The sweeping hysteria surrounding the cultural ascendance of Tyler The Creator and his OFWGKTA gang has quieted down in recent months, and what initially struck many misinformed detractors as an extravagant trolling gesture masquerading as Rap has ripened into one of the most solid collectives nestled in the canals of contemporary Hip Hop. Tyler’s sometimes bizarre modus operandi has earned him a few lazy Eminem comparisons, but in 2014, the respective members of Odd Future are far from a “these-chicks-don’t-even-know-the-name-of-my-band” D12 reincarnation. Proof of the various entities of Odd Future carrying respective torches came with Earl Sweatshirt’s critically acclaimed Doris LP and Frank Ocean’s Grammy win. Like their successful counterparts, producer Left Brain and rapper Hodgy Beats have worked to ensure that the MellowHype brand continues the winning Odd Future tradition.
The music gods despise inertia, and so keeping the movement moving, MellowHype have elected to release a free mixtape called INSA (I Need Some Answers) clocking in at less than 40 minutes. INSA wastes no time establishing footing with “Gang,” a track that samples Crystal Castles, and along with fellow L.A. native ScHoolboy Q’s “Man of The Year” is just another indication that Electronic music is criminally underused sampling fodder in Hip Hop. Although Hodgy Beats began his career a novice unable to really put a lasting imprint on his craft, in the subsequent years since his debut he has grown into a stout lyricist, and he strings together some of his most impressive verses to date on the appropriately titled “Bars.” He sounds as angry as ever, still on a personal rampage to lay waste to the nameless cynics of his career that envelop him at all times and act as the impetus to his most striking lyrical displays.
Lena Dunham may have the pulse of the New York city trust-fund baby down to an extremely profitable primetime science, but Hodgy Beats is a scribe wholly in concord with the daily activities of his less famous followers. Whether they are floating or flying in the existential stupor of stoner introspection, Hodgy is the scribe relaying these everyman thoughts on easily accessible wax, such as “Dunita” and “I Am A.” Both tracks work well for this spectrum; highly listenable soundtracks in times of hyper-blunted escapism and hazy revelation.
Left Brain contributed a few forgettable beats to the duo’s Numbers project, and it looks as though he is on a quest to right that ship. He has never embellished his creative leanings so freely, and on INSA he makes persuasive the assumption that he’s been biding his time studying under the Madlib school of thought. Whereas Madlib is famous for colossal soundscapes and the beautiful fusion of dissonant noises, Left Brain is more willing to supply Hodgy with off-kilter sounds, fully entrusting him to make the effort his own. This lends itself well to a rapper like Hodgy who has the dynamism of a person constantly out to show and prove. Energized tracks like “FIFAFOFUM!” are the harvest of these endeavors, and INSA is made all the more better for it.
Not too many acts want to be boxed into a specific genre, but Hodgy is at his best when in aggressive scorched-earth form. His greatest showings to date involve him spilling randomized thoughts with high-energy and sincerity. “7” halts Hodgy’s and ultimately INSA’s momentum in a skippable record. A lackluster instrumental fueled by a plush acoustic guitar accompanies Hodgy as he speaks frankly about the females in his life. While it continues in their noble experiment in expansion, the track fails to elicit any sort of staying power. MellowHype is shoring up the cracks in their approach, but they still have yet to put all the pieces together to produce an ingenious matrix. On an 11 track mixtape, there is hardly room for mistakes.
Ultimately, the duo’s chemistry reaches peak levels on “ColdWorld,” and cuts like these reinforce the feeling that MellowHype have a cache of similarly brilliant moments left untapped in their creative reservoir. Bar none, hip-hop fans are of great, sometimes impossible expectations, and such an exclusive breed of talented musicians should be churning out more moments like this on a consistent basis. But if Hodgy and Left are content with releasing high quality music like this for free, then there is likely much more in the works. It remains to be seen what sort of creative leaps they will take with their next feature length effort.