As the birthplace of the late MC Breed and groups like The Dayton Family, Flint, Mich. came to be known one of the Midwest's first hip hop hubs. Now, after a lengthy hiatus, the onetime automotive hotbed has given us something else to be excited about.
Jon Connor is one Flint-bred artist who's doing just that. Connor, whose talent caught the eye of Dr. Dre, who signed him to Aftermath back in November 2013, combines a hustler's ambition with the lyrical propensity of an underground MC, and unlike a lot of today's rappers, he's not afraid to reveal his insecurities and missteps — which makes his pick of a Kanye West blend refreshingly self-aware.
On his ninth mixtape, The Late Registration of a College Dropout Who Had a Dark Twisted Fantasy of 808s and Heartbreak, Connor goes in on a collection of West tracks released from 2003 up until Ye's latest, Yeezus.
Moves like this can be a double-edged sword for the same reason it's risky to cover a Michael Jackson song on American Idol — essentially comparing what you can do to one of the best in the business. Still, Connor impresses, not just with his skills as an MC, but with his ability to tailor his vocals to match Kanye on songs like "Barry Bonds" and the notably personal "We Don't Care," which served as a lyrical standout with lines like, "Nowadays h--s sayin' I'm all that/Remember I needed features a n---a couldn't get a call back/N----s in the hood that was hatin', wanna take it all back."
Connor's subject matter, which oscillates between pre-fame street life and success-driven feel good rap, also emulates West's fearlessness, and Connor keeps his sense of humor on songs like "Workout Plan," where he calls out gold diggers and even questions his own girl with lines like, "Make me wonder what my girl doing when I ain't home/Would she be a freak still if she met Meek Mill/Would she go back to the trailer on her own free will?/Would she forget about me if she met Jay Z/H--s fast when they see n----s they seen on TV."
Connor keeps the features to a minimum, with the lone spot reserved for Justin Daye ("Barry Bonds"), but who really needs too many features when you're rapping over some of the best beats of the last ten years?
The fiery MC keeps it pretty consistent. He does fall short, however, not in terms of his lyrics, but song structure on tracks like "2 Words," "Bound 2" and the disjointed "Black Skinhead." Lucky for him, his flow is hot enough to make up for underwhelming remakes.
Overall, Connor took a risk and it paid off. Nobody was going to murder Yeezy on his own beats, but the best one could hope for would be to match him while showcasing their own talent in a unique way. Jon Connor probably could earn a grip of new fans with this one.
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(Photo: Aftermath Records)