Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Mellowhype ''INSA'' - A Review

''The idea of me is great/The result of me otherwise''

And so it often goes with Mellowhype and Odd Future in general, who since breaking onto the rap scene with their brand of shock hip-hop in the last half decade have delivered a wide range of content that has varied both in style and quality throughout their relatively short yet significant opening run. The likes of Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt have produced greatness while others such as Mellowhype, Domo Genesis and The Internet have hit inconsistent notes on their individual releases, often relying on the collective's developing reputation to support their own projects rather than any sign of outstanding talent.

That's not to say the lower key members of the group are totally lacking though; far from it, as Hodgy Beats and Left Brain, the duo that make up Mellowhype, have demonstrated on earlier releases like BlackenedWhite (similarly excellent output like Mike G's Ali make a case for backing up the OF troupe's bigger stars too), but too often the band has shown an inconsistent side that needs to be dropped for Mellowhype to progress further than the shadow of the Odd Future banner. So it's a good thing then that INSA (or I Need Some Answers) lives up to its title and provides us with a reinvented electronic rap sound that sounds like an exciting way forward for the young duo.

The first thing that should strike you immediately about INSA is that producer Left Brain has been listening to a lot of Alice Glass and Ethan Kath, as openers ''Gang'' and ''Bars'' unexpectedly sample Crystal Castles with much aplomb, particularly on the latter as the haunting acoustic sound of ''Tell Me What To Swallow'' is transformed into a dreamy soundscape beat for Hodgy to rhyme over in style. The rest of the album pleasantly follows suit, throwing up a mixture of laid back. synth laden backgrounds that confirm Left Brain's growth as a producer since the duo's beginnings and Hodgy's nasal delivery is as sharp and precise as ever cutting through the beats on the albums best moments like ''Belly'', ''I Am A'' and partucularly ''The Daze'', an intimate track that sounds as though it could have been taken from a Purity Ring playlist with a soothing female touch on the vocals in between verses. There's even room for an acoustic R&B style ballad on ''7'' just to showcase another side to the duo in the midsection in case you hadn't already noticed.

Where INSA briefly falls down is when it attempts to retread old paths on ''Fifafofum'', the album's undoubted lowlight. This messy and obnoxious track is guilty of reverting to old style OF humour that at this point is funny to no one but the band members themselves and it belongs more so on full group releases like The OF Tape, ironically where the entire gathering of these talented young musicians sound at their weakest most of the time. Another complaint may be directed towards Hodgy's lyrics at times, which tend to wander off track and onto mumbled bars about drugs and alcohol, all of which we've heard a thousand times before. On ''Dunita'' in particular Left Brain's music leaves Hodgy behind as the production outshines the rapper on a track that deserves better bars.

All in all though, this is the most inspired Mellowhype has sounded since their second album. It's an exciting release and potentially an important one for the duo beyond 2014 if they can lay down this intriguing new sound over a series of future releases and continue to climb up and stand on their own two feet outside of the insular world of Odd Future. While it's an unexpected turn for Mellowhype on this realtively low key mixtape, this style is one that Mellowhype should strive towards and attempt to explore further from now on- the kids of the rap game are going to be alright if they can keep producing results like INSA.


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