Jawnino is prone to the type of errant observations that stumble across your mind when the drugs and drinks are hitting especially hard, glitchy epiphanies spurred by Red Stripe and ketamine. His raps drape languidly over jungle and grime grooves; no matter the BPM, his bars rarely move faster than a jog, refusing to break a sweat. Across his debut album 40, the south London grime rapper comes off calm, cool, and collected—you just wish he’d loosen up a little.

Jawnino isn’t too straight-laced for ecstasy or situationships, but he’s no blissfully unaware club rat: hedonistic inclinations aside, his eye for detail can’t ignore the “needles on the pavement” littering a drunk walk home. This gritty realism is paired with a wonky sort of transcendentalism, the kind of simple metaphysics that would lead someone to earnestly deploy a koan like, “If time exists, then it heals.” This is less annoying on record thanks to his ear for instrumentals, which ensconces Jawnino in warping breakbeats and incorporeal synths.

These digital backdrops suitably accentuate the placid bounce of Jawnino’s flows, like when he murmurs, “Never went to art school/likkle in me artsy” on “Scr33nTim3” or when he scoffs, “who d’you think brought all the girls outside?” on opener “2trains.” Although his bars can be bland, 40 remains broadly compelling whether stalking through icy nights or throwing its hands up in packed-out nightclubs. Woesum-produced “40wave” buzzes like a brood of cicadas; the wubby jungle of “Lost My Brain” papers over mundane one-liners like, “I need me a leather jacket, I told Renzo I want it in brown.”

Jawnino’s stoic vocals rarely betray any serious feeling, leaving emotional regulation up to the producers behind the boards. That can be a problem on slinkier tunes like “Dance2,” where Jawnino adds little to the song’s groove, or on more grandiose tracks like “Wind,” where his smoldering verses are doused by a heavy-handed chorus. Or take the rushing strings of album peak “Westfield.” Jawnino sounds pretty good until fellow Gen Z grime MC Kibo comes barrelling in: “The game is bossman’s fridge/The coldest ones will stay at the back.” Being shown up by your guests can be a mark of respect, but as with the MIKE feature “Short Stories,” Jawnino’s inability to stand tall beside his peers only emphasizes the room he has to grow as a lyricist.

A trio of remixes at the record’s close help to tease out latent emotional threads by treating Jawnino as just another musical element to be pitch-shifted and skewed. Evilgiane preserves the squeaky nightcore hook of 2022’s “3styl3” but swaps the spare shuffle of the original for wrecking ball 808s; Airhead ditches the woozy melodies of “Can’t Be” in favor of eerily pinging synthesizers. “sentfromheaven” ranks among 40’s better solo outings thanks to Jawnino sedately detailing a faded tryst, but a remix by Night Slugs co-founder Bok Bok pushes the track into far headier terrain; the effect is akin to seeing the same painting with and without glasses.

On his 2019 breakthrough single “It’s Cold Out,” Jawnino turned his steely eye toward the grinding economics squeezing Britain’s working class ever tighter. Here, that same song is appended with an agile new verse that crushes romantic fallout up against the thrill of dating around. Still, even with money coming in, he can’t escape the rat race: “Jawns is hot property like when you got a yard in Shoreditch with no mortgage.” Everything’s paid off—who needs to go hard?