Published Nov 26, 20132012 XXL Freshman Hopsin is as well-known for amassing a mini-independent empire — which includes his label, Funk Volume, and amassing over 120 million YouTube views — as he is for the largely unreturned salvos he's fired at rappers Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Odd Future. Three years after the release of his breakout album Raw comes Knock Madness, a self-produced, 18-song return that sees Hopsin turn his multisyllabic flow inward, focusing on the anxiety that comes with newfound fame.
Early album cuts like the bouncy "Hop is Back" and aggrieved "Who's There," alongside label-mates Jarren Benton and Dizzy Wright, serve as low-stakes showcases of dexterous double-times. Unfortunately, when Hop looks to inject his rapid-fire flow with levity ("Gimme That Money, "Good Guys Get Left Behind"), it falls flat. Still, Hopsin is a deft and tactical MC who often succeeds off pure technical proficiency. "Rip Your Heart Out," which features Hop's closest stylistic antecedent, Tech N9ne, is an astounding demonstration of lyrical calisthenics. The best moments on Knock Madness come when Hopsin focuses on external obsessions: ode to amateur skating "Nollie Tre Flip" has the most enticingly offbeat rapping on the album, as well as a dizzying internal rhyme scheme, while "Turn on the Lights" analogue "Dream Forever" is heartfelt and raw.
The album's denouement comes in the form of "What's My Purpose?," which turns Hopsin's navel-gazing into an emblem for lost youth everywhere. A generation of disaffected youth have propped Hopsin up as the forbearer of a new alternative underground. In order to continue to excel, he needs to move past the solipsistic and look outward. He raps better when he does. (Funk Volume)