Undercover Prodigy / 300 Entertainment
Undercover Prodigy / 300 Entertainment

For many artists, making the transition from young, abrasive, goofy name-dropper to a fully appreciated virtuoso doesn't happen overnight. Hopsin splashed onto the genre’s radar in 2012, when he dropped the intentionally unsettling sing-a-long “Sag My Pants.” His coarse messaging and aggressive demeanor were combined with high caliber rap abilities, making him an unusual yet intriguing figure in the culture. After getting a 2013 XXL Freshman cover spot, Hopsin continued on his path to piss off the mainstream while maintaining his own robust artistic identity.

Fast forward to 2017, and Hopsin has both matured personally and mastered the difficult art of making edgy rap music. He attempts to continue his fringe content while bringing out a more distinguished approach on his fifth studio album, No Shame. Although this serves as a real transition project for Hopsin, he still manages to rap with assured stability, exemplified on the opening track.

“Hotel in Sydney” is a chilling intro that finds Hopsin rapping with surgical precision about being banned from Australia. In the same back-and-forth narrative JAY-Z uses on “99 Problems” or Eminem uses on “Stan,” Hopsin details a six-minute story filled with shocking honesty and even better lyrical ability. The track ends with Hopsin pondering “She's just the innocent White girl/And I'm the Black guy who always gets mad, true!/I know y'all about to make it hard for me to get back into Australia/Man, this shit is fuckin' sad, dude/I still don't know if this baby is mine or not/So when he's born, who's gonna be the fuckin' dad? You?” A less than optimistic ending that sadly, yet honorably sets the tone for the entire album.

Hopsin’s issue has never been honesty—crude or otherwise—and this album is no exception. In fact, No Shame plays through almost as a deranged confessional told by a zany character with very real-life problems. Songs like “Right Here,” “I Wouldn’t Do That” and “Black Sheep” detail his woes coming up in the rap game and isolation he feels hindered by, which appears to be self-inflicted. On “Twisted,” the album’s best display of lyrical acrobatics, Hopsin openly admits to his standoffish attitude towards his peers, contemporaries and pretty much anyone he doesn’t mess with.

Amidst the punchy two-bar haymakers spewed all over the entire four minutes including “I only came here to do damage/Not 21, I'm just too savage,” “Damn, Hop, why you seem so spiteful?/Steppin' on niggas like fee-fo-fi-fum” and “I'm in my prime, but I ain't no Optimus,” Hopsin declares, “I'm not here for peace, I'm not here for love/Bitch, I want the opposite” and ultimately “Fuck being positive!” Plus, he very clearly takes aim at today’s mumble rappers with “No Words 2.” All of which makes the “poor me” storyline less striking.

There a small handful of instances where Hopsin turns his frown upside down, one of which is the explicit story he tells about getting a sexual massage from an Asian masseuse, which borders dangerously on being a little corny but as Hopsin tells it “there is no shame in his game.” The other instance is on “Marcus’ Gospel,” the album’s most refreshingly optimistic song by far. With one of only three features on the album, Michael Speaks helps Hopsin channel his spiritual side and have an open dialogue with God. He admits to wanting happiness and peace, claiming, “Maybe figure out what my new purpose is” but eventually landing on “All these bad vibes are so discouraging,” which is the perfect way to sum up the polarizing ends of emotion showcased on this album.

At the end of the day, Hopsin needs to be championed for his efforts on No Shame for two major reasons. First off, with the exception of “Black Sheep,” produced by Harry Fraud, the entire 17-song tracklist was produced by him alone. The beats are intricate, gripping at times and perfectly tailored to his coarse delivery. Second, and most importantly is his honesty. There aren’t many rappers in the game today that would be willing to share as much in specific detail about every aspect of their lives quite like Hopsin. Although his strides towards a more mature sound are slow, they are increasingly true and should be respected.

See New Music Releases for December 2017

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