Parody isn’t easy. So when Hopsin decided to throw a few non-bars at the Rap industry in his hilariously well-timed video for, “No Words,” he set the office ablaze with laughter. Two things stand out about the sole skit off Pound Syndrome. The first is the beat is actually pretty damn on point. Secondly, this is fun, and fun doesn’t necessarily come easily to Hopsin. His previous offering was “Fort Collins” featuring Dizzy Wright, and it was the kind of weighty affair you’ve come to expect from Hop. Filled to the brim with the inner fireworks of a man torn between salvation and ego. On that track he nearly screams, “I Half-assed my album because I didn’t really know what I was rapping for.” Ugh. That kind of self-immolation on a track is so rare these days it comes off as almost frightening. But it seems he’s found what he’s rapping for, and that is to poke fun at all the popular stuff that’s irking him at the time.
There’s a lot that bothers him. He’s dissed Tyler, The Creator on the “Ill Mind of Hopsin 4,” stating that Goblin sucked so much he got blowjobs from it. As my co-conspirator Ural Garrett says, Hopsin can come off as the Daria of the rap game. Nothing is good enough for him. Not even his own mind. And so it can become weary to be that weary. Acute self-awareness is one hell-of-a-drug. But he’s discovered something here that eludes most people until something indisputable happens: sometimes tearing something apart as brilliantly as he did on “No Words” can connect your own struggles to those of the wider culture. That’s where, ahem, forgive me for being cliche´, the magic happens.
He still comes off incredibly strong. These aren’t light jabs he’s throwing despite the fact that at some point in the song he literally mumbles “hakuna matata.” In the beginning, six styrofoam cups stacked together, tattoos glowing in the glittery light of music video land, he growls that “we’ve got some real mentally retarded rappers in the game.” And even though he’s highlighting the melodic squawks of the likes of Young Thug or the savage grumbles of someone like Future, he’s also calling out the audience, journalists and critics as well. We all have to take some kind of culpability for the state of things. And, I do. I’ve listened to “March Madness” like 100 times since Monday. But that doesn’t mean everything needs to sound like that, and it’s that kind of copycat stuff happening in the game that bothers him and, secretly, I would think a lot of writers in these hunger games, as well.
So who’s to blame? It’s complex. He shows how, just by adding auto-tune and some reverb, you can suddenly become the drugged-out, savage archetype parading around with girls, guns and money that you’ve always wanted to be. But reinvention has always been a part of Hip Hop. It’s aspirational, always. And maybe what we’ve collectively decided to aspire to is questionable, if you go by what’s on your Twitter feed, but there are all kinds of rap out there to quench your thirst for the geeky or the brainy or the just plain weird. So what makes the track brilliant is that it forces a mirror up to ourselves. I mean, no one would be making this music if we all didn’t like it, right?
What’s probably the greatest result of the song, though, is that it brings the spotlight back to Hopsin’s real music. His “Ill Mind of Hopsin” series is incredible if not dramatic and overly serious. Pound Syndrome was a measured rap journey from sophomore to grown man living an examined life. Often, his work is surly and borderline inspirational, but “No Words” is a satire of the best kind. We’ll see what happens, though, when he inevitably points the mic at himself.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.