Bar Exam: Von Won – Wet Paint Vol. 2
An In-Depth Album Review
It’s been a year since we last heard from the “All American Felon,” when he dropped “Wet Paint Vol. 1.” That was a spectacular release, and Von Won has remained one of the most consistent southern Christian rappers for the better part of the 2000s. The H-town native recently put out his project “Wet Paint Vol. 2” and it’s up for a bar exam this week. Let’s dive in.
Von always has on-point features, so of course he kicks off this one with an appearance from K-Rino. The beat begins with pistols cocking and a huge beat. Von Won’s first verse is littered with metaphors and smilies, echoes and ad libs. His voice is pretty buried in the mix compared to Rino’s verse. I had a tough time deciphering everything, but the swag and confidence he brings off the bat is completely dope. The hard working K-Rino comes with some absolute heat on the punchlines.
“With lyrics I never say I’m the friendliest/My entries are intended to instantly end your lineage/I’ll travel to wherever the beat goes/You couldn’t build an elite flow if you owned 23 Home Depots/…The grind I trust is more complex than the common hustle/I spit so hard when I’m busting I crush my stomach muscles/And i’mma bring it til the people learn/And leave the booth completely burned and me and the beat are no longer on speaking terms” This is an outstanding opening track.
When I heard “Think I’m Crazy” for the first time, I was shook. A CHH artist sampling Paul Wall & Chamillionaire’s “In Love With My Money” is amazing. “Get Ya Mind Correct” is a top ten all time album for me, so to hear it flipped on this album gave me chills. This song is about abandoning the things of this world for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. It could be interpreted as prosperity gospel, but I didn’t take it as that. If you seek God with all of your heart, there’s no doubt he will open up doors in order for His Name to be glorified. God uses us as tools to magnify His glory, and that looks crazy to the world.
“Men spend hella paper trying to impress these women with some shoes/$300 a pair but soon she leaving with another dude/Money don’t buy happiness it only buy you time/life is harder than Chinese calculus at a school for the blind/I was foolish thinking I could find success with just my grind/I realized I needed Christ on my side to reflect His shine/you might think I’m crazy cuz I went from trees and optimo/I’m on fire leading my waitress to Jesus at Pappadeaux/honor comes after humility I remember mop and glow/now I’m airing in 50 countries on my television shows”
Track three is entitled “Journey” and Von Won comes in over some chimes and bumping bass with a melodic flow. I’d compare this sound to Z-Ro but it doesn’t really matter. The vibe here is fresh and he’s living up to that hook from the first track— “down south swag/east coast lyricist.” He’s talking a lot about what God’s brought him from and how it’s taken him a long way. The singing here is terrific, and everything is mixed well. I’m loving this H-town vibe.
Anthems For The South
The next track is pretty pop influenced. “God Bless Edgebrook” is featuring Wondrous, A-n-t and JaeRene. The music beds are very appealing with some rolling bass and easy synth beds. It’s got a laid back feel to it. A-N-T, the “Edgebrook MVP” drops a nice flow on the second verse and even gives a shout out to Pimp-C. Wonderus and JaeRene bring some soul to the track. This is a solid tune, it’s not as hyped up as the previous songs, but it fits with the overall southern anthem vibe it’s going for.
“Rain Down” has a nice drum kit beat to it, with some electric guitars adding melodies in the background. Von Won drops a double time flow on the first verse about seeking God’s grace and mercy in his life even amidst the mistakes he makes, and this hook is extremely catchy. Von is a professional with the hooks. I love hearing the intentionality there not only with melodies but with meaningful lyrics that stay with you. L. Jiggs is above the bar with his flow as well. The concept on this song is interesting, the juxtaposition of talking about the torrential rain of hurricane Harvey, and now asking for the rain of God’s blessing to sustain the city. JaeRene offers up her vocals on this track as well, and this track is all above the bar.
We’re greeted at the top of track six by a Biggie Smalls sample. “Mad question askin’, blunt passin’, music blastin’… but I just can’t quit.” Some Rhodes are looping behind this and once the beat drops we hear a verse from new-to-the-scene emcee D. Ward. The Alabama rapper just dropped his debut mixtape, and Von Won was able to scoop him up for a feature. His verse is alright, I find it to be a typical southern flow with some flossin’ and easy “Lord” and “God” references. Von Won however drops a tight verse and that’s what stood out for me here.
“Don’t follow my IG/snapshots no true depiction/you peeping’ the highlights neglecting my crucifixion/these haters regarding me different/they choose to lock me in prison/anything to keep my legacy hidden… like Shaq it ain’t no small feat (feet)/they think it’s Magic the way the Son bless the flow/ my bro that’s all heat/I’m the rose that pushed through the concrete/Might find me fasting seven days but I ain’t the one you should call weak/“
A Pro With The Hooks
“So Amazing” comes with a hook right away. Von Won once again drops a terrific catchy hook. The point of a hook is to “hook” you in, obviously, and Von so far has done his job. The concept he casts at the top is straight up from Romans 7. “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Eventually Von is able to point to God’s amazing grace over some buzzing synths. There’s not much to this song really, and this is the first point of this project where I feel a little dip in the energy.
“Glow” is another laid back feel with some chopped up beats underneath. Von’s been waiting for his time to glow, and he does just that here. This track is so smooth. Some of these samples I feel like I should be picking up on, but I’m not. The music on this project is awe-inspiring and makes me miss the days when the Screwed Up Click was in full effect. The feature on this track is Tim James, a Christian rapper from Houston whom I haven’t heard from in a couple years. Tim brings the bars here, and goes longer than expected. This feature is outstanding and leaves this tune above the bar. Check out Tim James’ newest project, “Red Beans and Rice” if you dig this tune like I did.
Guess Who’s Back
The next song, “Wake Up” uses some lines from the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony hit single “First Of Tha Month” to get its point across. Von is challenging us to make a decision every time we wake up to go out into the world and make a difference. This song is all about mission, and to some it might be surprising to see that NuWine (aka Wine-O aka half of the “Good News Bad Boys”) is on this track, but it seems like NuWine is back and I could not be more thrilled at that. NuWine talks about how he left the church for a minute, came back and it’s worse. He sees how people chase after temporary things in order to find fulfillment. We have an opportunity with each day that we live to point people to true fulfillment in Christ. NuWine’s verse was just okay for me and maybe a bit under the bar. Overall this song is At The Bar.
Track ten starts out with some crooning from Von over piano chords and a solid drum beat. “Some people like to see you doing good/but they gon’ love to see you doing bad/well you ain’t never gonna love to see me.” Von is looking at his life and how God has provided. He’s lived a selfless life and doesn’t feel like he’s doing too bad. People love to see you fail, but Von has God on his side.
“Friends start to scatter like roaches when the lights on/Soon as your momentum is ghost they turn to pythons/Snake life dodging the snake bites/The pastor’s got me pumping my brake lights/They prostitute ya gift for they own gain/Try to lock you in chains and sabotage you when you try to do your own thing”
“Last Tear” is featuring Reece Jones and is a heartfelt track. References to Psalm 23 are laced throughout, with Von flowing on the first verse and handing it off to Reece to close up shop. I’m not sure I’ve heard Reece Jones before. His tone and singing voice are on point here. Overall this song is just At The Bar for me. It actually came and went by pretty quickly and once again had a catchy hook. Nothing here stuck with me though, making it a skippable track.
The final song on the project is entitled “Trap Worship (Without You).” It begins with some synths, and as the beat drops Von Won brings in a hook. “Like a bird with no wings/like a bride with no groom/like a heart with no beat/like a world with no rules/that’s me without You” This is laid out nicely over a bed of organs and piano licks. Von closes out this solid project with some melodic bars.
“I’ve been waiting all my life for the chance to fly/Wings always broken all I heard was lies/Tears in my eyes hear the pain inside my voice/Every day was a struggle I ain’t never had a choice/All my friends were thugs so I turned to drugs/Came up sippin’ mud chose lust instead of love/Heard about a man that came and died on a cross/Found me when I was a sinner ain’t even know I was lost”
There is so much to like about this project. For those who are looking for the modern day southern hip hop sound of trap and mumble rap, you won’t find that here. Von Won sounds like Houston, and that’s good enough for me. Every creative choice Von made in the production, from the impressive features he pulled to the samples that were used, all came out shiny and very well crafted. Von is a versatile artist who switches back and forth from flows to melodies and does it very well. I’d say the slump of this album was at the end. Rating this album overall is difficult, I want it so badly to be Above the Bar. Ultimately, the energy I lost in the NuWine verse carried over through those last three tracks. That made the whole piece seem long for me, which takes my overall rating down a notch.
Overall Rating: At The Bar