Written by Maxwell Cavaseno (Tumbls here)
Johnny Cinco is jammed up; like bike gears, or staplers with the one staple that got twisted up, ink cartridge ribbons flying off into the guts of the brain and splashing all over. His style has two speeds: On and Off, and sometimes he just doesn’t quite seem to have the ability to get back from one to the other once a song begins. His voice is a weird belly laugh of a sound, occasionally draped in reverb and echo to resemble some comical ghost campfire voice. His adlibs are riddled with spastic tics and gasps, sounding like the neurons in his brain that must be short-circuiting while he drowns himself in whatever chemical concoction he’s up to his ears in.
Johnny Cinco’s debut mixtape, issued and re-released now, is a fascinating document. As a member of the understandably forgotten Hellacoppa Kidz team with Yakki Divoshi. I don’t mean forgotten to say that they weren’t talented; songs like “Lingo Crazy” demonstrate a genuinely playful attitude, whereas overt attempts like the Future-assisted “Ask Yo Hoe Bout Me” fell short. So discovering in the current climate that a pair of dudes who’d never truly established themselves had fractures suggested more of the same from former futuristic kids getting older and more self-conscious.
Now, all of this could have easily translated into the usual outings of Mac Miller collabs, ‘grown-man’ sour faces or rotted-out stripper jams that feel fairly unsexy. But “Cinco” isn’t like your average rap mixtape… The beats, provided by relative newcomer Spiffy and forgotten architect of the “Future” sound Will-A-Fool, are a strange mess of murky swamps of bass and flange, while weird little keybord melodies that sound like baroque parlor music skate overhead like fireflies. The Cinco From The Black Lagoon swims along with only his head occasionally peering out, oddly comfortable in this environment. He doesn’t stand still and belt out with his heart like Skateboard Skooly (the tape’s only cameo feature) or Young Thug, nor does he contain any of the frantic mania popularized by acts like Casino or Migos. This man is proceeding along at his own pace, content.
As far as his rapping goes, Johnny Cinco’s really ‘out-there’. Hesitantly, one can compare his sort of inane, drugged out rambles to the claustrophobic quality of the Based Freestyle Era of Brandon McCartney. Cinco just sort of … talks, and talks his head off, bullshitting. His tape is littered with the sort of cheap trap posturing that 6-7 years later can really wear you down. You’re riding around in a new whip with a new thing on your wrist, new thing at your side, cause you’re the new guy, like those OLD GUYS… yeah, yeah, yeah.
But it’s all about delivery. Cinco’s drugged out slurry cries sound like the unfortunate love-child of Rick Ross and the aforementioned Future. Yet unlike any of his contemporaries, Cinco’s never that focused on the song as much as he is filling it up with HIM. When he cries out on “McDonalds” that he’s got his girl in the backseat of the Phantom, he sells it like he’s doing some sort of sea shanty, trying to visually convey the importance of HIS Phantom’s backseat treasures with his voice and unintentionally echoing Andre Nickatina’s “Dice Of Life” in his pomposity.
And Cinco’s delightfully cocky. On “Yea”, Cinco lists off rap cliches about his liters and the two-seater before boasting “Riding with a bitch named Tina, What Love Got To Do With It!?!?”. Later on, he waxes poetic about walking the walk, talking the talk, and climbing the beanstalk. No, seriously. Elsewhere on “Cinco”, he observes that the feds are watching him, but “I’mma real nigga, so I pose for ‘em…!” The idea of Cinco, standing outside some club, as he flexes and postures to a black sedan full of G-Men is some of the best example of post-Gucci imagery I’ve heard in years. Through his conviction and a voice that belongs to someone who might’ve known Sonny Carson instead of DJ Pretty Boy Tank, Cinco goes far beyond the border sounding so self-deluded he comes off as messianic.
It’s hard to say what to expect from Johnny Cinco in the future. His tape suggests a rapper that, if he harnesses his talent and hones his talents in, could turn himself into one of the next big things of Atlanta. Yet at the same time, he could end up being one of those lost causes, just too rough-edged to make it out of his hometown. For now though, Cinco’s gotten the eyes on him, and it’s up to him to keep down this strange path his rapping’s taken him.