Pre-pandemic I was introduced to Frank Lopes Jr. on “The Fall of Hobo Johnson.” He was a young man who had struggled mightily to get his rap career off the ground, including resorting to living out of his car when he couldn’t afford rent, hence the name Hobo Johnson (not to be confused with Hobo Junction). As a first time listener I was intrigued by his mixture of poetry, rapping and singing and felt he was a breath of fresh air in a genre where posturing and dick size contests are often the norm. Mind you there’s nothing inherently wrong with either of those things, but a little of it can go a long way, and Lopes felt like someone taking an intentionally hard left turn to be different from the rest of the pack in a fun and creative way.

A couple of years later in the midst of the pandemic, Lopes released “Hobo Johnson Alienates His Fanbase.” If ever a rapper could be said to believe in the maxim “truth in advertising” it’s Lopes. This was the fourth album in what arguably should have stayed a trilogy — “Rise,” “Fall” and “Revenge.” There was no need to go further than that. We all went a little stir crazy during lockdown though and you could hardly fault Lopes for going through it harder than most. When you go from living in your car to succeeding as a rap star to suddenly being forced to stay home and not tour or even go out and have fun, it’s got to feel like living out of your car all over again. So yeah, Hobo Johnson went a little bit nuts. Wouldn’t you?

“If you don’t mind for a sec
Introduce that knife to my neck
If you could give me a hand
Put my head through a fan, yeah”

While I can empathize with his struggles, that doesn’t make the bitter pill of “Hobo Johnson Alienates His Fanbase” any easier to swallow. Being fed up with the state of things in your life is fine, but forcing your audience to listen to you whine about it is another. I take mental health very seriously and I encourage everyone reading to be proactive about it. Talk to friends, talk to a professional, talk to your partner, talk to your pets — whatever works. Take medication if it’s right for you. Meditate or hike if it’s not. All of these are better solutions than self-produced tracks that sound bad with a deplorably apathetic lyrical delivery. “What’s the AQI of This Bong Rip?” sounds like an idea that should be funny on paper, but then you realize 1.) The joke is never explained in the song — AQI stands for Air Quality Index, and 2.) He couldn’t come up with a punchline so he just tapped on the bong glass for a beat hoping that would suffice.

A joke that’s never explained and doesn’t have a punchline isn’t really a joke is it? You already know the answer to that. Now if one really wants to get pretentious and overly analytical about it, calling the album “Hobo Johnson Alienates His FanbaseIS the joke, and the punchline is that he’s actually doing what it says. For reference this is what I would call the Andy Kaufman subversive style of comedy, where you expect him to do something funny and he intentionally doesn’t, which pisses off a lot of people but makes a few laugh even harder knowing deception was the gag. I wish I could claim this worked for me on that level. Kaufman was arguably ahead of his time — a “troll” long before the internet had coined and popularized the term. Trolling can be funny… unless you’re the one being trolled. We’re all being trolled by this album.

Perhaps in 30 years people will appreciate this Frank Lopes Jr. release the way people now appreciate Kaufman more today. Next year will mark 40 years since Kaufman passed away and some people still think he faked his own death as the biggest trolling possible. They believe some day he’ll come back and say “GOTCHA” and we’ll all have a big laugh. Sadly, he won’t. Andy Kaufman is dead, and so is Hobo Johnson’s career after this album. Maybe they’ll both prove me wrong somehow. Lopes could release a fifth album in the “trilogy” with a huge mea culpa about his mental health and how he shitted out “Hobo Johnson Alienates His Fanbase” as a result. That would be a start. For now it’s only a bad joke that lives up to its title.

Hobo Johnson :: Hobo Johnson Alienates His Fanbase
1.5Overall Score