[28 August 2011]
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.
The group not only filters that staple of west coast hip-hop through their exceptionally brief (30 minutes flat) and spotty Fat Possum re-release of BlackenedWhite, but they also offer the drug rap of “Right Here” and “Loaded”, the police-destroying “Fuck the Police”, and more ambiguous attempts at rhyming for the sake of it like “Primo”, “Rico” and “64”. Unlike most other Odd Future releases, BlackenedWhite and the MellowHype project in general are undeterred by the conventions of genre, as eager to subvert as they are to subsist. As such, BlackenedWhite is an album that depends entirely on its listeners’ eagerness to remove their propensity to give any fucks, to simply listen to 30 minutes of spotty rapping and above average production for the sake of Odd Future’s continued proliferation.
It’s not that the oddly named (mostly) non-beatmaker Hodgy Beats is a weak rapper, being that by traditional standards he’s probably the third or fourth best member of the collective depending on your thoughts concerning Mike G. And it’s not that Hodgy Beats is an uninteresting rapper considering he’s way less indulgent than Tyler and clearly on the level of a few of the middle-class roster filling up west coast free-release albums at a consistent clip. It’s just that, their powers combined, the result is a listen that breezes by as much because of Fat Possum’s insistence on editing down the original tumblr release’s 45 minutes as the duo’s entertainment value as a rap group. Much of the listening experience with BlackenedWhite feels like purchasing a mid-level TV when you clearly had the funds for a more expressive set. Satisfying, but ultimately your entertainment doesn’t feel too much different than it would have with any number of alternatives in its price range.
Perhaps what works most negatively against MellowHype‘s re-release is the loss of some of its original, free version’s best tracks. It’s cool that “Primo”, “Loaded” and “Fuck the Police” survived formatting, but it’s certainly no fun saying goodbye to the Earl verse from “Chordaroy”, the haunted house vision of a “Stripclub”, or the paranoidal ramblings of the Frank Ocean-featuring “Hell”. The decision to trim BlackenedWhite makes sense if your stance is that MellowHype is a group best heard in small doses, but if the most interesting songs possible is your aim, it makes no sense to drop these tracks in favor of topical retreads like “64” and “IGotAGun”. Quite frankly, it feels like a safety move, a play towards standards that’s quite unnecessary in the face of Odd Future’s projected vision. Which leaves this re-release in the unenviable position of supplying fans with a long-awaited hard copy of Hodgy and Left Brain’s most consistent performance while concurrently removing many of the original copy’s most interesting moments.
Mostly, it just sounds like a re-issue with little motivation behind it other than dollar signs, which is out of character for both the group and Fat Possum. Even the cover-art feels somewhat sterilized, a capitalization on cult of personality as much as true art.