After much ado, Georgia rapper Rittz announces himself with a highly foreshadowed debut album, The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant. Since aligning himself Yelawolf’s independent label Slumerica, Rittz has dropped several singles and a lengthy mixtape (White Jesus: Revival) as a run-up to up this debut release. Now, turning to Tech N9ne’s Strange Music imprint, Rittz’s brand of dirty south hip hop hits the big scene.
The debut effort from Rittz is unlikely to disappoint his fans, touting consistent production values and Rittz’s signature rapid-fire rhymes, but it might not so easily win over a casual listener. What limits this album’s appeal is a number of thematic contradictions. And although it’s an extremely polished product, the music just doesn’t make the right kind of impact for an MC’s debut.
As far as the overall sound experience of the album, it sounds really crisp. Rittz’s vocals always come through loud and clear, showcasing the rapper’s blazing fast choppity-chop rapping style. Rittz’s fast but not hurried delivery dices up an inky black backdrop of clean bass tones and tight synths. His rapping competes with the speed and precision of double-time kicks and tick-tick snares. I have to be honest though, I felt the slickness of the tracks losing luster pretty early in the album. Maybe it was the straight up sex jam “Sober,” but I couldn’t help but imagine some of these songs playing out in a beat up after-hours strip club.
Three quarters of the way through the hour-long album, Rittz’s machine gun flow started to wear me down as well. I found myself practically begging for featured artists to come in and break up some of the monotony. While I usually respect the sparing use of features on a solo album, especially a debut, I wish Rittz had given up the mic a little more often. The guest verses from MCs like Tech N9ne, Yelawolf and Big K.R.I.T., are a much-needed change of pace on Jonny Valiant.
His flow aside, Rittz is at his lyrical best when he keeps it strictly personal, like in the song “Interview.” Here he faces down skeptics, critics, and public interrogation in the form of rapped responses to a fictional interview. However Rittz stumbles when the focus becomes less individual and he resorts to glorifying excessive lifestyles filled with drugs, booze and sexual exploits (see: “Sober”). To further complicate things, Rittz seems very determined to remind the listener of his no-nonsense ethos with songs like “Fuck Swag,” and “For Real.”
Ultimately, I couldn’t fully get over these missteps. An MCs debut album is a rite of passage that should make an unmistakable statement representing the sum of everything in the artists life that went into the creation of the album. Not only is Rittz’s statement a little contradictory, the album fails to create a lasting impact musically. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an unbelievably consistent effort from an MC in a debut, and it could probably serve as a great soundtrack for your next drugged driving excursion. Unfortunately, the punch that The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant packs will wear off a lot quicker than the buzz you’re catching to it.