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. Not a single one. It was easy to mention that Odd Future was made up of (at least) 11 members, but harder to actually listen to all of them, especially when not all of them say stuff like “Fuck a mask, I want that ho to know it’s me.” It’s hard to make blanket statements that Odd Future are deplorable homophobic kids who rap about rape and then mention MellowHype, who open their splendid Blackenedwhite album with a gauzy song (“Primo”) about skipping a final and smoking weed.
MellowHype didn’t fit the easy pigeonhole of column writers a few months ago, and that’s ironic, because if you were to write the real story of Odd Future’s success—that these are kids self-creating their own musical sphere, expressing themselves in a way that happened to connect with kids their own age (and music critics)—MellowHype could anchor it. Hodgy Beats, the lyrical half of MellowHype, is less concerned with working out his daddy issues or enacting rape fantasies; he’s often talking about school not going well (“Primo” and “Brain”), boasting (“Gunssounds”), dissecting organized religion (his scathing unedited verse on Tyler’s “Sandwitches”), hitting on ladies (“Right Here”), and smoking weed (damn near every song). Meanwhile, Left Brain, the production half of MellowHype, is arguably just as talented a production force as Tyler the Creator, crafting monstrous beats that rival Lex Luger’s dumbed-out stompers alongside hazy, trippy beats that sound like soundtrack dreamscapes filtered through hip-hop. These are guys living the essential message behind Odd Future’s success: You can be whatever you want to be, if you just go ahead and do it already.
You can also convince traditionally blues-based labels like Fat Possum to reissue an album that you released for free last year, as MellowHype have done with this remastered and reconstituted version of their already strong Blackenedwhite. Things certainly sound slightly more hi-fi—particularly with Left Brain’s production– but the major changes come in the track list, where fan favorite “Chordaroy” is axed, thanks to Earl Sweatshirt’s mom preventing him from appearing on the album. The track list is generally tightened too (no “Hell,” “Loco” or “Strip Club” either), which is a good move, since like all Odd Future albums, there was fat to be cut on the original. But the real highlight here is the newest track: “64,” a track originally intended for MellowHype’s upcoming MellowHype Numbers, finds Hodgy growling lines like “I’m rehearsing for my funeral/ triple six roman numerals,” over Left Brain’s most ominous, funeral keys beat.
Ironically, “64” is Hodgy’s most Tyler-like moment, but there’s nothing to be gained from chronicling every offensive lyrical sentiment. “This rhyme spittin’ done turned me into a convict,” Mike G, another Odd Future member who is chronically ignored, says on “Loaded,” Blackenedwhite’s centerpiece. If there’s been a better dissection of the reaction to Odd Future’s lyrics, I haven’t heard it. If there’s a clear positive to the collapse of the Odd Future think piece economy it’s this: At least now we’ll be able to live in a world where you can listen to Odd Future without having to think about the recent piece on NPR about whether or not they hate gay people.
Luckily, Blackenedwhite, the first post-Odd Future hype machine album, is still as good as it was eight months ago, when it came out and was instantly the most fun album in the Odd Future oeuvre. It’s a triumph of two kids putting all of their efforts into an album, and coming out with something great. MellowHype probably have a better album in them (recent track “65” is maybe their best song to date), but their triumph on Blackenedwhite can’t keep being ignored. Maybe when they’re on their own label, along with the rest of Odd Future, they won’t be.