Release Date: Jul 12, 2011
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap, Hardcore Rap
Rapper Hodgy Beats and producer Left Brain comprise MellowHype, an offshoot of the viral rap collective Odd Future. Much of the "mellow" has been scrubbed away from their previously free debut, and what remains is a chaotic shootout with nameless adversaries: Titles include "Gunsounds," "Igotagun," and "Gunz (Bonus Track)." Though lyrically impressive, Hodgy's staccato flows can be grating, and at times they clash with the dramatic cadence of Left Brain's speaker-eaters. While Odd Future alpha male Tyler, the Creator (who shows up as a guest here) seems genuinely tortured, Hodgy's anger sounds particularly adolescent.
As Straight Outta Compton nears its 25th birthday, it's nearly impossible for gangsta rap music to be legitimately shocking. We've heard thousands of drug-dealing tall tales, bloody murder threats, and clinically minded sex propositions, and these days that stuff just breezes past. If anything, the Young Jeezys of the world are less precise and less disquieting than the Spice 1s of old.
When MellowHype first released BlackenedWhite on Halloween of last year, the world was a very different place for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. Events that would eventually cement the collective's budding stardom-- Tyler, the Creator's "Yonkers" becoming a viral sensation, their seminal performance on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon", Tyler inking a deal with XL-- were either weeks or months away. The group at large was still strictly a sensation in a small pocket of the Internet, somewhat mysterious, amorphous, confusing and-- as anyone who tried to grab an album from Odd Future's official blog only to be met with a broken download link could attest-- amateur.
Since Tyler the Creator is the Don of the underground mayhem crew known as Odd Future, it was only natural his album Goblin be the group’s flagship release for the aboveground set, but this second “official” release is arguably the better deal. Even if it comes from the splinter group Mellowhype, even if it had the verses from Earl Sweatshirt removed, and even if it’s a hacked and reworked version of a previously available free mixtape, this 2011 version of BlackenedWhite released by the Fat Possum label is a tighter, more threatening monster than Goblin. Part of the reason is that this is a more accessible release, pointing outward more often and feeling less insider right from the opening “Primo.
As other members of the Odd Future stable receive major-label treatment, it’s difficult to avoid drawing comparisons between the group’s meteoric rise and that of the Wu-Tang Clan in the mid ‘90s. This isn’t necessarily due to the music they’re creating, but because of the way they’re being marketed and the whirlwind of buzz surrounding anything associated with the Odd Future brand: Just as anything bearing the Wu’s iconic “W” symbol was once a signifier for intrinsic quality and a surefire head-turner, so too are the creepy D.I.Y. sleeves from the Odd Future camp.
Back when writing think pieces about Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All and their lyrical subject matter was a cottage industry, you could damn near predict each new piece like they were MadLibs. Every writer talked about Tyler the Creator—he was, after all, the only one signed to a label in February 2011, aka the month when Odd Future fed music writers— and Earl Sweatshirt (he was missing), and only a few ventured deeper than Frank Ocean and Syd the Kid, depending on if they were making a point about how the group isn’t anti-women, since Syd is an open lesbian. But not one of them mentioned MellowHype.
Regardless of your attitude towards gangster hip-hop, it's hard not to respect what OFWGKTA (otherwise known as Odd Future or Wolf Gang) have managed to achieve in the past couple of years. Appearances on US national television, a US top 5 album for OFWGKTA leader Tyler, the Creator, legendary riotous live performances and a string of self-released album releases and mixtapes - all this has been achieved by a collective where most of the members are only just now making it into their twenties (and Earl Sweatshirt, in fact, is still only 17). Of course, the controversy surrounding their music certainly helps their popularity.
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.
Originally released as a free mixtape in the fall of 2010, Hodgy Beats and Left Brain's second full-length release as MellowHype proves that there's no shortage of talent in the Odd Future family. Unfortunately, five tracks have been trimmed from the original release, the most conspicuous being previous standout "Chordaroy," leaving an album that feels a bit slight when taken as a whole. Of the two new tracks, "64" is a worthy addition, its darkly snaking keyboard lines licking around barking snare drums and Hodgy's leering delivery.
Where Tyler, The Creator is undoubtedly Odd Future’s unhinged id and Earl Sweatshirt its banished personification of ego, MellowHype acts as the group’s super-ego filter. The duo of Left Brain and Hodgy Beats’ give-a-fuck nature, a signature of the group, is easily noted through their various references to drug slinging they’ve never participated in and gunplay they’d never reasonably expect themselves to contribute to. In fact, the group is so entrenched in the standard tropes of their peers despite their outsider nature that two songs, “GunSounds” and “IGotAGun”, are wrapped entirely around the concept of high school-aged teenagers fantasizing about killing and threatening people with firearms.
Hodgy Beats and Left Brain are MellowHype, the second tier of L.A. shock rap group Odd Future (Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean being its first). The two come out swinging with BlackenedWhite, the follow-up to last year's YelloWhite, released on Mississippi-based Fat Possum, of all labels. The beats, handled by Left Brain, fall in line with the Odd Future formula: dystopian synth melodies and electronic drums.
BlackenedWhite is the second album from MellowHype, a collaboration between Odd Future members Hodgy Beats and Left Brain. Initially released as a free download last fall, the album has been stripped of a third of its tracks for a physical release, adding only two new tracks to make up for the six that were pulled. For those who missed it the first time around, the over-the-top violence and vulgarity on BlackenedWhite is in line with other Odd Future offerings.