After 2018 when the discourses du jour included trap musicians as the new rockstars, #CarefreeBlackGirls, and a new wave of female MCs taking over, 2019 has brought us a gift which bridges all three: CUTE AF, the debut EP by Boston-based hip-house artist Hopeadope.
CUTE AF’s six tracks are flawlessly-produced electronic escapades in which the Detroit-born entertainer trades rap bars and powerhouse vocals with equal skill and comfort. Hopeadope was previously seen performing fan favorites “Cheekbones” and “Triple O.G.” while opening for touring femcees Junglepussy and CupcakKe in their respective stops at Cambridge’s The Middle East. The EP versions of these songs leave little to be desired; in fact, the little ad-libs and bonus sounds complete the irreverent vibe that Hopeadope projects in her live sets. Though the artist is open about the influence of Detroit hip-house on her music, Hopeadope is also not afraid to dabble in electroclash (“Crybaby”) and a straight-up ballad (EP closer “Musical Chairs”).
The absolute standout track on the EP is the downtempo ode to a fresh paint job, “Just Got My Nails Done”. The track glides in and out of an aggressive flow on par with femcees Rico Nasty and Tink, punctuated by Hope’s more-than-competent vocal stylings and a rompish, at times orchestral beat. Now, I’m the type of person to listen to music obsessively; once a song is in one of my playlists, I will absolutely play that song to death no matter if it’s a new release or an obscure throwback. I can tell you in advance that “Just Got My Nails Done” is going to be one of those songs for me.
Among Hopeadope’s skills is how she infuses a sense of hedonism into her music without veering into self-indulgence or irresponsibility. In the decade after Occupy Wall Street, celebrations of income inequality and association with the 1% have become somewhat passé even in a music genres considered glitzy. In that vein, Hopeadope is able to brag that she “just spent a rack on a new coat / I don’t know when I’ll rock it” in a way that’s endearing and down-to-earth — in a way that has you still rooting for her all the way. All throughout the EP, Hopeadope gives off the energy of the cool, round-the-way girl at the house party who still gasses you up and lovingly lets you know the tea in her life. CUTE AF is a house party in and of itself.
The genius of Hopeadope is that she makes everyday mundanities like nail polish, Instagram lurkers, and the late-evening feeling of smoking that blunt you woke up to roll compelling and fresh. Her lyrical flow, delivery, and eye for curating beats and bars into polished tracks with unforgettable hooks are already top quality; all Hopeadope really needs is the inertia to get her music heard. Let this EP be the first release of a long and prolific discography for Hopeadope.
Catch Hopeadope live at Sonia on February 22nd for Underground Underdogs 3.0 and again at The Middle East Upstairs for Bali Baby’s Brazy Playhouse Tour on February 28th.
HASSAN GHANNY is a novelist and music journalist who resides in Boston, MA. He can be found at @hassan_ghanny on Twitter and @diaspora.gothic on Instagram.