Flint, Michigan’s Jon Connor has been lyrically destroying instrumentals on the mixtape and blog scenes for the past few years, and has built up a steady buzz because of it. In 2011, Connor delivered his first official album, Salvation, which displayed his talent as an emcee, but fell short on the production side. With Unconscious State, Connor gives it another go, and shows improvement.
Truth be told, Unconscious State gets off to a bit of a rocky start, as he opens the album with a pair of short skits – an opening piano intro, then the title track, which ends a bit too soon, despite a strong first verse. What follows is “Take The World”, an attempt at creating something with commercial appeal, but Lia Mack’s hook falls short, while Lyric Da Queen is out of place delivering the second verse of the entire album, when you’re thirsty to hear more from Jon. This trite offering unfortunately starts the album off at a bad pace, but thankfully things kick into high gear pretty quickly.
It’s at about this point that Connor delivers no less than 12 consecutive tracks of straight heat, which makes up the meat of the album, showing vast improvement and amazing consistency. Songs like “Michigan $hit” (feat. Royce Da 5’9) and “Over & Over” (feat. Freddie Gibbs) place Connor among the Midwest’s elite, and not only does he hold his own, but balances that fine line between underground lyricism and street authenticity that his collaborators share. In a way, his style is the Midwest defined.
Songs like “Over & Over” and “The Porn Song” are far from what one might define as “conscious hip-hop”, yet ultimately he comes off as a good, honest, hard working dude. Anyone can relate to the blue collar grind he sticks his middle finger at on “2 Week Notice”, the hardships of growing up poor on “When I Was Young”, or the unabashed honesty of “Connor 25:17″. The pared down “Rise Up” is another standout, as he and Talib Kweli let their minds spray.
Unconscious State is not without it faults, however. Jon shows tremendous growth here in terms of song-writing ability and in terms of production, but there are a few skippable tracks in the album’s mammoth 22 track playlist. The last act of the album is littered with it’s poorest material, such as the awful “This Time”, which features him and four other people singing about missed text messages, in an embarrassing, incoherent mess of a song. “My Life” with Justin Daye and Cass Swift suffers from bland production and even blander guest verses. “Running Away” is a heavy-handed collaboration with Jenna Noelle that shows great potential for the kind of music you might hear from him on a major label, but doesn’t really belong here.
In most cases, long, bloated albums like this usually get red marks on the grade sheet from this review crew, however Connor’s dodged a bullet, still edging out a solid 4 out of 5, thanks to the amazingly consistent mid-section of this album. While Unconscious State gets off to a rough start, and doesn’t close out as strong as it should, it’s loaded with bangers, well put together songs, and lyrically rich content. Somebody sign this guy.
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