Bar Exam: Jered Sanders – Hope Is Dope 2 (First Listen Album Review)
Pearl Harbor, The Great Gatsby, Batman & Robin…we’ve all witnessed some art that employs an all-star cast that missed the mark. I’m not really trying to reach farther than that here, this was just the first thought that I had when I saw this Hope Is Dope 2 tracklist by Jered Sanders. Probably because everyone’s first thought was “Yo check out these features!!” There are a lot of features, it’s an all-star cast for sure. Hearing how it all weaves into the bigger picture is what I’m mostly looking forward to.
As usual with my bar exams, I am sharing all of my notes from my true first listen to the project. I provide thoughts and commentary on anything from flows, rhymes, beats, creative direction, track placement, and concepts.
All Figured Out – TV stations changing, zeroes in on a string sample. Jered begins talking “I’ve still got a long way to go.” Hands clapping come in before the beat drops. The music progresses and switches up as he’s threading the flow. Justin Goss is on the chorus. This feels really nice. “I’m grateful that it all worked out, worked out for my good.” He’s pulling out issues in the culture, sprinkling in metaphors, and pointing to Jesus.
All In – This was one of my favorite tracks released last year. Jered’s flows on this are insane. He’s laid back, reminds me of Swoope on the first verse. For the second verse, he turns it up a little bit. George Rose’s hook is good, drives the point home. The beat isn’t melodic so the first time I heard this melody on the chorus it was a little jarring because it felt like the melody came from nowhere. That’s fine, and it carries well through the song.
Blessed – Horns in the background here. Jered comes in shredding it up. “If it wasn’t for that rugged cross everybody running lost.” Derek Minor is in the second verse. He’s dropping knowledge everywhere. Yeah, this song is crazy.
No Hell – I appreciate the different textures in each beat so far. There are so many layers to pull out as well. “You ain’t got a hell you could put me in.” Wow, Jered’s rhyme scheme on this second verse just keeps going and going. He stays on point throughout too. Talking about pointing fingers and judging others, and makes a lot of good points along the way.
Underneath – Soulful beat here. Reminds me of Common. He’s just killing the rhymes. I’m forgetting to type. Jered is unpacking the idea that man looks at outward appearance, God looks at the heart. It’s a challenge to see yourself through the eyes of God.
Run My Fade – This is a big track. It even brings the gang vocals in on the hook with a MOP vibe or something. Jered isn’t playing. “Run My Fade” as in “Come at me, or mind your business… I’m not playing.”
Doing It Wrong – I’m impressed by all the different sounds thrown out. Jered is storytelling here about a couple getting married. It’s not about getting caught up in what the world says, looking in the rearview…it’s about being present. The man in the relationship is looking elsewhere for fulfillment in his marriage. If you’re not ready to get married it’s better to stay single.
Ftw – Byron Juane with the melodic hook at the top. OnBeat on the track. Parris Chariz on the first verse. It feels great. I love the laid back vibe and the melodic piano line in the loop. Jered cleans it up.
Grown Man Biz – “It’s God Over Money with the sure-shot” This song is an introspective flow. He’s looking within, unpacking his soul. Sho Baraka brings the heat on his verse. They’re both comparing what they came up with to the norms of the current culture. “Your standard is autotune my standard was Whitney Houston.” Throughout this project, the instrumentals are very intentional to lay the correct beds at the correct moments. I love it when the music can take you on the same journey as the lyrics.
Vibin’ – Evan Ford with the vocal layering on the R&B chorus. The beat is intricate, the interpolation of the brass instruments is dope. Jered comes in with a melodic flow. I really dig this. He’s showing his versatility all over this project.
All I Know – Biblical flow here. I love the different pitches he’s using in his voice. It adds a certain emotion that’s not there otherwise. It’s a song about discipline and sharing what his focus is. The chorus lays in perfectly. Very strong work here.
Nothing Like That – The featured singer is uncredited. (Courtney Orlando?) It’s dope though. The theme is misreading others’ actions, and coming up with the wrong conclusions. Somewhere here in the last couple of tracks we switched to a pop vibe. Sonically it’s still beautiful.
Luxury – “It’s hard to describe how the bread of life better than a two-piece.” I really dig the metaphors in the first verse here. The song overall sounds like Atlanta. The beat is laid back and soulful, with crooning ad-libs in the background. This bass line moves a lot and gives some guts to the track. Jered can really kill any beat.
Fly High/It Ain’t Over – A familiar line at the top, not sure if it’s original or a sample from somewhere – “Fly high in the sky like birds and bees.” Feels like a concluding song, wrapping up the sonic journey with a nostalgic sound of emotion. To me, it seems like Jered is telling you that you’re free to be your own person. He talks about chasing after and achieving his dreams. The catch is that the end result doesn’t look like he thought it would when he started out. Man, this project is so extremely strong. Jered Sanders is the type of talent that should be performing in arenas. More people need to hear this.
I Feel Like Rapping Again (Bonus Track) – This one feels like a freestyle. Again he’s connecting some incredible rhyme schemes. “24/7 I’mma need Hova and I ain’t talking 4:44.” He starts this one off with straight heat and no hook. The hook eventually comes in but is a bit redundant. I was just ready for more bars.
To conclude, Jered is more Leo than Clooney. But the difference is that Jered elevates his game with and without the supporting cast. Some artists can rely heavily on their features and slack off a bit in their craft, and there’s no evidence of that on Hope is Dope 2 whatsoever. Jered continues to grow and raise the bar with each release, and the crazy thing is that he was already above the bar, to begin with.