Written by Travis Shosa
Orion Ohana has established a cult following over the past half-decade, drifting from place to place as a minstrel of mayhem. Initially adopting the moniker of housepett before joining Reptilian Club Boyz in 2019, 2020 saw Ohana develop two new alter egos: Evanora Unlimited and Marjorie -W.C Sinclair. What delineates the two projects is unclear, made even muddier with the release of the somber dream pop single “Age of Information” under the Evanora Unlimited name this past February. The Dean Blunt reminiscent tune was a complete departure from the aggressive electro-industrial ravers on Lustful Expanse and the Russian sung-spoken She Diamond collaboration “Limestone.” He likens their relationship to that of Akira and Tetsuo from the 1988 film that shares the former’s namesake. “Marjorie is anything that’s not Evanora,” Ohana told Dazed. At 22 years of age, even he might not know what that means in the long term. For now, “not Evanora” means Detroit-style trap rap from a vagabond spirit that originated in Oakland, California.
The Marjorie -W.C Sinclair project, thus far, exists as a mutated reflection of rising scam rap posse ShittyBoyz. Both acts deal in punchline-heavy deadpan delivery, breathlessly spitting in rarely broken patterns over instrumentals crafted from 70s/80s music and pop culture samples. The devil is in the details: where ShittyBoyz often draw from the wells of electro and freestyle, Marjorie -W.C Sinclair calls upon the idyllic nostalgia of city pop. Rather than contracting a suite of producers to craft beats around an assortment of immediately recognizable samples, such as the Sportscenter theme or the GameCube boot-up jingle, Sinclair builds much of his second album, 22nd Chance, around voice-acted clips from the English dub of Suzuka: a romantic comedy anime from 2005. It’s a bold decision that should threaten to pigeonhole Marjorie -W.C Sinclair into an inescapable niche. One so small that the pressure would reasonably crush him. Conversely, it proves a stroke of mad genius: encapsulating romance, sexuality, anxiety, and communicative struggles and serving as a connective through-line for a collection of tracks far more contemplative than his 2020 self-titled debut.
The counterpart to the nervous sexual tension and romantic awkwardness invoked by the Suzuka samples is an oft-reused sample from 2004’s Gantz: a sadistically violent sci-fi horror anime. Choosing these opposed themes to anchor 22nd Chances might seem jarring. But the purpose comes into focus when you think of Marjorie -W.C Sinclair like this: imagine if, instead of James Franco, Timothée Chalamet portrayed Alien from Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, and the character was also an unapologetic Japanophile. Thus, these audio quotes serve as the framing device for Sinclair’s narratives across the album’s 15 short tracks: snapshots of a young Weerd American in the turbulent throes of self-discovery and self-destruction, grasping without discretion at anything that makes him experience a strong feeling in a world where people don’t feel or understand themselves well.
Amphetamines, firearms, unprotected sex: all are celebrated, if not outright glorified, for their ability to elicit a response. It could be a drug-induced dopamine high, a rush of power when engaging in violence, a primal lust, or an empathetic connection: all hold value in Sinclair’s eyes. “Said the texture of her life felt like ocean water swimming / I wanna drown between her thighs and feel emotions off the Ritalin,” he raps in the opener “Puppy Eyes.” Sinclair jumps from AKs to k-holes to hole-tonguing as he travels across and outside the United States, crashing cars and eating croissants. Often the writing is farcical; other times sincere. But it’s almost always disquieting and not uncommonly all three at once.
What Sinclair ultimately possesses that many a rapper doesn’t is a mystique: one that manages to coincide with a pen game that is Hunter S. Thompson’s travel journal-meets-personal diary in nature. Listening to 22nd Chances feels both invasive and like an exercise in grasping at straws. It plays like a dream: each hazy, funky, hypnotic track bleeds into the next–connected yet disconnected–with recycled samples (“Nexus 3” and “Gold Country Lanes” share the same beat) tethering disparate scenes together. Each far-fetched tale contains some nugget of truth, while every hyper-detailed recollection of an intimate memory is at least partially suspect. Fact and fiction spill into each other to create something subliminal yet painfully honest. Sinclair is committing emotional harakiri and daring the listener to decipher the meaning behind the surreal picture his viscera has formed.
It’s instinctual to read that Sinclair’s proxy in the Suzuka samples is Yamato: the boy who falls in love with Suzuka as he passes her amid high jump practice. Driven by libido, he joins the track-and-field team though it’d be of little interest otherwise, and proffers himself as a confidant. Songs such as “Fireflies” and “Train to Barcelona” are directed towards his own Suzuka: someone who enraptures him so utterly he goes to even more absurd lengths to accommodate. It aligns with Sinclair’s sexually charged persona. However, there’s an alternative possibility. The listener is Yamato: and Sinclair is Suzuka. “Please don’t tell anyone what I said. The last thing I need is people knowing what scares me”: this is a quote repeated ad nauseum throughout the album. And boiled down to its most basic components, that’s what 22nd Chances is about: Sinclair’s fears.
He’s afraid his reckless lifestyle will lead him to an early grave (“Live life dangerous / Might not make it to the morning”). He’s scared that it’s become something he’s flippant about (“It’s better off I die / I’m just playing baby, focus”). He’s afraid that his lust will destroy his relationships, that his love interest will destroy herself with the behaviors that reflect his own, and that if he settles into a sober, unoccupied thought, it could end him. He’s afraid of not knowing himself and not understanding why he and others do what they do. He laments not being able to communicate in day-to-day life the way he can through his music. Sinclair is a muddle of contradictions: on “Dubaii,” he claims, “Don’t give a fuck bout making art / I just want money, love, and life.” Then on “Gold Country Lanes,” he’s “living for the arts.” Neither seems like a lie. Instead, they’re revisions of each other: a truth constantly in flux. He pairs all this with references to Dora the Explorer and League of Legends. Marjorie -W.C Sinclair contains multitudes.
22nd Chances is not a rap album that will please old, traditional heads that hold the fundamentals sacrosanct. Sinclair is not a good technical rapper: his flow is awkward, and while he’s gotten better at staying on beat, he’s still off enough that it will drive some people nuts. But there’s a lot to be said about vision, and you can make an argument that better rapping would compromise that vision. It’s a glorious, riveting, confusing, concerning, hilarious mess of an album, and nothing could better represent the 22-year-old. “You know what people say. Gotta beat your record.” Sinclair has well cleared 169cm.
Score: 8 Pollenate Me!
Travis Shosa is the founder and editor-in-chief of Stamens/Pistils/Parties. Formerly the runner of COUNTERZINE, he has bylines at Pitchfork, The Alternative, and Post-Trash among others.