Epochs is more than a trip—it’s a voyage
Oakland native and musician Derek Pope (also referred to as “the Pope”) has crafted an out-of-this-world sound that knows no bounds, and his latest project certainly delivers.
Derek Pope is an entirely independent artist, ditching his former job as a record label assistant so he could make a bet on himself. Like many visionaries who’ve found themselves in a league of their own, the Pope doesn’t fit into a single genre. His self-produced sound is arguably a mix between trip-hop and alternative hip-hop. One can also draw parallels between Derek Pope and alt-hip-hop artists like Eryn Martin, Darci and Amir Obe.
Epochs is a culmination of the Pope’s many years of producing tuneful beats and scrawling excogitative lyrics that hit home. The album’s vibrant tracklist covers a broad range of sound, featuring the booming melodies “Future Kids of America” and “War Machine” as well as celestial bangers like “Picture Perfect” and “Satellite,” which are thoughtfully placed in consecutive order. Epochs also features the 2019 singles “Some Other Way,” “Us and Them” and “No Disguises.” These iconic songs have laid the groundwork for where his music is now, as well as where it seems to be going.
This brings us to the opening track on Epochs — “Up Up and Away.” The Pope lets it breathe, masterfully denying his audience an instantaneous hook; that is until he bursts from the shadows and absolutely decimates. Not only does he secure the replay value of “Up Up and Away,” but his delivery is impeccable. “Up Up and Away” is catchy and retains the ethereal, bass-heavy instrumentals that Derek Pope is known for.
Epochs stays true to the Pope’s long-held commitment to introspection. The 10-track collection clearly fulfills his summons to empower his audience — letting them know it’s possible to overcome their innermost doubts and fears. The Pope himself is no stranger to the ills of neurodiversity and has embraced his own struggles with anxiety, depression and substance abuse on previous projects. With Epochs, we see this archetypal theme re-emerge on “Autopilot.” This gem of a track is tucked right in the middle of the album. It begins with some soft but sonic piano, which immediately establishes an angelic backdrop for the hook that follows. We’re then blessed with bars that echo with every hit, and it’s only a matter of seconds before the bass pounds our eardrums. After that point, the track takes off.
The song is “really a reflection of time,” Pope recalled, “you’re always moving forward and can’t stop it.”
It’s about the Pope’s experience hearing from members of his tight-knit fanbase who thank him for contriving such a powerful sound—a point of reflection in the second half of the track.
“That’s literally the most important thing to me,” he said. “So when I’m depressed, I think, ‘how can I help people if I can’t even save myself?’ That’s what the song is about.”
The final Epochs track is an ascension, and it’s the longest song Derek Pope has dropped to date. “Is This the End?” is a cinematic ballad about the artist’s view on God. The Pope doesn’t follow any religion in particular. Instead, he believes in a higher power and sees spirituality as an individual choice. “Is This the End?” is an attempt to personify God.
“I paint God as being better than us in my head, and by the end I realize that I’m wrong and he’s no different than any other human, and doesn’t know how to be loved either.”
To this writer, “Is This the End?” is the juncture of where Derek Pope’s career is headed. He set out to make an album that would create a world for people to escape to during this unprecedented time in human history — and he succeeded.
“Escapism gets a bad rap, like you’re avoiding your problems. But some escapism is healthy,” he said. “We’re in a fucked up time right now, we need things to pull us outside of our minds.”
One thing is certainly clear, though, even in this fucked up time: Derek Pope is skybound.
James Baratta is a third year Journalism major who will be blasting Epochs on their future trip to space. They can be reached at email@example.com.
Art by JOPH.