Drake Lamar

In the past decade, rappers were influenced by and compared to ‘80s acts such as Ice-T (“pioneers of gangster rap”) and Run-D.M.C. (“pioneers of sampling”). Eighteen-year-old rapper Jon Walter, also known as Jon Waltz, has already been compared to Drake and Kendrick Lamar — quite possibly proof of a new generation of hip-hop artists.  

“It’s cool because to me [Kendrick Lamar and Drake] are like two of the best to ever do it,” Waltz said. “It’s crazy to me.”

The Memphis native has been spending his summer in studios, working on new songs and experimenting with the genre. He started rapping two and a half years ago at age 15, when someone outside of his main friend group approached him.

“He was like, ‘Yo, you should get on this song with me,’ and that’s just kind of how it started out,” Waltz said.

Although his SoundCloud account has a modest 433 followers, his song “Bang (Left My Home)” has more than 16,000 plays. The notable feature of the song is that the hook is not only radio-friendly, but can stay in your head for hours. Song structure and chorus writing is the biggest loss when it comes to the underground hip-hop game, but Waltz has nearly mastered the art already.

“I want to make something catchy enough to stay in your head, with like meaning to it,” Waltz said. “But I also want to spit crazy ass verses.”

It is common to see producer-rapper teams, such as Killer Mike and El-P who released R.A.P. Music and Run The Jewels, have almost a best friend relationship with both working on bettering the other. On his freshman EP Airways Blvd., Waltz teamed up with producer Cypress Austin, known as Zayd, for five of the six tracks, including “Bang.” The production is sample-based, mellow and hi-hat heavy.

“Well, Jon is like blood to me; I’m probably with him more than I’m with anybody else,” Zayd said. “So naturally working with him is very easy, everything comes very fluid. We’re both on the same page almost all the time and we’re constantly working, so just I’m excited to see what comes next.”

Currently, Waltz is working on a new label with rapper Skizzy Mars called Penthouse. They are keeping the project under wraps — in fact, Google yields almost no results until you add “Skizzy Mars” into your search.

“It’s still in the works,” Waltz said. “I’m the first artist on it minus Skizzy Mars. I want to keep it as minimal as possible — I’m in the process of removing all the photos of me on the Internet.”

Both Waltz and Mars are hesitant to reveal very much information about the label, however, they are clear about one thing: It will be big.

“[Penthouse is] everything. Youth, culture, vibrance, the future,” Mars said. “[You] definitely will be hearing a lot more about it soon.”

In the meantime, Waltz does not plan for music to be his only accomplishment. He will be a freshman in college this upcoming year at the University of Missouri, and has plans to complete college before thinking about going full time as an artist.