Odd Future — a Los Angeles hip-hop collective of young, talented and deviant rappers, singers and producers — emerged in 2010 and captivated the Internet world with its assemblage of charismatic personalities and diverse musical sounds. The majority of the group’s spotlight has focused on Tyler, The Creator, the deep-voiced rapper/producer and ringleader of the crew; Earl Sweatshirt, a young and gifted wordsmith who spent most of his time at a Samoan boarding school for at-risk boys during OF’s ascendance; and Frank Ocean, the Stevie Wonder of his generation. There are, however, many underrated creative forces in the outfit that have quietly been producing quality music since the group’s inception — chiefly MellowHype, the duo of rapper Hodgy Beats and producer Left Brain.
Columbia / Odd Future
MellowHype’s latest album, Numbers, is the duo’s strongest bid for OF prominence thus far. Since 2011’s BlackenedWhite, MellowHype has evolved sonically in a remarkable way. Left Brain, arguably OF’s best producer, seems to be working with a whole new set of tools on Numbers. While many tracks still feature the sinister, minimalist beats that are prominent throughout all of OF’s music, there are songs on this album, such as the haunting “666,” that are incredibly cinematic and dense.
Numbers also represents a marked improvement in the skills of Hodgy Beats, an intense rapper with a lightning-quick flow that doesn’t always hit its mark. In the majority of these songs, Hodgy restrains his verbal reckless abandon just enough to be impressively effective, but on tracks like “Monster” and “Gnc,” he relapses and spits muddled, out-of-control verses.
Hodgy’s best performance is on “65/Breakfast,” which is the album’s standout track and possibly the greatest MellowHype song to date. The song’s first half, “65,” features a bright, piano-led beat, similar to the warm, bouncy production of Pharrell Williams and pointed rhymes from Hodgy, including a boast that his flow is as “contagious as a herpe at the tip of a Slurpee straw.” The second half, “Breakfast,” is an atmospheric cloud of synths and angelic background vocals that finds Hodgy ruminating on success, the next chapter of his career and death.
Numbers is enhanced significantly by performances from two OF members: Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt. Frank handles the chorus on the fantastic “Astro,” singing alongside a soulful piano about how Prince has inspired him to “wear a yellow tux at the Grammy’s and rock out with (his) cock out.” In the most compelling moment of the album’s second half, Earl contributes his best verse since returning from Samoa to the song “P2,” describing in a dizzying fashion how, despite being “far from Harvard,” he has found success in the world thanks to his OF crew.
There are many songs on Numbers, however, that are either disastrously out of place or entirely worthless altogether. With a run time of nearly 60 minutes, the album is riddled with filler tracks, including the pointless nonsense of “Leflair” and the dreadful “Snare,” which features a chorus that sounds like Hodgy doing his best Passion Pit impression — with children’s choir and all — and falling flat on his face.
Although it rambles on toward the end and lacks consistency throughout, Numbers is certainly worth a listen. With “65/Breakfast,” Hodgy and Left Brain have crafted one of the best rap songs of 2012, and overall, the album is formidably entertaining and an excellent representation of MellowHype’s talents. Numbers is certainly flawed and occasionally frustrating, but nonetheless, it is a solid release that will earn MellowHype a spot in the top tier of Odd Future’s fascinating and ever-expanding music catalogue.