2009 is a good year to be named Hope. Thanks to the audacity of Barack Obama a black man is now occupying the White House, and with the economy in worse shape than Snoop’s lungs after a trip to Amsterdam, millions of Americans can only hope better economic times are on the way. Hip-hop is no different. Rappers are hoping album sales pick up (or that their labels finally join the digital era), while fans are hoping rappers realize that just because T-Pain’s successful doesn’t mean they should hop aboard the auto-tune bandwagon too. Yes …
DJBooth Album Review
Hope hails from the chronically unheralded city of Providence, Rhode Island, which isn’t really that surprising considering the state’s about as big as DJ Khaled’s waistline. But from small states come big dreams, and Hope’s determined to make it to the top on his terms. Having already torn up the New England hip-hop scene - and the DJBooth with a dope exclusive freestyle – with his unique brand of microphone mastery, Hope is ready to shine on the national stage with the release of his debut EP, Somekind of Wonderful. With Wonderful, Hope is not only looking to showcase his talents, but is also attempting to bridge the gap between hip-hop’s warring regional and generational factions (exhibit A, Ice-T vs. Soulja Boy). It’s a tall order for an EP, and while Wonderful doesn’t quite live up to its lofty goals, it’s more than enough to leave us all hopeful about hip-hop’s future.
Jon Hope is one of those MCs that may not blow you away with his individual skills, but he does so many things so well he can quietly take over a game. (He’s like the Scottie Pippen of rap). Lyricism, message, delivery, punch lines, he’s got them all. Just take Commencement, an epically-oriented track with a high-energy beat that that Hope rides with skill, dropping lines like “can’t fathom, your pants saggin, you 38, this rhyme with this beat increase the murder rate” without taking a breath. That blend of intelligence and strength is on full display again on The Rap Life, a collaboration with his Bostonian production partner Statik Selektah. On Rap Life, Hope breaks down through the tired conscious rap/hardcore rap dichotomy, rightfully pointing out that wack is wack, no matter what the genre. In fact, the idea that good music, or should I say wonderful music, knows no bounds is the central theme of Somekind, a topic Hope expounds on powerfully on the bravely titled The Most Important Song Of My Life. The message of unity through dopeness is long overdue, and Hope delivers it in more ways than one.
Hope has said he wanted to use Wonderful to display the vast range of his styles, but if anything the album could have been more diverse. While the tracks certainly differ in tone and substance, they all essentially walk the same turntable oriented path blazed by other New England artists like Akrobatik. Better is one of the album’s few songs to use a sung chorus, and while its undercurrents of soft percussion and piano melodies are inspiring, it lacks the extra burst of creativity to elevate it from lifted to uplifting. It’s a similar story on Starbucks, Hope’s lone foray into the world of romance. Starbucks has a refreshingly mellow, almost classic west coast vibe, but while Hope is a more than capable storyteller, he’s got a long way to go before he can truly captivate with tales of love and lust (see Mos Def’s Ms. Fat Booty for how it’s done). Still, as NFL draft experts would say, this kid’s got huge upside potential. Hope makes music that makes you feel good, and in an age of collapse and doomsday scenarios, that’s hope we can all believe in.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 03/5/09
Essence Music Group
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"The Rap Life ft. Statik Selektah" (2008)
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