Ho99o9, Injury Reserve, and Death Grips among the groups smashing earsplitting riffs over 808s—and Antwon's Sunnyvale Gardens, a self-aware but never self-serious threading of reference-heavy rap through hardcore’s themes and structures." /> L.A. Record

ANTWON: SUNNYVALE GARDENS

October 6th, 2017 | Album reviews

ANTWON
Sunnyvale Gardens
self-released

Antwon’s not a punk rapper, he’s a punk who raps. There’s a distinct line between the recent wave of punk-influenced hip-hop—Ho99o9, Injury Reserve, and Death Grips among the groups smashing earsplitting riffs over 808s—and Antwon‘s Sunnyvale Gardens, a self-aware but never self-serious threading of reference-heavy rap through hardcore’s themes and structures. A Bay Area band-hopper for years before he started rapping, Antwon’s retained the basement scene’s no-frills ethos—half of the 14 tracks here are in and out in under 3 minutes, the longest just over 4. That relative epic is the joyous “Visine”, a Lil’ Peep + Shlohmo collab in celebration of not having to hide being baked. Twon doesn’t luxuriate, just enjoys the simple pleasures. “I’m a cowboy, steel van I ride / We movin’ city to city ‘till every stage is fried” he barks on “Cowboy,” reveling in the electricity of DIY touring. But as he later admits, “I feel loneliest before I rock the set / so I remember when they’re tryna get to my head / they didn’t know me back then.” It’s a surprisingly tender and clear-eyed side, one he shows again on “Airplane Mode,” an ode to the therapeutic escapism of shutting your phone off and letting the van carry you away. That combo of heart-on-sleeve emotionalism and disregard for status quo might make his closest antecedent Lil’ B, the influential Berkeley weirdo who’s found a second wind as an NBA spell-caster. But rather than debating “real hip-hop” or getting banned from Facebook, you’re more likely to find Antwon at your local hardcore show picking up a shirt or 7”. And probably smoking weed with no Visine.

—Zach Bilson