Spokane's own Jang the Goon finally feels fully himself on Goon Shii: Vol. 1

click to enlarge Spokane's own Jang the Goon finally feels fully himself on Goon Shii: Vol. 1
Kay Gonzalez photo
Take a ride with Jang the Goon.

There's a term NFL coaches and scouts use to describe a compact running back with violent running style — "a bowling ball of butcher knives." And while that's a fun way to describe a Marshawn Lynch-type force on the gridiron, that evocative phrase seems to apply even better to the punk rap stylings of Spokane MC Jang the Goon.

A fixture in the local hip-hop scene since dropping his first album Alone by Choice in 2017, the football descriptor is more than apt if you've ever caught Jang the Goon live. He doesn't simply rhythmically recite rhymes when he takes a stage, he goes wild with the violent ferocity of an unchained kaiju. Jang's not trying to get an audience to sync with his groove, he's lyrically tossing Molotov cocktails and trying to get a musical riot going. With hints of rappers ranging from Tyler, the Creator to DMX but with a distinct punk rock edge, there's a reason Jang the Goon (aka Elijah Kilborn, and formerly known as just Jango) has previously been voted Best Hip-Hop Artist by Inlander readers.

But for Jang, the music on Alone By Choice never felt like it was fully an expression of his true self. That album was inspired by the more melodic hip-hop artists of the region who were around and inspiring him at the time — MCs like Spokane's Lou Era or Seattle's Sam Lachow, Travis Thompson and Dave B.

"The music was kind of like hip-hop pop-ish. But my live performance was so different than that — it was so energetic, it was so me," Jang says. "I'm like yelling I'm like a punk star, but I'm rapping. And then for years, I performed like that, and the music didn't quite match that style."

While Jang's remained active with live shows over the years, it'd been seven years since he put out a new collection of music. Until now. Jang just dropped his new EP mixtape Goon Shii Vol. 1, a collection that shows off his talents and the punk rap sound he wants to call his own. And on June 8, Jang the Goon heads to the Chameleon to unveil the full live fury of Goon Shii Vol. 1.

Even sitting down talking to Jang in a tea shop, his charismatic kinetic energy fills the room as he injects guttural sounds and growling while getting hyped up talking about Goon Shii Vol. 1.

While his grandad would throw on Jay-Z albums, Jang's musical style is better explained by his childhood best friend introducing him to Linkin Park. He still cites the Linkin Park remix album Reanimation as his "favorite music ever," saying "I went back to listening to that, and then tried to redevelop that style and sound. I want to take that epicness, and put it into my music."

To help him achieve his sonic goals, he turned to his DJ/engineer/mixer Josh Lorenzen (also owner of the Chameleon) to find that more aggressive sound suiting his live persona. While the project had been in the works over a year ago, after Jang wrote the track "Head Honcho," he realized that he'd discovered the sound he wanted and remade everything centered around that feel.

Goon Shii Vol. 1 serves as Jang the Goon's streamlined reintroduction to the musical world. It's an unrelenting blast of raw confidence.

"'Head Honcho' is my baby. 'Goon Shii' is my favorite song. 'Roof on Fire' is my ego. 'What's the Muv' is my swag, it's my steez. 'Goons in the Forest' has my brother TOPP on it, so that's my handshake, that's my nod to somebody," Jang says with frenzied enthusiasm.

"I don't necessarily consider myself a rapper, I consider myself more of like a Black rock star," he continues. "I consider my music more like alternative hip-hop with an essence of punk, you dig? So it was important to me that that was represented all throughout the project. I wanted rock bands to be able to listen to this project and like it. I wanted to be able to touch a demographic that I feel like hip-hop in this city never touches."

Beyond homing in on a signature sound, Jang had some major personal events — both joyous and heartbreaking — occur along the path to Goon Shii Vol. 1. When he swings by for our interview, he's accompanied by his partner and their daughter who's just turned 1. She's a smiley little ball of energy just like her pops, and she arrived just after a life event on the opposite end of the spectrum for the rapper.

"It's such an insane time in my life. Right before I had my child, my father passed in October 2022," Jang shares. "But the cool thing was, I found out my partner was pregnant beforehand. And so I was able to tell my dad. He was living in Texas at the time, but we were able to talk on FaceTime and pray about it and talk about it. I was able to get advice from him and his thoughts on having children."

Jang pauses after he says this, caught up in a genuine wave of emotion before continuing.

"I'm proud to be her dad. And I think that's another reason why this music means so much to me, because I feel like I'm standing on my own two feet more than ever. I'm just taking care of my business," he says, a bit choked up. "I feel like now for the first time, I'm truthfully stepping into my first part of manhood."

Part of his growth plan involves AFFILI8D, the Spokane-based hip-hop collective started by fellow rapper IAMTOPP. The collective's goal is to unite area artists to create a thriving ecosystem where shared production, video creation, live shows and more can create a unified aesthetic that will lead to growing and merging fanbases, hopefully lifting the scene as a whole and breaking the proverbial glass ceiling of Spokane acts getting recognition beyond the region.

"TOPP is from Tri-Cities. So the 509 being the whole eastern side of Washington — all of us are looked over," says Jang, who joined AFFILI8D in 2023. "Like, when people think of Washington, they just think Seattle. This whole half side of Washington, people don't look at."

With Jang the Goon, IAMTOPP, Bapeface, Zaeshaun Haze, NorthWestKid, TheBoyBeerus and videographer/photographer Kay Gonzalez, AFFILI8D hopes the shared creative energy and healthy internal competition among members can lead to a grunge-like boom on the hip-hop side of things.

In March the collective dropped its first mixtape, the four-song EP 88 Days In, and there's plenty more music on the horizon. Jang says he's already about 70% done with Goon Shii Vol. 2, has also completed 80% of an alternative R&B record called When Goons Cry, and is planning to put out a duo project with TOPP.

Perhaps the essence of Jang and Goon Shii Vol. 1 can be best encapsulated by his favorite bar on the album from "Head Honcho": "Back on my bullshit / Independent — I ain't looking for validation, n----s thought I would lose it. I ain't worried, I've been stalking on ammunition."

"I think that line was cool, because it was my truth and my reality at its purest form," he says. "They thought I would really lose my touch, my grasp on reality with losing my father and with having a child. Like I went quiet for six months when my father passed, but I buried myself into the music, I buried myself in my truths, I buried myself around loved ones. That bar really represents a mind over matter thing. Now I have a reason why, more than ever. I feel like I have something to prove — not to folks — but to myself."

The Goon Shii Vol. 1 release show at The Chameleon will be the latest step on that process of proving it. Jang the Goon isn't a kid anymore, and all he's really hoping for from the concert is for the local community to show out and lift him up... literally.

"I want enough people there to surf the crowd. I know that's silly, but to me, I want to be able to be suspended while listening to my music from my project playing and everybody raging. I want to look at them and experience that. To me, I feel like that'd be the most blissful and rewarding thing after putting so much time into this project," Jang says. "I hope people can feel my passion, my energy and my truths at that show. I hope they feel it in its rawest form." ♦

Jang the Goon: Goon Shii Vol. 1 Mixtape Release Show with IAMTOPP, Young Neves • Sat, June 8 at 8 pm • $15-$30 • 21+ • The Chameleon • 1801 W. Sunset Blvd. • chameleonspokane.com

Beyond Wonderland @ Gorge Amphitheater

Sat., June 22, 3 p.m. and Sun., June 23, 3 p.m.
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Seth Sommerfeld

Seth Sommerfeld is the Music Editor for The Inlander, and an alumnus of Gonzaga University and Syracuse University. He has written for The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Fox Sports, SPIN, Collider, and many other outlets. He also hosts the podcast, Everyone is Wrong...