Hook-driven hip-hop still has a place in the grander scheme of things despite what a handful of indie critics have said in the past few years, and if there’s a rapper who wants to prove as much with his new single, it’s Angelo B. Featuring Zeus Rebel Waters, “HOPE I.S.H.” is an R&B-influenced slow jam that sports a lusty verse or two, but while it lacks some of the imposing sonic presence that a lot of other rap has been featuring in the past year, it’s easily one of the more direct and straightforward performances I’ve heard from an artist on either side of the dial lately.
There’s a solidly ‘90s feel to the melodies in this track, but I don’t quite want to call “HOPE I.S.H.” an outright throwback. The soulfulness of the hook is too timeless to date it to a specific period over another, and while it’s hard to ignore the smoothness of the instrumentation Angelo B is working here, his voice is the more definitive star of the song. He’s wearing his influences on his sleeve, as is Waters, but this doesn’t impede their ability to tell a story in the present at all.
The instrumental layers in “HOPE I.S.H.” are a bit intense in spots and endlessly surrounding the vocal track, but I think this bit of liberal showmanship was necessary to give these verses some additional buoyancy. Could Angelo B have gone a little easy with the guitar parts? Sure, but his lyrics wouldn’t have the foundation that they’ve got in this situation, which gives the track a much stronger pop appeal than it would have to begin with. It’s different than what his peers might do, but that’s the whole point – this player wants his own status, not something borrowed from another face in the industry.
Angelo B’s music video for “HOPE I.S.H.” is a nice addition to his overall body of work, but I don’t think it does much to expand on the concept he’s setting up with the song on its own. I like that he isn’t giving us a lot of meaningless commentary with this visualizer and instead maintaining the humble profile that he has on and off the stage, which is something that I wish I could see more of not only in his scene but around the hip-hop underground in general (along with some of these juicier melodies).
It’s good to know there are still OG players making music in this genre these days, and Angelo B is one of them. “HOPE I.S.H.” corners us with a romantic rhythm and some really passionate harmonies coming off the backend of the track, and by the time it reaches its halfway mark – a little over a minute and a half into the song – we’re already in a melodic trap that is next to impossible to escape. Listenability is off the charts for this single, and Angelo B’s position in his scene is going to benefit from it a lot.
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