A lot has changed in the year since Dee-1 released his last mixtape I Hope They Hear Me Vol. 1. He’s become one of the hottest underground acts and his track “Jay, 50 and Weezy” has gone viral, becoming one of the most talked-about songs in hip-hop. Thanks to the strength of that album, I Hope They Hear Me Vol. 2 was highly anticipated, with eager listeners chomping at the bit to see if Dee was a one-hit wonder or a legitimate name to watch. The answer is loud and clear: Dee-1 is next.
The grand improvements Dee-1 makes between volumes is astounding. While Vol. 1 featured Dee rapping over beats already used by other rappers, Vol. 2 plays like a full-length major album release with him crafting wholly original tracks backed by original beats from prolific maestros like RJD2, 5th Child and the legendary Mannie Fresh himself. Dee even enlists the help of established stars like Mickey Factz and Murs, demonstrating how much clout he has earned in the rap world.
It would be easy for a new artist to get overwhelmed and outshined on his own project by the big name guests, but Dee more than holds his own. Vol. 2 is politically charged, honest, and socially conscious—just what anyone would expect from the man that called out the three biggest names in hip-hop.
The project opens with “Proud of Me,” a mission statement outlining Dee’s simple goals to success over bouncy N.O.-influenced snares. The meat of Vol. 2 comes in the form of “Uncle Tom” and the aforementioned “Jay, 50 and Weezy” which turn the mirror on hip-hop’s sometimes-contradictory policies and vapid lyrics. Dee, though, isn’t afraid to get introspective on “Writer’s Block” where he addresses the pressures associated with his newfound success: “I’m one bad decision away from this being ruined.” Things aren’t always serious as Dee has fun on the celebratory “Bye to the Broke Days,” a feel-good track that should be jammed on the first and 15th of every month.
As spectacular as Vol. 1 was, I Hope They Hear Me Vol. 2 shows that Dee-1 has mastered his craft and can create a fully developed project that is his launching pad to mainstream success. Dee-1 no longer has to “hope” anyone hears him. We’re listening. And that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.