Back in 1999 Jay-Z proclaimed, “they call me the dope man, dope man.  I try to tell em I’m what hope floats man, ghetto spokesman.”  As a young teenager looking to find my way in life, I thought to myself, ‘if all we have to hope in is a dope dealer, we’re in trouble.‘  Nearly two decades later, mainstream music still glorifies the crack dealer and our culture is largely without hope.

Enter Navelle Hice, a young emcee from Chester, PA who like many impressionable young men looked at the Jay-Z’s of the world and dreamed of the lifestyle of a rich & famous rapper.   After a road to Damascus experience with God, Navelle turned to the God who spared his life after being shot in a robbery attempt.

In 2015, Navelle Hice released his debut album Faith, Hope, & Love and now a year later his newest LP Hopeman.  As I write this sentence, I haven’t listened to the album yet.  However, if Navelle’s recent music has shown me anything it’s that he’s gonna bring some heat.  Check out my track-by-track review of Hopeman and see what I think of his latest project.

1. In a Daze

The intro track is a mellow east coast joint, the vibe reminds me of a track you’d hear Nas on back in the day.  Navelle immediately reminds me of why I like his music so much, the boi can spit.   He understands wordplay and drops lines like “Try to box me in I hit the rope-a-dope/ the black Tony Montana without the coke, just hope.” or lines like, “Murda on the track but still tryna preach to em, Pastor Ma$e.”  Nice way to start off the album in my opinion.

2. Prayers for the Hopeman

The first thing I like about this track is the gritty bass line at the beginning, I would have liked to hear it more through the track but it was filtered.  Overall pretty dope song where Navelle is asking for the prayers of the people to help him along his journey.

3.  I’ll Never

Nice mid-tempo track where Navelle is letting the world know, he’s never gonna stop working hard.  Plain and simple, but a simple message is easily digested.  Key line: “I gotta grind like I only got a day to pay rent.”

“Try to box me in I hit the rope-a-dope the black Tony Montana without the coke, just hope”

4. Don’t Let Nobody

The strings and synths give this track an epic feel.  I like it for that reason, and Navelle adds a dope message to it talking about not allowing anyone put you in bondage to their fears. #MajorKey

5.  Work Out (Interlude)

This track isn’t the typical interlude that we’ve grown to expect; its actually  a full length song in my opinion.  I normally skip interludes and almost skipped this until I saw it was 3+ minutes.  I’m glad I didn’t because it’s a pretty dope track about being encouraged in the midst of tough times.

6.  I know My Worth

This joint is a banger, probably my favorite track so far.  His cadence on the beat is dope, and another example of his lyrical ability.  Featuring on the track is an artist by the name of Zar, haven’t of her before but she does a nice job on the hook.

7.  I Declare

This track is another banger… I can see a youth group going ham to it.  Probably the sickest beat on the project, in my opinion.  This is one of those anthem type tracks that get’s the whole crowd hype.

8.  Time Will Tell

This is a laid-back type joint and Navelle goes in about life and family.  One thing that makes a rapper a dope artist is their ability to take life and put it in their music, and Navelle does that well.

9. Communication

Communication is probably the biggest part of a relationship, and many people never get it right.  On this track Navelle goes in and shares his perspective on marriage and communication.  The track features singer Zar who compliments the song well.

10.  Last Words

Navelle closes out the project with a summary of his last words.  “When I die I just pray they remember me as a man of God.”  In all that we do in this life, nothing is more important than the work we will do for the Kingdom of God.  Navelle gets it, and that message is very clear listening to this track.

My final thoughts on this album… I was very impressed.  As an indie artist without a large budget, it was solid project.  Whenever you have passion and a gift, it’s hard to miss the mark, and Hopeman is a bullseye for Navelle Hice.  Not too long ago I tweeted that Navelle Hice got next.  Listening to his new album, I take that back.  He doesn’t have next… he’s what’s poppin’ right now.

Hopeman is available for sale now on iTunes

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Chris Brown, a Pittsburgh, PA native is a writer, producer, artist, and the founder of Rap Remnant Magazine.