While rapper Jon Connor has yet to gain the notoriety that is arguably on the horizon for him, it certainly wouldn’t be for lack of effort. In the last year alone, the Flint, Michigan wordsmith has released his debut album Salvation, as well as three mixtapes (two in the jackin’ for beats variety) that showcase his lyrical prowess. Not losing steam, While You Were Sleeping continues this mission.
At a hefty 18 tracks long, the mixtape surprisingly flows well, with Connor hitting the right narratives in between. This same level of skill was evident on The Blue Album and The People’s Rapper LP (in which he rapped over previous production for Jay-Z and Eminem, respectively). Jon Connor has a knack for focusing on a particular subject and likewise making it personal. This project is no exception. Whether he’s warmly musing for his significant others on “Something I Know,” taking a pensive outlook on life through “Don’t Wanna Be” or highlighting the ills of his community on “Same Change,” Connor keeps the momentum going without burdening the listener with unnecessary wordplay. Discussing the hardships of parenting (or lack thereof) on the latter track, he raps, “So we stay having seeds way before we even ready / So his son hates his father though he never met him / And for the same reason father end up hatin’ son / And he can’t raise a man, probably ‘cause he was never one.”
The biggest issue with While You Were Sleeping – and it’s one that hindered Salvation – is Connor’s production selection. Though not necessarily a backdrop you’d typically hear from the heartland of the Midwest, the chopped and screwed “Lone Star” works because of its features (Bun B and GLC) and execution. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the poor Lex Luger-imitation “Burn Notice.” Then on “Black Out,” an otherwise impressive lyrical delivery is limited by a simplistic beat that fails to emphasize the urgency in his words. “Missing You (Ms. Electric Feel)” comes off as some ’90s indie hybrid melody, and at a certain point Connor would be better off rhyming a cappella about his old flame than battling against a debilitating beat. Interestingly enough, this is a similar flaw that plagued one of his most staunch supporters, Nas, in the past. Whether he’s able to overcome it will be something to watch for moving forward.
While You Were Sleeping is arguably the most complete project Jon Connor has released since Vinnie Chase: Season One, and is a great starting point if you’ve slept on his music. In a nitpickers world the track list could have been shortened up, but at this point the more Connor gives listeners, the better.
DX Consensus: “EP-worthy”