High Marks for “High Hopes”

MistaPARADOX is a producer/rapper combo out of Houston, Texas. In an era of the game where everyone is gravitating to 808 heavy trap beats with minimal lyricism, PARADOX is sticking to the classics that got us here. His name apparently originates from his habit of accidentally producing tracks of the opposite genre that he was going for. As a fellow producer, I know exactly what he’s talking about — this often happens to me as well. In July 2019, MistaPARADOX released the LP, “Eyes Wide Open” and off of it comes his feature single, “High Hopes.” This single maintains the classic fundamentals of hip hop’s golden era without feeling like a throw-back jam. His success in doing this probably comes down to the modern style of vocal engineering done on his vocals, which sit well in the mix, if just a little on the top side. Personally, I like vocals to sit a bit ontop the mix, and his vocals certainly have nothing you’d want to bury. PARADOX sounds a little like Big Sean meets Kanye West, in terms of vocal intonation and flow lilting. His long lines and thoughtful lyricism are a welcome return to form. There is a seamless transition between the verses and the chorus, which makes for a nice fluidic styling throughout the song. I cannot say enough good things about his lyricism in this song. His flow and cadence remind of me of Big Sean’s flow in “Detroit Vs. Everybody” which gives it that old but new vibe that hip hop is so hurting for these days.

The production of this song overall was very well done. Produced by MistaPARADOX himself, I have to admit, I like him better as a rapper than as a producer, but he is extremely capable in both capacities. The song is backed by what sounds like a sampled lick from an 80’s guitar ballad, which may not be your first instinctive choice for a hip hop song. But in this case, it works, and I can see why they call him MistaPARADOX. The 80’s guitar is creamy and fluid, but the drum backing adds a much needed rhythmic element and moves the song forward, holding up the energy as the track progresses. There is a very long intro to this song without any vocal accompaniment, and, given this generation’s attention span, that might be a mistake. Adding a spoken intro or even some well-placed adlibs would help keep the general audience from clicking next. PARADOX has done his vocal placements extraordinarily well, and obviously put a lot of thought into his delivery and word choice during the writing and recording phase of this production. Every word hits the drumbeat with crafted attention to rhythmic details. There’s a reason why most rappers today slur their words over an extended 808 hit. That’s because you can’t really tell exactly when you’re hitting the beat if it’s over this long sustained 808 and you’re mumbling the whole time. But PARADOX wants no part in that laziness, something which I both commend and respect. He hits every word on the rhythmic backing with careful precision. The high hats in his drum sequences were a little bright and interfered with his vocals from time to time. Taking care to EQ or dampen those slightly next time would really round out the production nicely. There’s an extended outro where the 80’s guitar takes a solo lap, and it’s a bit too much of a good thing there. It almost sounds like the outro to an 80’s cop show set in Miami. Assuming that’s not what he’s going for, cutting the track shorter, eliminating the last lick of guitar, or perhaps just creatively filtering it for the outro would take this production a bit further towards perfection.

MistaPARADOX stands for all the right things. With his modern cadence and catchy flows, his thoughtful lyricism and his capable production capacities, I think he could go far in this industry. For rappers like him, I would encourage him to make beats for other rappers and buy beats for himself. As a rapper/producer combo myself, I’ve learned sometimes it’s better to wait until you’ve really created a true gem in production, and then jump on that yourself. But to otherwise just buy or seek out the beats you want for your rapping, and then pass along the beats you make to someone else looking for them. Too often in this industry, we either try to do nothing for ourselves — getting others to make our beats, write our lyrics, and then engineer our vocals — or we do the opposite, where we try to wear every hat and do all the jobs.

MistaPARADOX and I are two in the latter category, trying to do every part ourselves. But I think if he sought out a beat he really felt, his rapping could shine and he could produce a hit. And there’s no question other rappers would want his beats, and that might be precisely what they need to shine as well. Either way, MistaPARADOX has what he needs to make it in this industry, and I have high hopes for his career.

-ERINEM

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