A conscious sense of self-importance is key for rappers who are attempting to stamp their place in the scene. In 2013, Kendrick Lamar displayed this on ‘Control’ with a verse that sent shockwaves through hip-hop as he declared, “I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas.” Of course, he had the respect of the entire community and a towering body of work to support his claims…but what happens when a rapper without the esteemed back-catalog attempts to make similar statements? Enter Hopsin, a fellow California artist whose fifth studio-album, Pound Syndrome, has a common thread of attempting to assert supremacy over groupies, struggle rappers, and hip-hop as a whole.
Marcus Hopson, the founder of “Funk Volume” and man behind the Hopsin moniker, has visibly immersed himself in rap throughout his life, from dropping out of high school in favor of creating music to the barrage of mixtapes and albums he’s previously released. This dedication is apparent on cuts such as ‘Forever III’ where he smoothly spits over his self-produced beats with an acute awareness of how to alter his flow at every miniscule shift in the music. His confidence permeates through the speakers, while on other tracks such as ‘Fort Collins,’ he displays a sense of disillusion that can be felt through an interrogative tone that finds him at his best. Complimented by lines such as “Every night I was praying and I would ask the Lord/To please give me strength, so I don’t slam the door,” it’s an authentic (but admittedly heavy-handed) perspective he unfortunately works against throughout the majority of Pound Syndrome.
Retreading from his contemplative work, Hopsin’s inflated ego is all-too-present on bars such as, “I’m forever ill, that’s by law/These commercial niggas keep jockin’, killing’s my only option/Ask about me boy, I get shit popping.” As a rapper whose lyricism has been historically questionable, his lashing out at mainstream artists comes across as utterly unnecessary, especially when expressed in one of the record’s many cringe-worthy hooks that do major harm to his verses. Of course, needless conviction is common territory on Pound Syndrome: on ‘Ramona,’ he can be found employing a knock-off Nicki Minaj vocal variety to chastise a female follower while ‘Mr. Jones’ looks to attack struggle rappers. Writing lines about realistic interactions can be a blessing or a curse, and in Hopsin’s case, his immature thoughts are better off being tweeted or blogged about rather than laid on wax.
When not exuding a superiority complex toward random individuals, his contemporaries, and music listeners as a whole (seriously, check out the ‘Rap Sucks’ skit if being told your favorite rappers “just got a hard ass fucking beat to trick dumbasses like you to make you think you like this shit” before suffering through an imitation of Future), his music is simply too inconsistent to enjoy. For every bare-all track like ‘Ill Mind of Hopsin 7,’ there are a thousand lines such as “did the man who invented college go to college?” whose faux-intellectual posturing belong on a #staywoke meme, not to mention blatantly immature lyricism abound. It’s a shame that Hopsin overshadows his flashes of creativity with thoughtless nonsense, but ultimately it proves the concept of an artist making baseless declarations will work against them in the end.