Jon Waltz is not coming down anytime soon

Jon Waltz is not coming down anytime soon

By Brad Spudich | May 6, 2014

Tags: Music students


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For an 18-year-old rapper whose first music video received 35,000 views a month after its release, Jon Waltz is far from pompous. The suburban Memphis native hasn’t gone out of his way to shamelessly push his music or his image. While still building a strong following, Waltz has kept himself nearly anonymous online. At school, he introduces himself by his birth name, Jon Walter, and seldom mentions that he’s a rapper. Waltz emphasizes substance over promotion, and in the past year he has shown his methodology is effective.

“I feel like it’s based more on what you hear than how you portray yourself,” Waltz says.

Waltz’s music transposes from dark to melodic, with cognizant reflections about lost innocence and hyper self-awareness. He finds his niche intertwining rancorous raps with virtuous hooks – from “If ya disrespecting me, then meet my trigger,” on “Pernix” to “Sometimes I wake up and wonder if I was wrong/Sometimes I wonder just what I should be afraid of” on his feature on “Save My Soul” with Memphis’s own 21. Much of Waltz’s lyrical content focuses on partying, yet is simultaneously free from arrogance. His well-crafted tracks spiel reflection without scrutiny or holier-than-thou innocence.

“I’m a pretty conscious person about my decisions before I do anything,” Waltz says. “It’s bad, but I automatically think of the consequences first, and I incorporate that in my music a lot.”

A year ago, he released Airways Blvd, a 17-minute EP that laid out the foundation, showcasing his distinctive flow and style. The EP picked up the attention of New York City-based Skizzy Mars, who contacted Waltz and joined him on the remix of “Coming Down,” a narrative written from the perspective of a drunk and sedated character in a room of unfamiliar faces. The five-track composite established his potential, and he produced numerous singles in the next few months experimenting with his delivery and production styles.

At 18, Waltz is still young and his sound hasn’t fully matured.

“I’ve been stumping with (finding it),” Waltz said. “I think the hardest part of it is recreating the same sound without trying to make it sound like the same song.”

He works primarily with two producers, NOVA, based out of LA and Zayd, Waltz’s best friend and the son of influential songwriter/producer Dallas Austin. When Waltz moved to Columbia to start school, he had to learn to work with his producers long distance.

“Creating is a much more difficult process if you’re not with the person,” Waltz said. “There are little adjustments and certain things you cannot do if you’re not together. The mastering process is a lot harder as well, but I can’t say it hasn’t affected the quality of the music.”

Growing up just outside of Memphis, a town known in the rap scene for producing the likes of Project Pat, Yo Gotti and Lord Infamous, to name a few, Waltz found inspiration from the city. He recalled hearing Three 6 Mafia when he was young and “being like, ‘I want to be just like them!’”

Later on, he still found influence from the locale but wasn’t swayed into the mold. Waltz hopes to establish a different Memphis style, a class of rappers moving away from the city’s standard of grit and trap beats for substance and introspection. Publications have tried to stereotype him as a Memphis rapper “from the streets,” but Waltz said that’s not his image.

“I didn’t grow up in that type of area. I’ve got family like that; I was never exposed to that. I try to come off as a very well-spoken person and I don’t try to promote that type of image. I don’t know why they’re doing it.”

As the standout track from Airways Blvd, “Bang” had garnered attention in the music blogosphere for its melodic chorus and dark narrative. Director John Merizalde released the song’s cinematic black-and-white video last month, which received online praise from both film and music fans.

Although the online exposure has led to numerous record label offers, Waltz said that he isn’t in a rush to sign. He wants to release his next project, an album along with photos and videos, on his own terms and is set to release it in June.

“I’ve been developing this project for two years,” Waltz said. “I’ve probably spent more time on that than anything I can think of.”

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