For several of Odd Future’s surprisingly few active years the focus has always been on technically and publicly gifted artists such Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean. However, as fans have delved deeper into the group much more attention and time has been given to vital members such as Hodgy Beats, Left Brain and Domo Genesis. This has proved to be at least marginally beneficial for the game as all of these artists have contributed certain moments of brilliance. Where the problem seems to lie for these three especially, is consistency. Though, the most recent project, the free mixtape ‘I.N.S.A. (I Need Some Answers)’ by the curious duo MellowHype (Hodgy and Left Brain) seems to aimed at addressing this problem. Both have definitely improved, so let’s investigate why.
Hodgy’s improvement is the probably the most obvious on ‘I.N.S.A.’ more high-energy tracks. The mixtape’s lead single, ‘Nowadays’, is the best example, with Hodgy dropping whiplash references to ex-Lakers and his eating habits, “pickin’ the skin off chickens and skipping on grandma dinner rolls.” That’s a line that exemplifies the rappers’ style: while he’s as beholden to the call of internal rhyme as your average MF DOOM product, Hodgy’s verses never feel cramped. Instead his bars flow freely downhill, with plenty of momentum to ease the density of his wordplay. Other standout records are the anarchic ‘Gang’ and the chaotic ‘FiFafofum!’ which both bring back that nostalgic free-for-all feeling of energy and excitement which made so many people love Odd Future. Back to basic’s to revitalise a fan base maybe?
Once again when the hype and hysteria calms down MellowHype return to their trademark ‘light-one-up’ tracks, of which there are three. The best of which is ‘The Daze’, Left Brain makes the smart choice of looping the collective soft scatting of Syd Tha Kyd (who has quietly become one of the collective’s most magnetic stars) underneath the verses before unleashing her on the chorus. With Hodgy once again delivering has given this entire combination the ability to take good stoned listens to neo-soul at its best. The other two tracks that get drawn into this sedated section of the project is ‘I Am A’ and ‘Daunita’ which while not the same level as ‘The Daze’ still are great easy listens.
However, its pains us so much to admit it but there are once again problems and issues on both sides of this duo which combine deeply as do the duo themselves. Even though Hodgy has definitely improved over the course of this project his verses do sometimes lack some weight to his deliveries. This does not sound such a big deal, but really can make you feel like the artist maybe doubts himself, or some aspect of his music. Traditionally, on Mellowhype albums, Left Brain has jumped in to save songs where Hodgy falls flatÃ¢â‚¬”his production has always been at least as captivating as Hodgy’s verses and the duo’s best songs, from ‘La Bonita’, to ‘SmokeSumKushWitMe’, have benefitted from his perplexing, energetic beats. On ‘I.N.S.A.’, he’s pulled back a bit, flirting with boom-bap and quiet storm samples in contrast to his usual bombast and left field choices, and as a result, there’s nothing to redeem Hodgy when he gets caught in a bad loop. So whether it be on the repetitive gangsterisms of ‘Belly’s’ second verse or the rote misogyny of the concept song ‘7’ (“got a bitch for every day of the week”), Left Brain’s beats here are a little too subdued to entirely rescue the worst of the rappity-rap proceedings.
I really wanted to like ‘I.N.S.A. (I Need Some Answers)’, like every alternative Odd Future project I hear. And to be fair I do not dislike this one, I actually admire a lot of it. I admire Hodgy’s improvement, to his flow and his lyrics, he is beginning to take himself and his obvious talents seriously. I also admire the transformation that taken place with regards to some of the stoner beats; they have become much more complex. I even admire the old school (only six years ago) chaotic and anarchic beats. And yet, like the class clowns they were billed as when they introduced themselves to the world, the group’s potential always seems to loom above their output as a ceiling they haven’t yet cracked. File this one under solid, but could have given so much more. Hodgy Beats and Left Brain are capable of being a top-rate rapper and a top-rate producer respectively, and neither is a kid anymore. Isn’t it past time that they came out with something a little more challenging, or at least more memorable?