Showing posts with label hopsin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hopsin. Show all posts

Monday, July 27, 2015

video review: 'pound syndrome' by hopsin

Oh, I can't imagine this'll go over well...

Okay, next up is Billboard BREAKDOWN, but I could have a big announcement coming up. Stay tuned!

album review: 'pound syndrome' by hopsin

You're not going to find many underground rappers as controversial these days as Hopsin - and not for the reasons you might think.

See, I remember reviewing Knock Madness nearly two years ago and liking it, but upon repeated relistens, outside of a few tracks it's not exactly a record that's held up all that well. As much as I like Hopsin's flow and bars and his penchant for descriptive imagery and his desire to hit more serious subject matter, his material has its fair share of problems. For one, he's a better rapper than producer, and while he rides his beats well, they don't nearly have the texture to really hold up if there isn't more melody. But the larger issue comes in the dichotomy of his content and persona - like his main influence Eminem he uses the alternate Hopsin persona when he wants to get visceral or violent and the 'Marcus' persona when he wants to get more serious. The problem is that the line can blur and not only can it make some of his conscious material feel preachy, but it can also feel pretty hypocritical, especially when he talks about women. At its best - sort of like his singing and his hooks - it's corny and I can tolerate a fair amount of it, but at its worst it's more than a little insufferable, especially considering Knock Madness was nearly full throttle all the time and could have used some room to slow down and breathe.

And I'm not sure exactly when it was, but the critical conversation about Hopsin polarized in a big way with this shift in his subject matter, especially considering how much he was dicking with his fanbase, saying he was going to retire to Australia and then pull a Dumb And Dumber To joke to unretire and drop another album he produced himself. And look, I was going to cover this album: for the most part I like Hopsin, and you can't deny he can spit and even if Pound Syndrome sucked, it would at least be interesting, right?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

video review: 'knock madness' by hopsin

Okay, that takes care of November album releases, and it ends on a good note. Time to catch up on as much material as I can before early December, wish me luck!

album review: 'knock madness' by hopsin

Before we start, I want to take care of a brief piece of old business from one of my most viewed - and most openly reviled - reviews, when I covered Cage's album Kill The Architect. Since that review, I've relistened to that album several times, trying to see what others clearly found so inspirational and powerful that they felt content to hurl all manner of abuse at me, and I'd like to make a small correction to that review, as I feel I didn't quite represent myself as well as I could have. In that review, I drew several comparisons to Eminem's Encore (which with its reflective themes, depressing tone, and bleak ambiance, to say nothing of the awful singing, felt more than appropriate) and I made the comment that Cage had lost his ability to shock me in his raps. Some took umbrage to that by stating that Cage wasn't trying to do that on this album, instead opting for an introspective focus and message (even though there were enough sinister elements that could easily be construed as threatening...). 

And here's where I feel I have to make a clarification: my issue with Kill The Architect was never the change in subject matter or tone, moving towards what some would argue more 'mature' subject matter. My issue was that it didn't resonate with me as compelling, half because Cage's delivery was more low-key and lacking in energy than ever, and half because the insights he was providing into his current state of affairs felt strangely muted and distant. It was an awkward fit for the guy, and while some might empathize with his inner turmoil (and hell, there were points where I did), it felt like steps taken in a downward spiral without the slightest desire to climb back up. And as I've said time and time again, nihilistic artwork can get boring or absolutely intolerable if there's no deeper context or nuance. In contrast, Nine Inch Nails and The National both made dark, somewhat depressing albums this year, but they tempered their depression with rich context and compelling instrumentation and coherent focus, none of which I felt Cage brought to the table.

But this prompted an interesting question: most critics tend to be harsher on acts that shift their artistic direction and subject matter from their established formulas. Hell, I'd argue I'm even somewhat guilty of this, so why do we do it? Well, part of it is obviously linked to comfort with the familiar, but I think a greater portion is that when artists decide to shift direction, critics have an automatic expectation that the artist is knowledgeable enough about the genre that they can execute the shift and still maintain their artistic strengths (which can be unfair). And to be fair, not a lot of artists can pull that off. 

So instead, let's talk about an artist who seemed to be on the right track: Hopsin. A reasonably new arrival to the scene, he's an L.A. rapper who drew a lot of his inspiration and flow from Eminem for his first releases, which had trace elements of horrorcore fused with straightforward, hard-hitting hip-hop. But in 2012, he released Ill Mind of Hopsin 5, a charged track targeting trends in youth today with vitriol and biting insight. It was a phenomenal change of pace and it showed that Hopsin had potential for societal commentary beyond his previous work. But then he released Ill Mind of Hopsin 6: Old Friend (later retitled as 'Old Friend') earlier this year, and I didn't like it quite as much. Sure, it felt genuine and emotionally grounded, but the sharp anti-drug screed felt less like it was appealing to my mind and more trying to tug on my heartstrings (particularly with Hopsin's delivery), and I felt it was a step down artistically from the previous track. It shows one of the occasional weaknesses of message-driven music: jettisoning the nuance in favour of broader emotional messaging that might prove more accessible to a wider audience, but doesn't quite contain the same punch or impact (at least for me). 

And thus, I wasn't quite sure what to expect with his most recent album Knock Madness. Recorded over a period of two years, how was Hopsin going to reflect his dramatic shifts in direction over his recording period?