Cope: One of the summer’s best mixtapes

August 20, 2010

Few emcees display as much charisma on the mic early in their careers as Jonathan “Cope” Copeland did in his debut mixtape, 21, which dropped June 24. The 23-year-old Ann Arbor native raps in a confident, conversational tone on his tracks, making the effort one of Michigan’s best this summer.

While Cope doesn’t talk about much on his freshman tape—its theme is the final line of “Summer Madness”: “I’ve decided, I’m a be 21 forever”—his flashy style and raw swagger make it work. And though most of his verses focus on parties and bullshit, that’s not to say his effort doesn’t have a diverse sound. From the fast-paced, head-nodding feel of “The Sample” to the tape’s methodical single, “Summer Madness,” Cope’s tracks feature smooth-flowing verses with exceptional wordplay and unorthodox rhyme schemes.

21 starts off with a bang; its first three tracks are its best. Along with laying the foundation for the rest of the mixtape, “Summer Madness” wastes no time giving a taste of Cope’s talent: “I’m out here, free of fears, consumption/Flying down success, looking for rich junction/Now which junction will put me in a place where I’m stuffing lobster in my face at a luncheon?/Spilling butter sauce on my butter tie/Design on my wings, I’m butterfly.”

Technically, Cope is cut from the same mold as Mos Def. He can smoothly string together complex rhymes in a way most can’t. In “The Sample,” Cope spits fire at a Twista-esque pace, and his energy in “Winner’s Anthem” make it the catchiest track on the tape.

“Party & Bullshit” gives a variety of sounds, switching between dramatic piano instrumentals on the chorus and an intense, bongo-driven riff during Cope’s verses. He stays true to form here, displaying even more bravado when he raps, “But you love it though, let it overflow/The nightlife’s a drug and you should overdose.” Along with the track being one of the tape’s strongest, its sound is emblematic of Cope’s general style as an emcee.

Dewitt Moore of De Notes Productions did a brilliant job producing the tape, meshing a number of styles to cater to Cope’s skill set. The instrumental for “Crew Love” has an old-school, 1940’s feel which, surprisingly, blends perfectly with the emcee’s fun-loving flow. “I’m The Shit” has a faster, techno feel and “Miami Vice” features airy female vocals that give it a slower, more serious vibe than any other track on the tape.

Ann Arbor hasn’t exactly been a hotbed for hip hop activity over the years…Cope is trying to change that. Although his subject matter is sure to mature as he gets older and more experienced, the Pioneer High School graduate already has the technical ability to make it happen. He proved that much on 21.

Check out the sleek visuals for Cope’s single, “Summer Madness,” below:

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