The State Hornet

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OPINION: The takedown of Hobo Johnson

Sacramento’s most popular rapper can’t really rap

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OPINION: The takedown of Hobo Johnson

Hobo Johnson, right, really named Frank Lopes, poses with bandmate Derek Lynch in a photo taken for a previous State Hornet story.

Hobo Johnson, right, really named Frank Lopes, poses with bandmate Derek Lynch in a photo taken for a previous State Hornet story.

Claire Morgan - The State Hornet

Hobo Johnson, right, really named Frank Lopes, poses with bandmate Derek Lynch in a photo taken for a previous State Hornet story.

Claire Morgan - The State Hornet

Claire Morgan - The State Hornet

Hobo Johnson, right, really named Frank Lopes, poses with bandmate Derek Lynch in a photo taken for a previous State Hornet story.

The dude just has no rhythm.

OK, now that we have that out of the way, I have to say that I am not trying to wish Frank Lopes or any of his bandmates ill will. Congrats on the success!

I sure don’t get it though.

Since Hobo Johnson’s rise to semi-stardom in Oak Park, now buoyed by his NPR Tiny Desk Concert music video, which currently boasts four million plus views, I can’t contain my genuine perplexity at the prospect.

Like, this is the big Sacramento artist right now?

My critiques of Hobo Johnson can be categorically summed up into two discrete points — his technical clumsiness, and more importantly, the wheedling attitude behind the rhymes.

When a friend of mine showed me “Dear Labels” a year ago, I anticipated a criticism of a bloated, too often myopic industry that has a habit of overlooking quirky artists such as Hobo Johnson.

Or maybe I didn’t know what I was expecting, but I know that it wasn’t a transparent attempt at begging for sympathy and pleading with corporations for fame and money.

The message is this: “No, listen, I’m just such a nice guy that I deserve to be picked up by a major record label after just two albums (the first of which had such a lukewarm reception that it is hardly mentioned alongside “The Rise of Hobo Johnson”) and by the way I love my mom.”

He actually says “Pay my rent and I’ll sell you my soul.” At least he’s honest.

I’m not sure why he feels the need to beg when, according to “Demarcus Cousins and Ashley,” both him and his mother are pretty sure he’s going to be “a somewhat successful rapper.”

I might have forgiven Hobo Johnson’s inability to find the beat if it weren’t for those slimy, sycophantic lyrics.

But Hobo Johnson doesn’t stop there. While he not only slithers about to garner pity and sympathy from record labels, much of his music suggests that he does the same thing for the attention of women.

His Tiny Desk video, “Peach Scone,” is essentially an extended narrative about Hobo himself attempting to get with a friend of his who is in a relationship, trash talking her boyfriend, and making himself out to be the victim in some twisted parody of friendzone edgelording.

The guy’s got terminal-stage nice guy syndrome. You know it’s bad when you have to describe yourself as a “good kid.” 

    RELATED: Meet the self-described ‘good kids’ behind Hobo Johnson

And for whatever reason, media outlets have been taking the bait since his rise, describing Hobo Johnson as “self-deprecating” and “bullsh*t free,” despite the obvious self-serving bent to his songwriting.

It should be said that the charm of his ‘authentic’ stumbling over lyrics and ‘down to earth’ awkwardness fade quickly, too.

All too often, Hobo Johnson chooses to cut the backing track completely to allow for an a capella rap.

This is a bad idea for a rapper when the rapper in question lacks an internal metronome — the result is word salad.

Rhyming “Fat Joe” with “cardio” with “doctor though,” Hobo Johnson’s lyrics range from mildly amusing to essentially inane.

Someone please tell me what “Parents just don’t understand / Except for Will Smith, he’s got a great understanding” is supposed to mean. Please.

With so many other talented upstart musicians in Sacramento (I think first of singer-songwriter Jessica Malone, recently named artist of the year by Sacramento News & Review, or the incredibly talented but still quite underground funk-fusion musician Brandy Robinson, or the soon-to-be-defunct post progressive group A Lot Like Birds), I expect a little more out of a local rising star.

I have to give credit where credit is due, though. “I love you like the Kings love to lose” will always be hilarious.

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10 Responses to “OPINION: The takedown of Hobo Johnson”

  1. Collin Chandler on May 14th, 2018 10:25 am

    “Parents just don’t understand/Except for Will Smith, he’s got a great understanding,” is 1) an homage to Grammy Award winning song, “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” released in 1988 by Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff, and 2) likely an acknowledgment that Will Smith, now a parent himself, is cool enough to indeed understand.

    Hope this helps, Vincent.

  2. Andy on May 15th, 2018 6:01 pm

    I kept waiting for the takedown part of this article, thinking it would have more substance, but then found the comment section and realized the author was just bandwagon whining. Look at all the quotation marks and imagine having an insufferable conversation with the author and how many times he probably does the airquotes gesture with his fingers.

  3. Ryan on May 17th, 2018 7:21 pm

    Yeah man I’m not really sure there’s much depth to this article other than an inherent biased contempt for Frank. I think what you’re not taking into account is that state of mind switches the perspective of everything – and Hobo’s music comes from a place of emotional suffering which while you can dismiss as “terminal nice guy syndrome”, to a lot of people is relatable in a way that a lot of artists can’t touch.

    And in regard to his technical skill – his ability to fall out of tempo and be haphazard with the tempo is not an accident – it’s indicative of a thorough understanding of melody and the integration of lyrics, which is kinda essential to any great rapper freestyle or otherwise.

    Idk I guess I just don’t understand the unfettered hate, and this article doesn’t provide any clarity.

  4. Yandu on May 23rd, 2018 6:07 am

    The writer completely missed the point in each of his examples. This is terrible article written by someone completely out of touch with the current landscape. What a joke.

  5. William Major on May 29th, 2018 4:02 am

    Did this modern day “kid rock” claim to be from oak park at first? Or was him attempting to garner rap credibility with that whole “im multiracial…my struggle is rap’s struggle”. Face it…youre no “Lil Dicky”. Youre simply another condescending white rapper who is pandering to the “colored folk” with his art. Get your “all lives matter” t f outta here.

  6. Eric on June 18th, 2018 7:37 am

    “Someone please tell me what “Parents just don’t understand / Except for Will Smith, he’s got a great understanding” is supposed to mean. Please.”

    The fact that you had to ask this tells me you have no place being a music critic.

  7. Leif on July 9th, 2018 8:02 am

    The fact that you’re completely baffled by the Will Smith reference and couldn’t even look it up is a blatant indicator that you’re just pandering to the horde of idiots whom Frank’s music is too emotional deep and culturally relevant for them to understand. I have read very few articles as lazy and lacking content as this. I will never get those couple minutes back. Don’t quit your day job, unless writing is your day job….

  8. Kay on July 26th, 2018 8:03 pm

    Well this was awful and a waste of time.
    I saw hobo last night and that kid is nothing short of special and amazing.

  9. Fizz on August 17th, 2018 10:12 am

    It’s understandable where the author is coming from, he certainly does not have a typical musician style, as he mixes a lot of comedy into his act. I Recently had the opportunity to see him live at outside lands, and I wouldn’t have necessarily called it a concert, but perhaps it’s more likened to someone one like Reggie Watts (at an immature stage). A comedy act that incorporates music, and interacts with the audience quite a lot. Also, from a musician stand point, there was not much to grasp in regards to the musical composition, but that’s not what he is about, again he is more focused on the comedic interactive side…not a bad thing really, just a different way of garnering attention, which is what all musicians are looking to do.

  10. Dean Estes on October 4th, 2018 4:55 pm

    You’re a moron. Nothing in this article is any more cohesive or understandable than the music and message behind said music of which you’re bashing. The comments and questions relative to Hobo Johnson’s work/lyrics alone (that you’ve quoted throughout the article of which you’re rhetorically asking the reader (I guess?)) shows your shanty, half-baked research in full. How can you criticize the kid for something you didn’t even take the time to do a fucking google search on? Honestly. To not understand is one thing, but to blindly and stubbornly refuse to do so is going to be the inevitable downfall of you as a journalist. It’s a shame, as I’ve read your work before, to see you plummet to this level of debauchery. Did he not give you an autograph or something? Because frankly I don’t see why else one would spend the time and effort to erroneously bash someone of which they have no reason or platform to do so.

    You’re a moron.

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