‘Wherever You’re Going, I Hope It’s Great’: The best album you have not yet heard of

Cole Seifer

99 Neighbors, an underground hip-hop group, dropped their second album, “Wherever You’re Going, I Hope It’s Great,” on Sept. 24., after teasing three early singles before the official release. Their new project has received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from their fans for good reason. 99 Neighbors brings a unique style to the hip-hop genre, incorporating a blend of modern and classical jazz and elements of R&B into the album’s 14 tracks. While each song is worth a listen, these are my top five favorites on the album:

Debuting their second album, 99 Neighbors show off the cover of “Wherever You’re Going, I Hope It’s Great.” (Photo Courtesy of 99 Neighbors)

Number 5: “Live a Little” 

“Live a Little,” the second song on the album, is a stark shift from the lyrical message  behind the first song, “Rageless Hope.” The album is mostly centered around mental health issues, specifically depression, appearing in the form of internal demons. In contrast to “Rageless Hope,” “Live a Little” doesn’t have a message; it’s primary focus is the group’s lyrical ability and 99 Neighbors’ rappers and singer-songwriters, HANKNATIVE, Swank and Sam Paulino, playing with their sound. The song is backed by a heavy bass line along with brass horns, electric pianos and hard hitting drums. “Live a Little” has more of a contemporary style that is sure to make a listener’s head bop to the beat, but it’s lack of lyrical personality doesn’t outcompete the other standouts.


Number 4: “Hazel”

“Hazel” is one of the many songs on the project that implements their message surrounding mental health issues. It unfolds a touching story about Swank and Sam Paulino and the early stages of their musical careers. Through descriptive metaphors, the project illustrates the struggles of living on a low income and experiencing urban poverty. Aidan Otsby, another member of 99 Neighbors, delivers a chorus that highlights the group’s singing capabilities. Otsby’s talent shines in “Hazel,” with this chorus marking one of the most memorable components of the whole album.


Number 3: “Hometown Famous”

HANKNATIVE’s performance on “Hometown Famous” elevates the enjoyment of the song. Even before his amazing hook, he brings in a verse that holds some of my favorite lyrics on this project. HANKNATIVE’s line, “The older me gone, he dead and buried,” evokes a strong emotional feeling, as the artist describes the emotional state of his adolescent life. Following that verse, HANKNATIVE delivers one of the greatest hooks on “Wherever You’re Going, I Hope It’s Great” by utilizing autotune and vocal pitch in the chorus. The autotune enhances the chorus by cultivating a distinct sound and effectively connecting HANKNATIVE’s vocals to the song’s melody. Both HANKNATIVE and Paulino’s verses on this song strengthen the meaning and structure behind the album, making “Hometown Famous” one of the best tracks to be released. 

Sitting on the stage between songs, 99 Neighbors perform at the Bottlerock Music Festival 2021 in Napa, Calif.

Number 2: “N. Michigan Gospel” 

When thinking of “Wherever You’re Going, I Hope It’s Great,” this song is the staple of the album. “N. Michigan Gospel” embodies what this album is truly expressing. The slow piano beat and simplistic drumming exposes the deep messages 99 Neighbors is promoting. Otsby delivers their best chorus of the entire album on “N. Michigan Gospel.” The fluctuating beat during the chorus allows their voice to float and increases the positivity of the song. The verses from Swank and Paulino are rich with beautiful metaphors and distressful lyrics about mental health, focusing on depression and suicide. Otsby, Paulino and Swank’s musical chemistry on “N. Michigan Gospel ” is truly a testament to their gift for music. 


Number 1: “Tontine”

Out of every amazing song on this album, the one that tops all the other’s is the finale, “Tontine”. This track demonstrates the group’s loveable dynamics and range of musical genres. Despite mixing in many different styles, it doesn’t sound messy— the transitions are clean and each beat is distinct. One metaphor during Swank’s verse, “I seen the shadow man wearing my shoes, walking away from my life,” is my favorite line of the album. The song is closed off by Otsby’s high-pitched and echoey vocals, marking a bittersweet ending to one of the most underrated albums of the year.


Shouted out on multiple occasions during the album, 99 Neighbors show love to their hometown of Burlington, Vermont. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

The diverse themes, lyrics and musical composition found in “Wherever You’re Going, I Hope It’s Great” is what all modern rap should sound like. From a group that has mostly remained undiscovered from the mainstream scene, 99 Neighbors has what it takes to be one of the top groups in today’s hip-hop world.


Click this link to listen to the full album.