The young rap crew Odd Future embarked on a rocketship early career propelled by unique character and controversy. As they settled into the limelight, the new celebrities faced a fanbase with massive expectations. Each project within the collective faced unique scrutiny. “Numbers,” the third studio album by MellowHype, consisting of Odd Future rapper Hodgy Beats and producer Left brain, is the most recent project for fans to study.
“Numbers” has something to prove, as does any album from a group that is part of a cluster of potential hype bubbles. The group rose up through alternative hip-hop, forcing a reconciliation between underdog tropes and actual success.
Following the trend in modern rap, production generally leads the appeal on “Numbers.” Hodgy Beats and Left Brain work together fluidly, so the delivery fits the beat. On album opener “Grill,” Hodgy takes full advantage of the claustrophobic, head-bobbing track with a driven first verse.
“Snare” is another feat of synergy between vocals and beat. Left Brain utilizes samples of MellowHype’s manager’s young daughter Chloe Clancy for the hook. Hodgy mirrors the lines to create a playful, filled-out tune.
The previously released “65” is paired with new song “Breakfast.” More than a year ago, “65” proved itself to be a chill track full of vibes that will remind listeners of early MellowHype grooves such as “Polyurethane.” Maybe the pairing has to do with the similar tones of the two songs – the wavy beat of “Breakfast” slips in comfortably after “65.”
“Monster” is practically a banger. Left Brain places an eerie drone under driving synth and spurts of low-end boom. Hodgy Beats spits ferociously in one of his shining moments on the album.
Sometimes the hooks seem a little disjointed. “Leflair” showcases fantastic verses from Hodgy, but the statements about who the group “effs with” are distracting. The same can be said about “Grill” to a lesser degree. Missteps aside, the substance of both songs easily pleases.
Of course, it would not be an Odd Future release without some help from other members. One of the album’s best songs, “Astro,” features crooner Frank Ocean singing about amusing award-show apparel over a very OF-sounding simple synth setup. The storied Earl Sweatshirt makes an appearance on “P2” to drop an unsurprisingly tight verse. Lines like “tad bit sicker than the rest of the clinic” remind listeners why they missed him so much.
“Numbers” proves that MellowHype’s minimalist production is refreshingly still intact. Left Brain crafts catchy, brain-poking tracks that never get bogged down by production. Layers are present, just deftly applied. The aforementioned tracks all sport intriguing production in their own right, but beyond simple beat-building, Left Brain is able to balance Hodgy’s varying deliveries with the backing sounds. It is not hard to see why these two artists have embarked on a career together.
It is appropriate to say that many of the songs on “Numbers” sound like MellowHype. On a more meta level, one could say that certain tracks sound like Odd Future. That is not a lazy generalization, it is testament to the group’s solidarity. Odd Future has had a crazy ride in the last few of years, something young artists have rarely experienced to such a degree. A rabid fanbase and heaps of attention could have set the stage for catastrophic disappointment, and it still can. But for now, MellowHype have created a cohesive, well crafted album that will please old fans and, possibly, garner them even more hype.
Speakeasy rating: A-
Key tracks: “Astro,” “P2,” “Breakfast.”