves time and time again when celebrating this Bristol MC’s output, and with his newest project Mellow Demos III, JON. has again demonstrated himself both as an incredibly talented, and an astoundingly prolific musician.
Following 2019’s Mellow Demos and Mellow Demos II, Mellow Demos III (MD III) pushes JON. even further forward as a creator, continuing the creativity evident in his earlier projects with inimitable confidence. After earning an inaugural spot in our first annual Best New Artists Shortlist, and the #46 spot on our list of the Best Songs of 2020 with ‘Soul II Soul’, JON. has built upwards from an incredibly fruitful year – all in spite of the limitations and difficulties imposed by a global pandemic. Most underground artists simply can’t keep up with JON.’s output, but its frankly ridiculous that MD III has already arrived with such a quick turnaround from JON.’s 2020 work rate. This is an artist totally devoted to expanding his discography, but it always comes without any sacrifices in quality – a rare combination.
MD III opens up with lead single ‘Accolade$’, and it’s an understandable choice. Already a highlight in JON.’s fantastic oeuvre, ‘Accolade$’ announces this project as a worthwhile listen. Though perhaps reliant on repeating a flow fairly similar to that of the excellent ‘Deal or No Deal’, you can’t argue with the results. This track creeps into view with JON. challenging a sample of Kanayo o Kanayo, declaring “I deserve some accolades” before exploding out of the gates with some of the best production a JON. track has ever received. Combining with producer Wilfy D., the duo have injected each of MD III’s six songs with an impressive and creative impetus. ‘B&B’ follows, continuing the electric momentum of the EP with an inventive horn sample crooning against tight percussion. The little ad-lib at [0:43] sends me every time, following JON. shuffling his flow fantastically:
“I’m not inna, I ain’t into the mix-up.
Stay private because they’re all conniving’
Uber / Ola for the night won’t drive today cause we’re gonna be drunk”
Enter Bzerk, elevating the track to a whole new level. From the cruising stability of JON.’s effortless foundation, Bzerk steps forward to contort the instrumental into a dimension. With intensity, this feature drives the song forward into a compelling second act, before laying it back to JON. at the three point line. It’s like Stockton and Malone, Manning and Wayne, Gerrard and Torres: A perfect partnership on top of what might be the EP’s best instrumental.
‘Soul Revived’ briefly flirts with returning to the sensational ‘Soul II Soul’ before blossoming into this utterly gorgeous string-led soundscape. It’s a testament to Wilfy D.’s power as a collaborator to hear how versatile this EP’s instrumentation is. Where many underground drill and hip-hop projects end up repeating themselves with the same 808s and pads ad infinitum, JON. does the opposite. There is a clear and careful desire on MD III to produce a project that flows. These aren’t six songs thrown together, it’s an EP with flow; a specific progression from one idea to the next. ‘Soul Revived’ imbues the project with a welcome reflection on the sounds of turn of the century beats, combined with modern sensibilities. As ‘Rear View (Interlude)’ locks into gear, JON.’s intelligent design proves itself again – expressing himself between gospel entourages and sedate piano echoes as the artist delivers the thematic through-line that encapsulates his entire approach to song-writing:
“And that’s a big fact, playing my position; never sit back
These are real words, real life, yeah I lived that
I know they want a challenge, yeah I get it – and I hear you
But they ain’t standing next to me, I see them in my (rear view)”
Fifth track, ‘Clear’, begins promisingly with an atmospheric fusion of distant guitar lines and undulating pads. It cracks itself open, revealing a subtle woodwind-esque melody fluttering over JON. experimenting with a flow that extends across bars with incredible dexterity. Then the bass cuts in. This is a subwoofer decimator: top tier low-end excellence. Unfortunately ‘Clear’ doesn’t stick around long enough to stand up against the tracks that surround it. While it’s playing it continues the excellence of MD III’s surrounding songs, but of all six songs ‘Clear’ proved the easiest to slip from memory.
Thankfully, with closer ‘Black Born Brave’ MD III ends strongly. Recruiting the incredible Alamay, the connection between Wilfy D, JON. and this extraordinarily gifted featured vocalist solidifies JON. even further as one of the UK’s most engaging underground MC’s. While JON.s’ previous work has certainly expressed a disillusionment with life in the UK, this track represents what is almost certainly the artist’s most politically motivated composition to date. Imminently sapient: in fusing frustration and fatigue, there is catharsis in hearing JON. declare:
“Are you gonna find out how to offer support?
Or did you post a black square without any thought?”
As Alamay’s voice echoes into the EP’s closing moments, it’s hard not to be incredibly impressed by the cohesiveness of Mellow Demos III. With polished production level to (if not exceeding) the quality of artists with 100 times the resources of JON., projects like this are rare to find in underground circles. The consistency of each track, complimented by the wide variety of styles, sounds and thematic interests of the project’s 16 minute runtime is phenomenal, and already stands out as perhaps the best project of JON.’s young career. This is an essential EP for 2021, and the continuation of one of England’s most compelling voices.
- great –
‘Accolade$’, ‘B&B’, ‘Soul Revived’
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture website created and co-edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fleet Foxes shill.
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