Review: Johnny Active, The Prelude

Johnny Active, The Prelude

06 Mar, 2014 Alexa Spieler

Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, the dedicated hip-hop artist, Johnny Active, originally known as Graydon Welbourn, illuminates his promising career with his latest release, The Prelude. With his flowing verses and meticulous raps, the 20 year old proves himself with his latest release. The full-length embodies the years worth of hard-work and perseverance Active has emphasized within his career. After the likes of Dr. Dre and Eminem influenced a young Active, he moved to Toronto, where he continued exploring his solo career. After releasing his first studio album in 2012, The Grady Brunch, Active headed back to the studio to work with producer Sunny Norway to bring fans his release, The Prelude. Following its release, The Prelude has climbed to the top of iTunes’ hip-hop charts, reassuring him of a career that ensures longevity.

One of the album’s shortest tracks, “The Prelude” stands at barely over three minutes long, but features one of the album’s two appearances from vocalist, Ciele. As an introductory track, “The Prelude” fails in exemplifying Active’s immense talent. He appears monotonous vocally at times with the repetitive echoing of Ciele singing the lyrics “act like you know.” The beat supporting the two isn’t extremely extraordinary, as it appears to be a standard, warped beat. His diction is significantly clear, but such is overlooked due to the seemingly monotonous tone in Active’s voice.

With the following track, Active wittily plays on Ciele’s vocal repetitions of “act like you know,” with the song’s title, “Won’t Ever Know.” Interestingly, Active calls upon the influence of Baby Bash and Frankie J, with the instrumentals of their hit song, “Suga Suga” with a fresher, new beat. Upon rapping over the familiar instrumental, Johnny Active reminds listeners of his uniqueness and admirable flow. Particularly impressive with “Won’t Ever Know” is the manner in which Active speedily spits towards the track’s final coda, challenging the likes of Eminem with the preciseness within the rapidly flowing words within the verse. Extremely commendable is Active’s diction – a consistently admirable trait of Active’s that is audible throughout The Prelude.

As for the album’s entire duration, stand-out tracks include: “Night Sky,” “Michael Cera,” and “I Got It.” A collaborative effort, “Night Sky” features Teekay & Tru-ly. Overlaying a supportive beat, it also features the repetitive, yet catchy high-pitched synthesizer strikes. Sharing verses, each rapper takes the opportunity to enhance the track with their individuality. Though the rappers exchange verses, Active always dominates the song’s choruses, dictating strikingly, “Wait all day to stare at the night sky | Looking up, like “there is my life line” | Uh, in the stars is where I oughta be | Every single day I promise to give you all of me.” While the collaborative effort brings attention to Teekay and Tru-ly, Johnny Active demonstrates his ability to stand-out amongst the rest, never seeming to overpower the two, but still entice listeners with his energized lyricism.

“Michael Cera” stands out for different reasons. Though Active continues with his persisting meticulousness in diction, “Michael Cera” is unique for its instrumentals. Perhaps featuring the most eclectic beats and instrumentals, The Prelude doesn’t feature a song more interesting and entertaining than “Michael Cera.” Active had his doubts on releasing a track like “Michael Cera” but he proves that no task is too far out of reach for him, as he pushes boundaries and dominates a new level of hip-hop. Whether it be the striking snare, chiming instrumentation, or differentiating flows, “Michael Cera” is unlike any other track on The Prelude. Approaching four minutes, “Michael Cera” is a risk for Johnny Active – but definitely a risk successfully executed.

Touching on his journey, “I Got It” reminisces on how long he’s been chasing his dream of being a rapper, as well as serves to display his vehemence for the genre. A solid beat supports him, as Active utilizes the track to present listeners with insight into his musical journey. Active ensures listeners that he has “been chasing this dream since before [he] was a teen” and that he now runs “the whole thing.” “I Got It” speaks of the restless nights Active spends dedicated to his craft, persistently showing that he’ll do whatever he has to to be at the top of the genre and is an impeccable way to complete The Prelude.

Despite the introductory track, The Prelude is a solid second effort from Johnny Active. Within the release, Active proves that he has what it takes to soar past rappers who currently dominate the charts. The Prelude isn’t typical rap that calls attention to the lifestyles of partying and sexualized images. Instead, Johnny Active provides listeners with rap that emphasizes realness and sparks an emphasis on the craft, stapling The Prelude and Active as noteworthy contenders.

Review by: Alexa Spieler
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)