Jon Hope goes with the flow on Work In Progress

Poetry in motion
By CHRIS CONTI  |  May 29, 2012

SELF, PORTRAIT Two sides of Hope.
"It's all about expanding the brand for me in this day and age," says expert Rhody lyricist Jon Hope while recalling his multimedia promotional endeavors since we last caught up. He's still hungry and remains in hustle-and-grind mode, positively charged about his brand-new album, Work in Progress: A Musical Presentation (get it at

Hope has been presenting his masterful bars to the masses since his 2006 debut To Whom it May Concern and the Statik Selektah-endorsed '08 mixtape The Audacity (which also featured Termanology). XXL magazine took notice and dished props, and Hope was soon opening for the Lox, Rakim, and a string of shows for Nas on his Jones Experience Tour. The top-notch Some Kind of Wonderful EP dropped in '09. Last year Hope (nee Harrison Grigsby) announced he was leaving a state job (with benefits and pension) for the rap life and hasn't looked back. Opportunities continue to stream in: he just landed his second acting gig and Work in Progress cut "Rhode Less Traveled" was picked up for a nationwide Nike promo.

"I've been truly blessed," Hope said earlier this week.

Influenced by "everything from Scarface to Sara Bareilles," Hope's brand of hip-hop eludes most rap subsections, shining through with clever couplets backed by solid beats from longtime friends/producers Taktix and LJC. Work in Progress highlights a more patient flow right from the intro: "Testify, testify, trust my heart and soul will be best if I/Just put it on the line in between the margin, touch the whole world with a little street jargon." On "Sara's Song (The Proclamation)," Hope declares, "I've seen a mountain grow from just a mustard seed." Standout cut "Flames" follows as Hope ramps up the wordplay: "All I know is future, disregard the past tense/Present is my bedroom, infinity is my address." He calls out internet rap phonies over thumping drums and piano loops on "Charge It To the Game," and the excellent "Thing Beautiful" and "The Rhode" further display his focus on the mic. Dude is totally calibrated and on top of his game, as evidenced on latter-half songs "Planet Satyrn" ("Pockets full of presidents, walkin' with a cemetery"), "Time to Waste," and "99 Cent." But it's the Wu-Tang homage, funked-up percussion, and controlled flow on "Cashews" that damn near steals the show early on. "Cashews everything around me — now watch these bitches go nuts, now watch these niggas go nuts," Hope confidently quips on the hook.

Here's our Q&A with Jon.

IS THE GOAL/DREAM TO MAKE MUSIC A VIABLE FULL-TIME JOB? IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE NOWADAYS WITH THE LACK OF LABEL FUNDING AND EVERYONE DOWNLOADING AND RIPPING MUSIC FOR FREE? It most certainly is the goal. I'm not seeking fame or millions. I'm going through this journey with no expectations so each encounter is a pleasant or unpleasant surprise. Either way it's a great ride.

YOU REFER TO YOUR FANS AS "TEAM 101." IS IT IMPORTANT TO KEEP THAT GRASSROOTS APPROACH INTACT? Yes. The success that I've attained really has been a word-of-mouth type thing. I really like the notion of being discovered as opposed to trying to sell myself on some EPMD "Please Listen to My Demo" shit.

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Related: 2011 brings Jon Hope, the McGunks, Jocie Adams, and more, Poetry in motion: Rhody rap-tacular, part 2, Review: The Godfather II, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Sara Bareilles, Jon Hope, Jon Hope,  More more >
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