As he confesses on his latest mixtape, the masked London rapper may not have been to art school, but his new wave lo-fi grime certainly is arty

4040 is Jawnino’s musical signet, a mantra stamped through his latest EP 40. It pivots on the concept of the human brain being able to process 11 million pieces of information per second but the conscious brain is only ever able to handle 40 of those pieces. The result is that everyone’s reality is shaped by their particular medley of 40. The enigma aptly matches Jawnino’s preference for obscurity, choosing to remain anonymous. But this hasn’t stopped him from being noticed in underground circles. His latest mixtape consolidates new with older tracks like ‘It’s Cold Out’ to cement his place somewhere in this new wave of grime.

40 opens with the ambient ‘2trains’, which kicks off with a hollow digital bassline. It meets Jawnino’s distant vocals that lead into soft, almost wistful verse. It follows with ‘Dance2’ which nicely flips the script. It starts with smooth electronics overlaid with gentle keys. The track sets the record’s thematic fixation on narcotics and living the high life.

Although the introspection found on ‘It’s Cold Out’ doesn’t quite resurface on other tracks on 40, Jawnino replaces that with a record full of skin-crawling beats and vivid evocations of heady nights out in the expansive metropolis that is London. ‘Lost My Brain’ is just that. It carries vibes that hark back to the mid-2000s when mainstream club tracks were often mashups of grime, dance and jungle. It makes for a fun surprise.

On ‘Scr33nTim3’, Jawnino is self-aware and humorous with, “Never went to Art school / They calling me artsy”. The low-key vibe continues on ‘Wind’, which is reminiscent of the gentler, misty-eyed side of a Stormzy album in its emotionally uplifting chorus of “Let it be/ Let there be light” combined with some levity, “I didn’t go to prom but sold a Gucci belt that did.”

‘Westfield’ is a shoutout to the city’s nighttime revellers on either side of the river with Kibo jumping in to deliver a couple of fiery verses over looped strings and syncopated bass, which works well. It’s also a small ode to London’s beloved shopping centre which, as it turns out from the lyrics, is a great place to do a couple of lines. Towards the end of the EP, ‘265’ provides an ambient comedown. A pensive Jawnino gently raps his stream-of-consciousness style thoughts that now delve into the romantic, “Exchanging star signs / On a half belief / That we’d intertwine.”

Jawnino has been making the rounds on the freshest London grime circuits over the last few years, collaborating with other artists such as Jeshi and Brbko, all part of a generation that wants to carve their paths away from grime purists. There might not be a lot of rapid-fire spitting on 40 nor overt political statements, but it does tap into a different feeling that is relevant to today – one of needing escapism, something to distract from our ever-changing concrete jungles, something to feel good about. You can’t pin Jawnino down to one sound and that might be the point.

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