It's that time of year again. That's right, it's time for this year's installment of Gotee Records' annual Hip Hope compilation. Hip Hope Hits 2009 contains tracks from popular rap and hip hop artists like Pettidee, KJ-52 and TobyMac, but also has some underground artists the casual hip hop fan may not have heard of, such as Jade, Stefan the Scientist and J-Remy. And for the most part, it's another quality Hip Hope release.
As with 2008's compilation, Hip Hope 2009 starts off with one of the biggest names in all of Christian music, TobyMac. This year, he brings us an exclusive remix of his song "One World." There's not much difference from the original, except that the remix has a couple guest appearances, one of them being KJ-52. An okay start to the compilation, which leads to another decent selection in "Reminds Me" from Grits and V3, from Grits' latest, Reiterate. The awkward style of flowing that they usually bring is presented here, with a weaker hook than usual from the duo. Up next is an original track from Canton Jones, called "I Call Him G.O.D." It's an almost reggaeton song whose only flaw is the repetition of "I call Him G-O-D" in the hook. It's a great song otherwise, though. Then we're treated to now-solo artist Speech, who used to be a member of the old school hip hop group Arrested Development. Speech's "When It Feels Right" is an awesome hip hop song, blending the old school flavor of his AD days with some of the new school feel.
KJ-52 follows, with a sample from his album The Yearbook: The Missing Pages. What was unexpected was the amazing and gorgeous club beat that the song offers. But what was expected was the mediocre vocal performance from the emcee. Not to mention, its hook follows the same format as that of Britney Spears' "Gimme More." Saving the situation is hip hop legend Pigeon John with "Calculator Watch," a song about being a dork who will one day break out and become a huge hip hop star. Then, out of nowhere, it seems that Verbs is back, with an original song entitled "Future," a song about his true love for a nice lady. Though not the best of hip hop songs, hopefully this means we'll be hearing more from him again soon. Washington Projects (aka, The Souljahz minus one guy, for those who didn't already know that) bring us a so-so vocal performance with a good beat in "Come Back To Me," and Jade brings a Beyonce-esque feel in "Be Myself," which also features an appearance from Grits' Coffee in the bridge.
Braille, who last year released his fourth album The IV Edition, offers a strong track on Hip Hope 2009, "Walking Loud," which encourages us to live our Christian walk boldly. It makes for one of the highlights of the whole compilation. After the strength of The IV Edition, and subsequently the seemingly flawless "Walking Loud," it seems that Braille might be a force to be reckoned with in the hip hop world. Which leads us to the king of Christian crunk, Pettidee. "Gimme Dapp" is a catchy somewhat-crunk rap song that is followed up by Diverse Citizen's Shonlock, with another reggaeton song, "Avert," which makes some sense when you see that Canton Jones appears again for this song. Another highlight of the compilation, "Avert" speaks on going against the grain and not letting the world tell us who to be or what to believe. Another surprise comes with B.Reith in his track "Bottom of the 9th." All that I've heard from the new Gotee signee in the past has not been pleasing to the ears, but "Bottom of the 9th" turns out to be a rather decent offering, and it features underground hip hopper Knine, who does an equally decent job in his verse.
Hip Hope Hits 2009 features a good deal more reggaeton this year than previous years, as Stefan the Scientist brings us another one from this genre. And this time, it's very heavily drenched in the style. "Higher" is pure Jamaican rhythm and beat, focused on God's ability to make us stronger, better and to take us higher than we've been before. LA Symphony emcee Flynn Adam brings us "Feel It Now," which turns out to be an alright song. It may be more appealing for fans of LA Symphony than non-fans. J-Remy, the self-proclaimed "Backwoods Legend," showcases a dirty south beat (with an '80s style guitar in the background) with a slow and hard to grasp flow. The song may not be an album highlight, but the message hits kinda hard when he speaks about teens dying from cutting themselves while not knowing Jesus. Proxy finishes the compilation with even more reggaeton (mainly in the hook) in "My," which features Verbs and Stefan the Scientist.
One noticeable difference between Hip Hope Hits 2009 and compilations in years past is that at the end of several of the tracks, there is a bit more than just the song you were listening to. Several of the songs have two or so minute hip hop interludes afterwards, from artists like Braille and Deepspace 5's Freddie Bruno. Several more of the songs (later in the compilation) just have quick ten-second liners from different DJs, who basically just remind the listener that they're listening to the latest Hip Hope compilation.
This year, Hip Hope Hits, as usual, has its fair share of mediocre tracks, but does have more good songs than bad. I really enjoyed the fact that the album highlights came from some of the smaller name artists like Speech, Shonlock and Braille, as opposed to the bigger names hogging all the spotlight again. And hopefully some of them and the other smaller guys will start to get more recognition, like Stefan the Scientist and Canton Jones. It seems like they're the ones that really made Hip Hope Hits 2009. Though the more recognizable names like Pigeon John and Verbs did make good contributions, this may not have been quite the same album without the aforementioned smalltime artists. Kudos, Gotee, on another strong compilation.- Review date: 2/7/09, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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