- Until the recent and glorious rise of Frank Ocean, Odd Future's dynamic duo of Hodgy Beats and Left Brain combining forces as MellowHype has always been the most consistently impressive by-product of that whole sordid collective. Despite efforts by many others to the contrary, Frank Ocean seemed to be the only true success story after the Odd Future wave came came crashing down so softly when Tyler the Creator and his cohorts, somewhat understandably, failed to sustain the immense momentum the group had whipped up in a rabid frenzy not all that long before.
While popping up separately and sporadically in recent times, MellowHype as a unit have been pretty dead to world since the Odd Future balloon took flight. They put out a slightly self-serving teaser mix-tape a month ago that flew under all but the most committed radars, seven tracks that, while not setting the earth on fire, were a nice reminder of MellowHype's inherent dopeness and the first real opportunity to hear the group operating in the unsettling post-success world in which they've now found themselves.
When Hodgy and Left Brain last really did some damage, with the originally self-released BlackenedWhite, the two of them had both just barely entered their twenties. They were angry, pumped up, young men with no real expectations and not much to prove. Unlike Tyler the Creator's shock tactics and inability to stay out of trouble, MellowHype seemed to harness their emotive power and channel it into something less in your face, but still totally brutal, intense and raw. If Tyler was Eminem, then MellowHype would be Dead Prez: old souls trapped in young bodies.
It's been two, long years now since BlackenedWhite first dropped and for the record that album really did it for me. For two young men that can barely legally vote in their own country and that have been on a seemingly never ending world tour with the Odd Future crew, one would assume that for good or bad, follow-up record Numbers wasn't going to be all that similar to that previous, killer effort. Indeed Numbers is definitely a different beast. Left Brain still handles the overwhelming majority of the production and though he jumps on a couple of the tracks, Hodgy Beats remains the prominent voice of the group. Odd Future's best pure rapper only shares the spotlight a handful of times, in entertaining turns from just a few Odd Future members, with Mike G, Earl Sweatshirt and the untouchable Frank Ocean all bringing a little spice to proceedings, though Tyler the Creator is oddly absent.
Despite being about 15 minutes too long, and feeling a little less coherent than their previous outing, Numbers is still a success. Left Brain continues to evolve as a producer, and even though some of his ideas are a bit off the planet, it's good that his oddball, spaghetti-head is operating on some higher levels, at times striking serious gold. One such nugget is the two part track, "65/Breakfast", a spaced out, slow-burning jam that defies most trending hip-hop conventions and is the better for it. On a side note, the track with Frank Ocean is a total trip, whether it's the greatest thing I've ever heard or a terrible mess is still up for debate in my mind, but regardless it's certainly something. I don't think the world is quite ready for that yet, so I'll play the deceptively long, yet badass double track I previously mentioned, "65/Breakfast", which lets Left Brain show off a little of that new-found depth of character and wisdom.
- Jay Edwards.