“This is Canada, man, I’m offended that you don’t get it. But I get it. You don’t really know better,” raps Hope, born Patrick Kelly, on “100 Million”. The song takes the third spot on the immensely moving album Red Man. Those words, like so many of the lyrics on the record, carry more than you see on the surface. In this case, a callout to Canada — a country stereotyped for kindness, liberal thinking, and apologizing — for not bringing these values when it comes to the problems faced by the indigenous peoples, followed by an ultimately tragic conclusion, because we should know better. There is no excuse to not know better.
Hope — who is a Sto:lo/Tahltan rapper based in what we now call Vancouver — swings between compassion and anger on Red Man. Every moment feels genuine. “Rage” brings in the talents of Alpha Omega, Doobie, and Mamarudegyal MTHC to convey the complicated nature of anger, and “Fuck That” pulses with pure fight song energy as a piano trickles up and down in steady repetition. “Life Givers” pulls the music back to put emphasis on the vocals — a poignant choice, as the song calls for awareness of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls genocide currently happening. With steady pacing, Hope announces, “While this history’s a mystery, my sisters aren’t okay.”
The highlight comes with the title track, which opens with a sample from a government PSA about residential schools. Everything about the clip is haunting, and yet the careful, almost joyful tone of the announcer is familiar. When the lushness of Hope’s composition kicks in, you can feel the hairs raise on your arms. The flow is steady, drawn out so that every word lands. The repercussions of the residential school system are outlined, falling repeatedly on the tragic line, “I don’t know where I should go. Do I call this place my home?”.
Red Man is an album that carries important messages and delivers them through vibrant imagery and hooks that linger. Each track is distinct and each verse feels personal. If you’re looking for hip-hop with smooth flow, precise choices, and absolute power behind it, look no further than Hope.