My discovery of a new hip-hop artist
What makes a popular music artist stand out from the crowd? For some artists it’s their particular sound or a unique voice, for others it could be their presence and connections to their audiences. Having a great personality can contribute to the likeability factor that compels audiences to watch & listen. Lyricism and wordplay could also be valuable attributes of a popular artist. Every decade or so there comes a special talent that is the total package.
That artist is P Dope. The Baltimore, MD native MC has built a connection to his fans that is truly amazing. The way that he uses social media to stay in constant communication with his audience has helped him build a community of invested fans. P Dope (also known by the moniker Dope Boy P ) possesses a captivating personality that can win over any crowd. On top of his undeniable charm, his impressive display of lyricism & mastery of the art of storytelling is present in every song he releases. His music exploits his rise to fame in the treacherous streets of Baltimore. Recently I had the pleasure of listening to his new E.P titled “Icons Never Die” The 6 song project found its way to me through my 19-yr-old nephew who is one of Dope’s hardcore fans, he was excited to share the new music with me and to get my feedback. “Have you heard this yet?” He said to me waving his iPhone. “I’m sending you the link now.” My first reaction was skepticism. I’m always a bit skeptical when someone tells me how good a new artist is, nonetheless I gave it a shot. Here is my honest song-by-song review of P Dope’s “Icons Never Die” E.P
Like all great albums in hip-hop, the cover caught my eye. It features artwork worthy of gallery placement, an original painting from multimedia artist Malcolm Xavier. This was a delightful surprise for me as I have been a lifelong patron of the arts. I noticed that the duration of the entire E.P was only a total of 18 minutes, which I initially thought was rather short.
As I began listening the first song was titled “Icons’ ‘ a play on the theme of the project. Right away the song comes on with aggression and high energy as Dope gives us a glimpse of what is to come. He opens his rapping with “f_ck all the talking let’s get down to business….” His no-nonsense approach & raspy voice commands authority as he lines up punchline after punchline. One that I found remarkable was “ Got in the game against all odds & I left the door open like Bruno Mars…” a crafty way of saying he overcame obstacles on his journey to success while also paving the way for his successors. This was a great choice for the onset of the album.
Following was a song titled “Score”, an addictive New York drill record with a very catchy hook “Run up the score, Run up the score!” Usually, Drill music isn’t my preference. However, this may be an exception to my usual traditional hip-hop palette. The score has the potential to be a song played on prime-time radio. It’s raw, repetitive, and almost hypnotizing as I found myself singing the hook while running errands long after hearing the along for the first time. That is a good thing in the realm of music. I also noticed P Dope’s cadence differed from the previous track which added a bit of variety to my listening experience. The lyrics in this record were demonstrating Dope’s menacing presence. He is a self-proclaimed nightmare to those who oppose his reign. I couldn’t help but think I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.
The third record yet again provided a different feel, with the title “Ease The Pain” immediately I noticed the music of this record is a sample from Lisa Fischer (How Can I Ease The Pain). The nostalgia immediately won me over. I felt like I was being serenaded by the sample as Dope’s nasally tone and contrasting vocals flipped this classic and made it his own. “Blood of my blood flesh of my flesh they gonna judge at your worst hate you at your best,” says P Dope. The chorus of this record didn’t feel like a radio hit, it felt more like a testimony. I began to think about my own experiences that were relevant to the lyrics. Once again very relatable and personable I felt a bit closer to Dope not only as a rapper but as a person. The lyrics in the first verse of this record were impressive. Dope goes on to say “In the hood, you make a choice you working or you robbing…” a harsh reality for many living in poverty. It was very clear to me that this is an artist that speaks directly to his target audience and makes an effort to be relatable by being vulnerable and transparent in his music.
In the second verse, I was blown away by a feature from Rap artist Heemi, a native of Pittsburgh, PA that has earned the respect of his city as well as many fans around the world. He opens up with “Blood money in my eyes, it’s impairing my vision…” a powerful play on words that refers to the distraction of chasing fast profits while staying true to your goals. This is a powerful message displayed in the genius form. Halfway through the album and so far I was enjoying every unique moment, maybe my nephew was right about this guy.
“Reny Talk ” the fourth of six records didn’t disappoint. The kinetic energy of the album continues to flow, this time into more subtle and smooth instrumentation. P Dope once again leads with a different delivery than the previous songs. The feeling I got from this song was financial literacy meets urban culture. Dope’s chorus chants “wealth & abundance every time I talk, moving bundles every time I talk….” the accompanying police sirens and synths create a perfect canvas for storytelling as Dope paints the picture of getting chased by “the jump-out boys”, a term used to refer to undercover police officers in unmarked vehicles that patrol the vicinity of high traffic narcotic distribution areas. The storytelling and switch-ups of the music in this record are well orchestrated. I could picture this song being placed in a binge-worthy Netflix series or maybe even a movie scene. At the close out of this record, a slick-talking feature from Speedy co-signs the efforts of P Dope, reminiscent of early 90’s Diddy talking in the background of Biggie Smalls records. This honestly was my favorite song on the album.
“Best I Can” the fifth of six songs features a sample from the Godfather of soul James Brown! I couldn’t believe I had to start it over before it even got to the 30-second mark. I mean the sampling on this record is amazing. P Dope switched it up a bit by putting the featured artist On the first verse and let me tell you this was a great decision because this verse was phenomenal. New Jersey Native Paradise comes in with the best rap delivery I’ve heard. His braggadocious lyrics “Fresh out the sand, back in go mode (it’s that time man)…” suggest he had just come off vacation and hopped right back in the booth, which explains the relaxed yet confident tone he brought to this song. There was no chorus on this song as they just let the sample ride out in between verses. A clever approach to further allow the braggadocios behavior to continue over the sample-driven record produced by Mazen Ali. The chemistry between these two emcees and the vetted producer led to me running the song back once more before continuing to the final song on the album.
“Smoke to the sky” is The final Installation of the album. I remember thinking to myself wow it’s over already? This last but certainly not least record was unexpected. From the title I thought this would be a 420-friendly record yet this was not the case. P Dope pulled on my heartstrings as he asked one question in the intro of this song “why you had to take my nigga??” I sat back in my seat and prepared for where this song was taking me. Contrary to the title this was vulnerability, guilt, pain, rage, and an unsettling sense of survivor’s remorse from P Dope. He raps about the loss of his brother Doc. From the lyrics I can tell this was someone who he planned to be by his side and share in his success. “We use to have plans to make a million, every day like clockwork trapping in front your building…” raps P Dope. I held back tears listening to this record and thought about the family and friends I’ve lost in my life. It felt almost like a tribute to them as well as I sang along with the chorus. This was a very powerful moment to close out the album.
My takeaway from this album on the first listen is that P Dope is a great songwriter. While he is a bit rough around the edges he makes up for it with genuineness, song structure & hard-hitting lines. If I had to suggest areas of improvement, I would have liked to hear some RnB mixed into the album to add a little more soft touch to the overall sound of the album However the samples In the production compensate for the lack thereof.
This album’s short length makes for great replay value and I plan on giving it another listen in my earpods. I would recommend that hip-hop fans give this new artist a chance and he will win you over as well. You can find P Dope’s “Icons Never Die” E.P & more of his music on his website HTTP://DOPEBOYP.NET