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Hope for the Nation

Jon Hope's Mass Appeal
By CHRIS CONTI  |  February 25, 2009

AUDACIOUS Hope is straight outta 02908.

Pick up the latest issue of XXL magazine and flip to the "Show and Prove" section and you'll spot Providence hip-hop artist Jon Hope — and rightly so. The 26-year-old wordsmith took the DIY approach to another level, opening his own imprint, Essence Music Group, and is set to drop his official debut EP, Some Kind of Wonderful, in the spring. The lead-off single, "Better," has received local airplay and the video has been on MtvU and XXL compared his rhyme style to Beanie Segel and Royce Da 5'9". I'd go with a combo of A.G., Large Professor, and Akrobatik, but nonetheless Hope is riding in good company. And don't let the optimistic lyrics and mostly profanity-free lines fool you — he can talk shit with the best of 'em. There's a spree of braggadocio throughout his latest mixtape, The Audacity, inspired by President Obama and hosted by renowned producer DJ Statik Selektah. To those who confuse positivity with being a pansy on the mic, Hope has said, "I'm not doing gospel and I'm not no tree-hugger."

Hope, aka Harrison Grigsby, was an All-State baller for hallowed hoop institution St. Ray's Academy and graduated from RIC in 2005, but rap music is his first love.

"My first childhood memory of hip-hop was watching [rap video channel] the Box when I lived in the foster home," he says. "I remember coming home from the pool at Bucklin Park and rushing to see the latest videos. Being able to see how people outside of Providence were different yet the same was amazing to me."

Go back to his 2006 mixtape To Whom It May Concern and dig up tbe opening track "He and I," where Hope runs rampant over De La Soul's "Much More" while saluting his Rhody roots with bars like, "Holier than Corinthians my goons belligerent/From the Island of Rhode homey, no not Gilligan" and "Do away with preconceived notions/ Out-of-towners drown when they come to the Ocean/ Stay — it's food for thought get a plate/0-2-9-0-8 is the zip code." Hope also fires off local shots on "The City": "Niggas pray to God's son or Hova — they left Christ/and some niggas idolize guys like Craig Price."

Hope highlights his trials with Industry Rule #4080, reiterating Q-Tip's timeless quote that, yes, record company people are shady. "Oh yeah, the game is extremely crazy, man," Hope reiterates. "I've seen so much bullshit that I'm immune to it. I've even lost friendships based off of music. It's ridiculous."

On a series of skits on The Audacity called "Da Bullshit" Hope details a run-in with a potential big-league A&R dude who tells Hope that the only problem is where he calls home, insisting Hope claim to be a New York rapper, though he was raised at the Arbor Glenn apartments on Admiral Street and remains a Providence resident. Try telling that to newfound phenom Termanology, who appears alongside Hope on "Blue Devils" (an ode to Johnny Law) — Lawrence, Massachusetts isn't exactly a renowned hip-hop hotbed.

The Audacity and To Whom It May Concern are available for free download at And line up for Some Kind of Wonderful, nine tracks booming with live instrumentation throughout, complementing his steady flow.

"We have so much soul that we didn't need to use samples, man," Hope declared like a proud papa. "The musical diversity on this album is dope because we gave a little bit of everything, combining the live music with vintage scratching a la DJ Premier."

Last year Hope opened for his idol Nas on a few dates, plus rap legends Rakim and Talib Kweli. He will appear with K'Naan at Jerky's on Saturday and at a big show opening for Charles Hamilton in New Jersey, followed by East Coast college dates through April. I mentioned the recent Rakim disaster at Lupo's and asked Hope what makes his show different from the typical onstage rap performance.

"Yeah, hip-hop shows are the worst, especially the clichû ones with 30 dudes on stage and you don't know who is who," he said. "But I treat my show just like my rhymes, careful and meticulous. I really pride myself on the live show."

K'NAAN + JON HOPE | Jerky's Bar, 71 Richmond Street, Providence | February 28 @ 8 pm | 401.621.2244

Related: P.O.S. | Never Better, Stay positive, 13 shots to the dome, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, hip-hop, Hip-Hop and Rap,  More more >
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