Hopsin delivers an undoubtedly solid project with "Knock Madness".
To say Hopsin's third album is long overdue is like saying FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina was slightly delayed. It's been three years since he dropped his critically acclaimed sophomore album Raw. Since then, he's toured the country extensively and landed a spot on XXL's 2013 Freshman list. But unlike his fellow alumni French Montana, Macklemore, Kid Ink and Machine Gun Kelly, Hop didn't capitalize on the buzz immediately. Instead, he took his time both in the booth and behind the boards, and a year later, we have Knock Madness, which showcases the versatility of his cadence, tone and infliction while covering a variety of topics.
Wasting no time, Hop unleashes three songs that set the tone for the rest of the album and give us a glimpse into his ill mind. On "The Friends Are Knocking", the Cali emcee addresses all the flak he's received from fans for taking so long between albums. Diving right into "Hop Is Back", he wastes no time reverting back to his old habit of taking shots at other notable rappers. Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar receive the brunt of the blows:
"I was ecstatic to buy Yeezus / But I burned it first/ Heard it and snapped in five pieces / Man, Kanye on that bullshit! / That's why the paparazzi made that nigga hit his fuckin' head / That's what that fool get / You think you God now you half assign rap little faggot bitch / Perhaps you suffered brain damage back when you had that accident? / But most importantly, hip-hop isn't dead no more you see / 'Cause Kendrick took the bar and raised it up higher for MCs / Unfortunately, the little nigga's like 4'3" / The guy's a fuckin' midget / His high is still short to me".
The braggadocio continues as Hop's Funk Volume labelmates Dizzy Wright and Jarren Benton trade jabs on "Who’s There?", a standout cut that finds them daring any rapper to step up lyrically. "Gimme That Money," which comes later, finds Hop poking fun at all of those coming out the woodwork to hit him up for cash. It's evident Hopsin has something to prove here, although he does focus on style and substance as well. Teaming up with Tech N9ne on "Rip Your Heart Out," he hops over the bar, delivering multisyllablic, staccato rhymes and keeping up with the veteran quick spitter.
Before it's release, Hopsin continuously stated that this project would have a more positive vibe than his previous work, and for the most part it does, with the exception of his Eminem-inspired bashing of a particular member of the opposite sex on "Good Guys Gone Bad." Hop's quite comfortable revealing his vulnerabilities and opening old wounds, and it's clear the pain is still there. "Dream Forever", which comes later in the album, finds him fantasizing about the perfect woman he sees when he closes his eyes, claiming he'd prefer to stay asleep just to be with her.
"Old Friend" (aka "Ill Mind Of Hopsin 6") finds him calming down and reaching out to a friend caught up in a battle with drug addiction, which is one of the project's realer moments.
Hopsin truly shines when he's at his most introspective and honest. On "I Need Help", he addresses his own shortcomings, reflecting on the toll of having to be both the man (Marcus) and the emcee (Hopsin). "What's My Purpose" is perhaps the strongest track on the album, and is similar to Raw's "Nocturnal Rainbow". Hop has never been one to shy away from tackling serious subjects, and here he ponders his life in depth:
"My soul is mine, y’all ain't gonna bargain off it / 'Cause if you do, that means the darkness profits / The sky is where I got my heart adopted / Man, if we all just took the time to think I swear it won't be hard to stop this / But y'all assume that I'm just startin' nonsense / But I promise y'all the fuckin' world is gonna remember Marcus Hopson / There's consequences for enlightenment / But if I have to hide the truth to live, then I'mma die just like my idols did".
The album falters slightly with "Still Got Love For You", which calls to mind 80s pop ballads, but kudos to Hop for stepping out of his comfort zone. Also, his singing leaves something to be desired at times. "What's My Purpose", "Good Guys Get Left Behind", "Old Friend" and "Who's There?" are bought down by jingle-like hooks that detract from the overall tone the album. It does work on "Gimme That Money" and "The Friends Are Knocking", though.
Diehard Hopsin fans will no doubt be pleased with Knock Madness. Not only did he have complete control of the album, he produced it all himself ("I Need Help" was co-produced by DJ Hoppa), and without major label restrictions, he was able to do as he pleased. Other than a few minor hiccups, the skateboarding emcee has delivered a total package, and although he made a name for himself verbally bashing other rappers, he's definitely displayed growth as an artist here. Despite an acute Zen deficiency, Knock Madness is an engaging self-examination of an ill mind.
(Read all the words to the album via GotBars.)