An offshoot of Los Angeles, hip-hop collective Odd Future duo MellowHype has been flying under the radar. Rapper Hodgy Beats and producer Left Brain have been around since Odd Future’s inception in 2007, but five years and two solid albums later, they have yet to establish themselves in broader discussions of rap.
Anchored around a steady lo-fi sound, “Numbers” is MellowHype’s most consistent effort yet. The placement of songs is methodical and well thought-out, and the album flows agreeably. “Numbers” opens with the shadowy “Grill,” drifting into the grooving “65/Breakfast” and decisively building to spacy jam “Astro.” With these openers and the likes of “Beat” and “666,” Left Brain shapes a distinct, subtle, gloomy sound that anchors the album.
Left Brain’s deceptively simple production is full of delicate, chilling layers that usually don’t build to a climax. Instead they slowly entrench themselves in a groove. “Snare” cycles ride-cymbals and static chords for an ominous vibe while the pretty, fluttering “P2” resembles a lo-fi version of Japanese hip-hop producer Nujabes. Bouncy, Spanish-influenced “La Bonita” is a miss, but an interesting tune nonetheless. Coming in at nearly an hour, “Numbers” would have been improved by cutting two or three filler songs near the end.
Featured appearances from Mike G and Earl Sweatshirt fit their respective tracks well, while Frank Ocean’s charming but crude chorus steals the show on “Astro.” Left Brain raps on a song or two as well; his nasally but strangely smooth, bass voice adds an interesting counterpart to Hodgy’s rougher staccato.
Hodgy, who takes the main share of the rapping, isn’t a particularly charismatic on the microphone, but is still far more palatable than many of his Odd Future compatriots. What Hodgy lacks in vivid imagery he partially makes up for with his unmistakable style. He adapts to beats with a variety of flows, pivoting, pausing and smoothly stuffing syllables.
Sexist but honest, introspective and immature, Hodgy finds ways to grow throughout “Numbers.” “Snare” covers parent issues, “65/Breakfast” deals with angst, and “P2” explains friendship and parenthood. MellowHype is undeniably immature and often politically incorrect, but compared to their previous efforts, this one shows an encouraging degree of progress. “Untitled L” is a pleasingly crunk, but is no “F–k the Police.” “La Bonita” is misogynistic, but a big step from “Stripclub.” Throughout this, Hodgy tends to be goofy and relatable. Unfortunately, the choruses remain weak. Spelling out “MellowHype” or repeating the same word over and over gets old fast.
“Numbers” has dulled some of MellowHype’s rough edges, and the more serene sound works. Still overshadowed by Tyler, the Creator’s psychotic fantasies and Frank Ocean’s stunning retro style, MellowHype aren’t quite ready for primetime yet, but they are making progress. Hodgy Beats and Left Brain have carved out an interesting aesthetic — they just need to dig a little deeper.
Peter Slattery is a contributing writer. Email him at email@example.com.
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