[HIP-HOP] At age 27, Portland MC Tope has become an old hand in the local hip-hop scene. His career stretches back almost a decade, but this year, he seems to be hitting his stride. His new EP, Trouble Man, is a heartfelt snapshot of where he's at now, musically and emotionally.
Lyrically, the record is steeped in nostalgia. Tope has always been somewhat of a romantic, crafting love songs that walk the line between sincerity and smooth talk. He spits pick-up lines at girls in coffee shops on "Church Girls" and bickers with his girlfriend for smoking his weed on "Stuck." Elsewhere, he takes a more serious tone, addressing the death of his grandfather and his rocky relationship with his father on "About You" and "Birthday Song," respectively. His personal insights are brief and to the point, but they're refreshing on an album that is mostly devoted to life's good times.
But the most captivating aspect of Trouble Man is the production. Tope really has come into his own as a beatmaker, chopping samples so they coo and hum at just the right moments. "Start" blends chopped guitar lines, sped-up vocals and splashy drums to create a breezy tune built for the sound system of a vintage car. He gets smoother on "Take Your Time," which samples Erykah Badu and features live instrumentation from trumpeter Farnell Newton. He even wanders into pop territory, turning Cheryl Lynn's "Got to Be Real" into a party jam on "Family Affair." Trouble Man is a display of Tope's versatility, not just behind the mic, but behind the boards as well.
HEAR IT: Trouble Man is out Tuesday, July 9, at freshselects.net.