West Coast underground mainstay Hopsin has unleashed his latest studio album, Knock Madness.
The artist's fourth full-length in total, the project follows 2010's Raw LP. Included among its 18 original tracks are DJBooth-approved singles "Hop Is Back" and "Rip Your Heart Out." Dizzy Wright, Jarren Benton, SwizZz and Tech N9ne make guest appearances throughout the set, which is produced in its entirety by Hopsin himself.
Knock Madness is now available for free stream and direct purchase via The DJBooth. Those purchasing will receive high quality audio files (320 kbps MP3s).
Knock Madness Album Review
Throughout the album, Hopsin takes time to verbally assault his enemies, though they usually remain unnamed. References to murder, blood spillage, sexual assault, bodily functions, corpses, and more abound, and the dark beats generally reflect the dark subject matter. Hopsin became somewhat internet notorious in 2010 after releasing Sag My Pants, which mocked popular rappers such as Lil’ Wayne, Drake and Rick Ross, among others. Knock Madness’ Hop is Back continues his one-man diatribe against the rappers he perceives to be dropping the ball for the current state of hip hop music. “I was estatic to buy Yeezus, but I burned it first, heard it and snapped in five pieces,” Hopsin spits, evidentially not a fan of Kanye’s recent album. Kendrick Lamar gets both praise for raising the “bar” of hip-hop higher for MC’s, and also an attack, “Unfortunately the little ni**a’s like four foot three, the guy's a fuckin’ midget, his high is still pretty short to me.”
Hopsin is clearly in a darker place than on music released in the past. His frequent laments against his newfound fame and the problems that came with it are strewn throughout the album. He “can’t make friend’s, ‘cause all they ever do is ask for my money,” he explains on Gimmee That Money, and “I’m so mad I could start a war” or “I don’t even like rap, all I ever wanted was to be cool” from I Need Help showcase his tendency to wallow in misery on much of the album.
It’s interesting to hear so much talk about fame and money from someone who is an underground rapper and is unknown by most of the general public. One has to wonder if some of this dialogue will cause something of a self-fulfilling prophecy to occur, that if he continues to talk about how famous he is eventually he actually will be famous. Rappers have been known to make ludicrous claims and boasts about wealth, fancy cars, drugs, and clothing for years before they actually ever achieve the kind of success that would allow them to live in such a manner. The fantasy is perpetuated over and over and over again until the myth becomes an actual reality. Hopsin is not making claims about making extravagant watch purchases or driving Bugatti’s into the sunset, he simply states that he is making money now. The sentiment is almost an afterthought to him. He is more concerned with “new friends” asking him for favors or money and the other disadvantages of fame. “Imma give you ni**as one more album and after that it’s peace out, then I’m leaving you guys,” Hopsin remarks halfway through Knock Madness, as if his fame is too much to bear.
Another aspect of the fame is its effect on Hopsin’s relationships. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well. Tears To Snow looks at Hopsin’s girlfriend who is having trouble handling the attention Hopsin now receives. “I can’t explain the pain my heart is in, yeah I got money but reality isn’t sunny, it’s dark and grim,” Hopsin remarks before eventually deciding to leave the girl and her jealous accusations. Later in the album on Still Got Love For You he knows she, “isn’t good for me,” but he, “still has love for (her).” The girl had a baby with another man, but he still can’t get over her. Even the hypnotically romantic Dream Forever, containing a stream of nice lines and metaphors such as “engraved in my veins is your name, this ain’t gonna change unless my heart is deflated and drained,” becomes slightly unbalanced by the end as Hopsin informs us his dream girl exists only in his, well, dreams. After expressing his love, he eventually shoots himself, simulated gunshot and all, so that he won’t ever have to wake up and be without her. Creepy, sure, but oddly touching.
Hopsin handles all of the production duties himself, and while most beats are perfectly satisfactory, over the course of eighteen songs the album is in constant danger of blending together into one overly long depressive, angry verbal assault. Sometimes, he does make some welcome stylistic changes. For instance, the rolling thick bass drum that drives Nollie Tre Flip pairs brilliantly with the lyrics about skateboarding and offers a nice departure from Hopsin’s depression. Likewise, the almost disco-esque beat of Gimmie That Money may not be for everyone, but it’s nice to hear Hopsin maneuver around something that sounds a little different. Jungle Bash has a tribal, dangerous beat that leads into a call and response chorus.
This is an independent production that is almost exclusively a showcase for Hopsin’s talents as a rapper and producer. Independent music hero Tech N9ne reports for a typically excellent verse, and Funk Volume’s Jarren Benton, Dizzy Wright, and SwizZz contribute a verse each. Hopsin affiliate’s Passionate MC and G-Mo Skee offer their bars to the playful Lunchtime Cypher.
There are multiple references on the album to leaving the music world behind and heading to Gold Coast, Australia. Hopsin doesn’t divulge what is in Australia that he finds appealing, but after listening to the album, it might not be a bad idea for him to escape from the stress of American hip-hop life for a while. The album is a dark, often violent creative response to the pressure now resting on Hopsin’s shoulders. His technical passionate wordplays offer constant comparisons to Eminem, and, likewise, he sometimes weighs himself (and the audience) down with layers upon layers of negativity. Knock Madness works best when Hopsin is either angrily fighting or humorously poking fun at some sort of ludicrosity. Tongue-in-cheek responses like “I’m the only child my mom regrets” or “I’m so hungry I could stick my fist in a blender and eat it after” offer glimpses of what a slightly less depressed (but still unhinged) Hopsin could provide. Unfortunately, the majority of the album focuses on the darkness, or madness, currently occupying Hopsin’s mind.
(By Dominick Grillo of grilledlife.com)
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins