Review: Josh Johnson - Elusive: A Mixtape

May 6, 2022

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Back in the summer of 2021, comedian Josh Johnson sat down with Comedy Wham to open up about his experiences as a full-time comedian. He spoke about the handful of open mics he attended before moving to Chicago from his hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana and how he hit the ground running when he arrived in the Windy City. Reflecting on the natural transition into a life dedicated to comedy, he told Valerie Lopez, “​Weird­ly enough, the times I was doing com­e­dy were the only times I felt like I was being clear enough to be under­stood.” His clarity and passion for the craft have led to an effortless ability to connect with crowds.

During his interview with Comedy Wham, Johnson also let us know what he had been up to over the last year. On June 11, 2021, just days after the interview, Johnson released his second full-length standup album, a mixtape titled Elusive. While Johnson’s first album, I Like You stayed true to the style of a traditional standup comedy album, the rising star had something a bit different up his sleeve this time around. Wanting to add another element to his craft, Johnson included 8 original songs, for which he collaborated with a hand-picked selection of musicians, in addition to a long list of bits.

Driving the hybrid format was the desire to tell stories in a different, more well-rounded way. “The whole purpose of comedy is to make people laugh so even when things go to a dark or controversial place there is still supposed to be an uplifting ending. Music has all the tools, emotions, and timelessness of the human experience, and comedy is how we process all of those things,” Johnson tells Paste magazine. As a comedy veteran and music novice, Johnson had to find the right artists to collaborate with for the project. Featured on the album are artists like Groovebox, The Psalms, and Wayne Tucker, and of the artists Johnson says, ​”it’s being done with – in my opin­ion – the best artists that are out right now.”

When you press the play button on Elusive's first track, aptly titled “Intro,” Johnson’s voice comes over your speakers in a soft tone to tell you, “This project is a bit different than anything you’ve heard me do. Hopefully, it’s different than anything you’ve heard before,” then goes on to describe the album as “part millennial escapism, part negro spiritual,” and requests that the listener consumes the whole project in one go so as to accompany him on the personal journey he took creating it. This is sound advice, as every facet of Elusive offers something different, and each song and joke will evoke different reactionary emotions throughout an hour and 12 minutes.

Johnson begins the album topically, touching on the feelings of end-of-days dread felt globally at the start of the pandemic with the track titled, “Bought An Axe.” Johnson spoke with Paste magazine about the joke, saying that thoughts of how he might defend his loved ones in the event of a societal collapse inspired his thoughts. “Imagine rushing to get supplies to survive Armageddon with the timing of someone doing their Christmas shopping December 24th,” Johnson says. After the first song on the album, “I Like You Too (Part 1 Of A Love Story)” graces your ears with a soft and sexy pillow talk vibe, Johnson then transitions to one of the most relatable subjects in comedy - dating.

The titles of each track in the stretch of dating-themed bits might have you thinking that you know what it’s about, but you won’t see what’s coming. Johnson begins his commentary on love with a general approach and a mildly melancholy mood that works exceptionally well with his comedic style, then, following another musical track, transitions into a personal retelling of his own experiences.

Johnson’s style is highly observational as he delivers punchline after punchline designed to make you think about topics such as education and the healthcare system in America, cementing this album’s status as both a symbol of the times and a meaningful piece of art that both entertains and teaches. The young comedian brings the album to a close with a few perfectly written and executed bits surrounding the current political climate and his point of view on being black in America in today’s society. Track number 31, “Conspiracy Theories,” is a true highlight of this album as it brings attention to pressing issues with a sharp and unique brand of humor that can’t be ignored.

Elusive is one of the must-listen albums of 2021, and we promise you won’t regret it. The jokes will make your morning commute much more bearable, and some of the music tracks might just find their way onto your regular playlists.

Elusive was released in June 2021.