Dee-1’s newest mixtape isn’t called You’re Going To Hear Me! or You Hear and Love Me Because I’m the Best Rapper Ever! Instead, the Louisiana emcee takes a much more modest approach with his music (and title). I Hope They Hear Me! is devoid of the posturing you see on a typical hip-hop project these days. In fact, most of what’s on Dee-1’s mixtape is unbecoming of your standard fare hip-hop: Dee doesn’t curse, drink or smoke and he reminds the listener of these facts every chance he gets.
What Dee does, though, is tear through some of hip-hop’s most popular beats. He lends his unique brand of punchlines and uplifting couplets over instrumental versions of Birdman’s “Always Strapped” and the Clipse’s “I’m Good,” creating re-imagined versions of those songs that show he’s right at home among rap’s elite.
Over Outkast’s “Hollywood Divorce” beat, Dee envisions himself split in two, where one version of Dee-1 spits inspirational bars while the other version raps vapid lines to make a million dollars. “100 Yard Dash!” is a supernatural race that sees the emcee running to a finish line, beating out “poverty,” “loneliness,” “criticism” and a bevy of other formidable opponents. The most innovative turn, though, comes on “Roger That!” over the Young Money beat by the same name. Dee recites a version of the alphabet you probably didn’t hear in kindergarten: “I’m A-B-C: all bout cash/ and I’m always D-E-F: driving extra fast.”
The mixtape only falters when Dee decides to rap over beats that should have been left alone. “Exhibit C” (“Exhibit D!” for the purposes of this project) is a song by Jay Electronica that was so epic that all subsequent attempts to rap over the beat seem sub-par. And “Hip Hop Hooray” is a timeless classic that is better off untouched. But these are minor missteps for a stellar project that shows Dee-1 has arrived. We hear that loud and clear.