If you're a fan of music, you've probably heard Johan Lenox's work before - you likely just didn't know it. With a killer history of placements including artists like Kanye West, Travis Scott, and Lil Nas X, Johan's work has been featured by some of the biggest artists in music today. Unknown to some, Johan Lenox is a skilled singer and songwriter in addition to being an award-winning composer. He's been releasing music quietly over the past few years, but after the success of last year's project cancel the party, Johan Lenox is back with a new single. "Phases" is the first track leading up to Johan Lenox's debut record What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up, an album focused on self-reflection and the dissolution of adulthood. "Phases" also sees the Massachusetts singer linking up with Boston rapper Cousin Stizz on one of the first big releases of 2021.
Johan Lenox's extensive history of music theory and composition is made incredibly apparent on "Phases," as the track manages to intersect musical styles that are simultaneously subversive and catchy. The track's very foundation is a synthesis of classic hip-hop percussion, reverb-laden plucks, and ambient tones - but there are still moments that keep the listener on their toes. One moment Johan will be singing over abrasive bass signals that seem to tear through the track, and on another, the song seems to recede back in order to make room for lush orchestral string samples. Johan Lenox's vocal performance is equally impressive too, with his voice effortlessly moving through melodies that are just as complex as they are intoxicating. Together, Johan and the mix work in tandem to convey a narrative that is somehow bleak but inviting at the same time.
Thematically, "Phases" sees Johan Lenox playing a character, one who snarkily observes the lives of others and sarcastically laughs at the frivolity and monotony of adult life. The character reduces the problems of his peers, calling them "little mazes" before admitting to the listener, "I don't really mind being aimless." During our brief interview, he described Cousin Stizz's verse as a moment of clarity, illuminating how Stizz pulls back the curtain on Johan's character. On "Phases," Cousin Stizz doesn't share Johan's outlook on life, implying that Johan's character is jaded due to his own limitations, upbringing, and sheltered perspective. Stizz raps “I see a bag and go get it, don’t ask why…I’m in a rush, because we running out of time," reflecting a mindset that finds motivation and purpose from within. To the Boston icon, his desire to succeed is enough motivation for him, as his own humility and understanding prevent him from wasting time dwelling on his own shortcomings. Both Johan Lenox and Cousin Stizz work in conversation with one another in order to explore larger existential questions regarding purpose and what adulthood truly is.
While speaking with Johan Lenox about "Phases," it became clear to me that his experience as a classical composer and industry collaborator helped foster his thoughtful and intentional approach to songwriting. Though Johan has worked behind the scenes on some of the biggest records from the past few years, perhaps it is time that his talent and artistry take him to music's main stage. With a diverse set of talents and a wisdom that is uncommon for artists so early in their careers, Johan Lenox's upcoming album What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up will certainly be one to look out for, and likely not his only release in 2021. Though the wait until his next single may be a long one, "Phases" should certainly tide fans over until then.