Album Review: Hobo Johnson - The Rise of Hobo Johnson

I found Hobo Johnson via a friend on Facebook, who had been tagged in the comments section of a Lad Bible post about his single Peach Scones (I can’t stand the page, but I guess I should be grateful for the recommendation). Like everyone else in the comments section, I couldn’t decide whether it was a joke or not; and if it was, whether we were laughing at Hobo Johnson or whether he was laughing at us. I still don’t know.

Frank Lopes (performing under his stage name Hobo Johnson) performs using a blend of spoken word, rap and singing. Sometimes he performs with a band, at others it’s over electronic programming. There’s not really a lot to write home about when it comes to the production on the album. It’s paint by numbers with beats, pianos and samples all popping up at some point. Instead, the main talent on show is Hobo Johnson’s relatable lyrics, discussing topics such as depression, career, love and family. His anxieties and fears share the spotlight with his hopes and joys.

There’s a certain amount of dorky charm to Hobo Johnson. He’s an awkward guy which is brought across by the way he stumbles and trips his way through each track, mumbling under his breath and launching into rambling verses without taking a pause. This enables him to mock certain stereotypes from the genre. On Romeo & Juliet, the track opens with a clanging siren and bass whilst Hobo Johnson yells over the top in a poor imitation of a hype man at the beginning of a track. “Oh that’s my s**t right there, that’s the ticket, give me the ticket!” that odd blend of well-worn rap tropes and an old-fashioned idiom that he awkwardly uses in the track just helps to shine a spotlight on how weird this guy is – and its endearing as hell.

Whilst he’s trying to portray a socially awkward, well-meaning nerd, he comes awfully close to being a gas lighting stalker.
– Sam Brookes

In the age of the #MeToo movement, and with more awareness of how some seemingly innocent behaviour carries poisonous implications and effects, Hobo Johnson treads a fine line with his music. Whilst he’s trying to portray a socially awkward, well-meaning nerd, he comes awfully close to being a gas lighting stalker. Some of his tracks feature that sense of entitlement that comes from guys who think they’re being “friend zoned“ all the time, or worse, the kind of people that launched the incel movement.

I would highlight Mario + Link as the main offender of the above. My interpretation is that the track is a metaphor, using the video game characters Mario & Link who spend their lives saving the same princesses and never get “rewarded”. I take this to mean that doing the right thing for a person should mean they’re indebted to you forever and should immediately start dating you – a weird and dangerous mindset.

Will The Rise of Hobo Johnson enter the Alt-Rap Hall of Fame? Probably not, but it serves as an excellent hors-d’oeuvre to what I’m hoping will be an interesting career. Considering the popularity of his stand-alone single Peach Scones which was released after his debut album, I think we’ll be hearing from him again shortly. Only time will tell whether he’s going to be one of the genre greats or just another £50 post on Lad Bible.