Roughly six months after being introduced to the collective subconscious of those of us who slept on them for the past few years, maybe it’s a little clearer to figure out exactly who Odd Future are. That’s until MellowHype decide to further muddle things up with a re-release of their BlackenedWhite album. The group within a group, consisting of Hodgy Beats and Left Brain, make the constant Wu-Tang/Odd Future comparisons understandable, as they offer a solo project that could easily double as a group effort by being both similar and different. Confused yet?
If you’re the type of person who likes to psychoanalyze rappers, then once you come to grips with the fact you have entirely too much free time on your hands, you can find moments of sincerity behind MellowHype’s “We don’t give a fuck” façade. The inherent conflict lies in the fact that it’s a really entertaining façade. Left Brain and Hodgy capture the youthful, irreverent and sometimes purposely ignorant energy of Lil B or Waka Flocka Flame (who they compare themselves to on “Igotagun”) without ever appearing to be candidates for the “short bus.” They’re in on the joke the entire time. Production-wise, Left Brain gives you the stacked chords, aggressive 808s and loud, catchy choruses that make you want to run shirtless through a club and try to clothesline someone twice your size. He’s also versatile enough to give Hodgy a minimalist canvas (“Primo”) when needed, or provide a melodic bounce on songs such as “Circus.” BlackenedWhite also comes with the occasional thought-provoking moment, attempts to experiment with different rhyme patterns and none of the stigma that comes with Flockaveli being discovered on your iPod.
Hodgy Beats holds down the rhymes for the bulk of the album. And if you buy into the Odd Future/Wu-Tang Clan comparisons, Hodgy is lyrically much closer to Inspectah Deck than the much-maligned U-God. He avoids Tyler’s overuse of shock value but has an assortment of different flows and a better variety of subject matter, which puts him somewhere between Tyler, Earl Sweatshirt and Domo Genesis in the Odd Future pecking order. While “Primo,” the album opener, finds him employing a slow-paced flow to match the subject matter, he’s perfectly capable of switching to double-time couplets to match the backing machine gun fire on “Deaddeputy,” rhyming, “The theme to my thesis / Caught up in the prefix / Music is premixed / The remix / With gun sounds / And gun rounds and brief kicks / Call it a remix of the bible influenced by Jesus…”
This isn’t to say that BlackenedWhite isn’t without the faults found on most albums made by people under the age of 25. You don’t get a whole lot of insightful material to balance out the sometimes-pointless aggression, horniness and post-adolescent angst. This can be problematic if you’re easily offended by sodomy references. But as Tyler proves on “F666 The Police,” OFWGKTA will just as easily take one (in this case a nightstick) up an orifice for the sake of shocking you or making you laugh. Unfortunately, two of the albums more introspective tracks, “Hell” and “Chordaroy” were left off the Fat Possum re-issue. This can likely be attributed to securing the rights to the Earl vocals and/or sample clearance issues. Either way, lopping off two of the album’s better cuts is never a good thing. The slimmed down version of BlackenedWhite does cut out some filler, such as “Strip Club” and offer newer MellowHype cuts like “64” and “Igotatun.” If you’re interested in where Left Brain and Hodgy are going next, the latter is a good indication.
Ultimately, Blackenedwhite is conflicted, but quality music. The duo has clearly studied the craft and culture of Hip Hop, but are more than comfortable ditching its standard rules for the fuck of it. Ultimately, what you end up with is the auditory equivalent of a FourLoko tallboy. By now you've heard about it, and you know the drawbacks. But unless you’re irresponsible, this toned-down version will at best be a welcome addition to your rotation, or at worst, deliver some embarrassing laughs and a few unexplained bruises.
Purchase BlackenedWhite by MellowHype