It’s no secret that I’ve been recruiting new WOHMers. A breadth of opinions and views is key to keeping the attention of our fanbase, and newcomer Patrick griffin brings us just that. A young Hip-Hop aficianado from PDX with a slick pen game, I’m very pleased to introduce Patrick through his in-depth review of Tope’s breakthrough album “Broke Boy Syndrome“. ~ Mac Smiff (Editor-In-Chief)
Tope has been a city pillar for years now, from his previous solo releases (including the still-rockin’ “Soul Music”), his collaborations with other local legend Epp, to his controversial appearances in the all-city Rigsketball Basketball Tournament (the cat can ball). On the newly released “Broke Boy Syndrome,” Tope sounds as if he aspires for more mainstream recognition, perhaps now that the hip-hop world is slightly more accepting of white rappers from the Northwest (especially ones who tour their asses off).
This is not to say that Tope has left behind his style or his city; in fact, “Broke Boy Syndrome” sounds very much at home in Portland’s hip-hop scene, which for years has been identified as a melting pot of golden-era sample-based slaps mixed with drunken Bay-Area-style party bangers. For the former, “Broke Boy Syndrome” does not disappoint. Cuts like “Oh Shit,” “Please Believe” and the filthy “Red Light” will keep the hip-hop heads satisfied with classic breaks and soulful samples. However, the lone club-ish track “Almighty” is also the album’s only misstep. It’s no coincidence that the only song that doesn’t feature Tope rapping is the weak link in the chain.
Regardless, even if he doesn’t write the greatest dance tracks, Tope shows on “Broke Boy Syndrome” that he could definitely ghost-write some hits for your favorite rapper. “Rocky” (featuring Dizz, who is slowly becoming PDX’s BJ The Chicago Kid: hangs with rappers, can actually sing, is unafraid to talk that shit) belongs on rap radio right now, and would be a huge hit for a mainstream rapper like Big Sean. “UCOULDO” is in the same vein as Nas’ “I Can” or Kendrick’s “i,” only without the false high-mindedness or wack rhymes.
But what really makes this album bigger than just “the next Tope record” is that Tope delivers a cohesive message without beating you over the head with the details. The term “concept album” gets thrown around a lot these days in hip-hop, and it is a sign of Tope’s talent that he can make an entire record about being broke without sounding depressing, preachy, boring or melodramatic.
Tope doesn’t have the cure for BBS, and perhaps isn’t looking for one; it is more important to let us know that, even with all his shine, he still feels the struggle. By the time the album reaches the magnificent last three tracks (especially the ASAP Mob-sounding “Wild One”), Tope has established what may be the perfect encapsulation of what it means to live and survive in an ever-changing (and gentrifying) city, country or world. Get on the Tope bandwagon before it fills up and he calls the next record “Rich Man Disease.”
Rating: 4 out of 5