Bob Lennon’s “Ashtrays”
A RECAP OF EP LISTENING PARTY JANUARY 14TH AT ATLANTA’S UPTOWN STUDIOS
A lot has happened for East Macon rapper Bob Lennon in a year. Last February, when I interviewed him for The 11th Hour, he confidently conferred upon himself the label of rock star, and said that someday Macon would wish they hadn’t slept on him. He detailed the difficulty he’d experienced in trying to find a consistent venue to showcase his music locally, but he wasn’t defeated – if anything, the struggle only inspired him to work harder to get himself and his music out in the world for as many people as possible. And his work paid off.
Fast-forward to Sunday, January 14 at Atlanta’s Uptown Studios. The crowd here is invite-only – stacked with DJ’s, media, music industry professionals, artists, and more, everybody’s buzzing around and enjoying themselves. Before long, every room of the studio is wall-to-wall people. Blunts are being passed, everybody’s grazing from a long table full of good food, and drinks are being poured into little plastic cups with Bob Lennon’s logo on them – the artwork features his name, graffiti-style, but instead of the ‘o’ in Bob, there’s an all-black image of his iconic headful of asymmetrical dreads.
This is the listening party for Bob’s upcoming EP “Ashtrays.” One song from the EP, the insanely catchy “Funeral,” has already been released – that song was the springboard for a lot of the buzz that’s surrounding Bob now. Bob had kept in touch with a Warner Robins friend, Shawna Reed, as he was coming up; Shawna’s husband Caveman was a well-connected, talented dude who found producers. Bob told his manager Pink that he needed an industry-style beat for his new song, so they paid for what ended up being the beat for “Funeral.” It could’ve ended there, but Caveman was impressed with the finished product and shopped the song around to some friends. Superstar Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka liked what he heard and asked to meet Bob; now Bob’s signed to Waka’s Brick Squad Monopoly label, and he’s been spending his time writing, recording, promoting, and performing. He’s nonstop with his work flow, but he makes it look easy.
When it’s time to play the EP for everybody, we all crowd into one room. Caveman, who engineered the EP, introduces Bob by explaining to all of us how impressive it is that Bob writes all his music himself and records everything in one take – if he messes up a line anywhere, Caveman says, he starts the whole thing over again. Then it’s Bob’s turn to speak. He looks around at the room overflowing with people, so many hands holding cameras and cell phones up in the air to capture pics, so many flashes going off in his face, so many eyes on him, and he stays cool. Of course. “Wow,” he grins. “Thank you guys.” He introduces the EP by saying “It ain’t too turnt, it ain’t too chill. It’s just a vibe,” and then the music starts.
Music played in a recording studio sounds amazing – all the equipment is on point, everything’s designed to sound perfect – but the bass vibrations from the speakers everywhere are immediately so intense and awesome that it adds another dimension to the listening experience. The whole crowd is dancing, nodding to the beat, into it, but nobody’s as into it as Bob is. He’s an amazing performer, and though he isn’t rapping live here, he raps along with the songs as if he is – he shakes his dreads, grabs his face, emphasizes his favorite lines in the songs. He’s feeling it, and so is the crowd. Waka Flocka materializes near me – he’s tall and enthusiastic about the music, jamming as hard as anybody else in the room, a big grin on his face the whole time. At the end of one song, Waka yells out “The phrasing on that – the cadence – man, that’s dope as fuck! Play that one again!” They play it again; it slaps again. Of course.
These songs are so good. Bob has a talent for writing clever hooks that stick in your head long after you’ve heard the song, and vocally he doesn’t sound derivative of any other artist, which is no small feat in the rap world – his voice and mannerisms are distinctive, quirky, cool, and memorable. He sounds like Bob Lennon. He sounds confident and charismatic. He sounds like what he is – a rock star.
“Ashtrays” drops mid-February
Follow Bob Lennon on Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat at @whoisboblennon