New Jersey rapper, multi-instrumentalist, and hip-hop titan Don Michael Jr’s new album, The Wolves Smell Joy, is a project that thrives due to its realness. From start to finish on this, Don Michael does not spare a single moment on this record from the vivid depiction of his reality. Making a record so honest brings multiple elements into play. Don looks at both the highs and lows he has faced in his life and infuses these forces together to create such a relatable record.
The second track of the project, “Wolf Grey,” sets the tone for what to expect as Don unravels some of the darkest moments of his life right in front of our eyes. From his aspirations as a father to the pain of loss, Don does not hold anything back, and this creates a powerful beat drop which is made even more of a spectacle due to the soul sample that echoes through the track. Songs like “Estupido” continue to build up Don’s character as he fills in many of the blanks that we don’t yet know about his life. The album themes are really embodied here as he talks about the joys and skills he has but only in response to doubters who question his greatness.
In terms of the album’s pacing, “Etc.” feels misplaced due to its overly lighthearted focus. Fortunately, “Peachy” makes up for this as Don Michael Jr gives us a fiery banger containing subtle flexes. The way the Jersey mc bounces over the piano riffed loop puts listeners in a trance and will have you remembering this moment long after listening. While being fairly light in its tone, “Whatever” feels like a much more fitting inclusion in the tracklist due to the entertaining banter between Don Michal and featured guest Miss Meme.
Going back to the more introspective side of the project, “This is Everything I Thought it Was” is one of the most heartfelt tracks on the entire album. Don Michael Jr shows just how deep he can dig in this moment as he looks at where he has reached in life as he appreciates his reality but acknowledges the struggle it took to get to this point. This flows perfectly into the song “3 Deep,” which shows Don’s melodic. As Don flexes his success, we see the payoff of the last track’s ideas in this fun and fast-paced musical setting. “GoDaddyDotCom” continues this same line of thoughts as Don continues to flex his success, and he looks down at all the competition he has elevated past over the years.
Quickly bringing Don back to reality, “Dangerous Games” is a song filled with honesty and reflection. Don talks about how lonely it can be trying to find success but how the payoff of hard work is worth all the struggles it may bring. As Don talks about his hard work, he also talks about the desire he had to work with Nipsey Hussle, which allows him to go into a thoughtful reflection about the danger of being a rapper. All in all, this track is relatable and powerful, and this feels like the emotional climax of Don Michael Jr’s career so far. Closing the album out, “Upside Down” ties the entire project together. He looks at everything in his life one more time, understanding how one will be challenged at their best moments. Hearing Don spew out knowledge about the journey of life we are all on and how he keeps his head on despite all of the obstacles he has faced is quite inspiring and something that anybody listening can gain insight and support from. Overall The Wolves Smell Joy is a powerful record that solidifies Don Michael Jrs talent as an mc.