L.A. hip-hop artist Wax (Michael Jones), from Maryland, has a bigger bio since trading coasts for the Hollywood side nine years ago. After developing his singing, rapping and guitar-playing skills in junior high, he served as the frontman for MacGregor but went the solo route once the band disbanded. Quickly building an online following for his clever raps alongside his brother Herbal T, Wax would find his greatest internet success with the naughty yet fun “Rosana” YouTube hit. Brief employment with Def Jam followed before he went indie again on Scrublife Records, releasing Continue in 2013 and Livin Foul, his latest, on Oct. 23 (this year). Lyrically involved with razor sharp wit, Wax brings those qualities to Livin Foul plus unique production and a personalized concept.
Alternative to say the least, the music is consistent throughout with a new offering in each track, from elevator-funk to hard-boiled soul, with strident drums everywhere, and what’s more is the producer lineup has changed and slimmed up a bit since Wax’s Continue project. Davy Nathan, Upper Management and the man of the hour himself are the main composers. Capped off on both ends by rap-less songs (“Scumbag” about the love/hate fame machine and “She Wants Everything” about expectant, self-entitled fem prima donnas), Livin Foul surely has enough rhymes for the sake of rhymes but also some key personality traits if you look harder. Wax is torn in his push/pull relationship with drugs and other youthful distractions from reality (“Livin Foul” and “I Don’t Need No Drugs”), and likewise, his relationship with women is either resentful (“You’re Not Good Enough”) or openminded (“Sugarcube”). Overall, duality is the flavor of the week on Livin Foul as Wax takes turns being friendly, lighthearted and fun (“This One’s on Me”) or scathing, cynical and biting (“The Meanest,” “Hypnotic,” “General Sh*t Talk”).
Wax is caught between the forces of growing up and staying young and dumb, a universally relatable quandary, and still the album’s most memorable moments occur when he is at his most outrageous, e.g. advising his haters to “go to Islamabad and scream, Muhammad’s not a god,” attacking the highest tax bracket occupying one percent, or hitting on girls in a bar wearing his pajamas. Wax is just himself even if his life is really plain. He is unique yet ordinary, but his incredible rhymes make him a voice for the ages. How he has been able to get caught outside of rap’s direct, most intense radar is anyone’s guess, and for this album, he is joined by Herbal T, Nocando, Intuition and Chris Clarke, similarly proficient mic pros. He may not be the most serious in the game, but the raw emotions he talks about candidly and the power he has to make us feel something through his words and music are top notch.