MellowHigh – MellowHigh

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Odd Future Records: 2013

The voices of Odd Future are pretty familiar by this point. Beginning from the collective’s ascension to popularity, there has been a concerted effort to demonstrate the range of styles that the talented members bring to the limelight. Beyond Tyler, the Creator’s masterful ingenuity and Earl Sweatshirt’s intriguing artistry has been a consistent onslaught of sonically ambitious and well-developed projects from Domo Genesis, Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, The Internet, Trash Talk, and other assorted voices who work under the OFWGKTA umbrella.

One of the best parts of this onslaught is that audiences have been able to follow the growth of each of these individual artists, as their boisterous group emergence has merged into a loose collaborative network of artists who have had the platform and resources to develop toward their potentials in a manner that is rare for young artists trying to wedge themselves into a saturated hip hop market. When Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis step to the mic over Left Brain production on the trio’s new self-titled album as MellowHigh, it is immediately clear that the triad of hip-hop heads have grown artistically.

Producer Left Brain’s work on the project exemplifies this growth best. The thuddingly repetitive hypnotics of his beats on earlier projects like the MellowHype tape are largely gone–in their place live unexpectedly nuanced beats that at times, such as on standout track “Extinguisher”, bring to mind some of DJ Premier’s grimiest soundscapes. There are a few throwbacks to earlier hypnotism, such as the pulsing “Nobody”, that ultimately prove boring, but overall the risks taken by Left Brain pay off, time after time. The nuances of the mix are also far beyond the efforts on any previous MellowHigh works, as expected on an official album. Yet even with this expectation, the listener is pleasantly surprised by unexpected sonic risks that thicken the audial texture.

With this newly refined backdrop behind them, Hodgy and Domo have the responsibility to showcase the same level of growth. At times, they each are up to the task—they each have moments of introspection and rhythmic playfulness far beyond their previous efforts. Their collaborative balance is at its best on lead single “Yu”, as their distinct styles respond well to each other.

When the lyricists, trip, however, the listener feels how hard they are working to get back up. At times, the impulses seem forced, and discomfort shines through, especially when Hodgy and Domo share the mic with featured MCs Curren$y and Earl Sweatshirt. Both guests seem to effortlessly blend with their surroundings, making the strained moments from the Mellowhigh rappers more obvious. Yet when their voices fit right with the stellar production from Left Brain, the project serves as a great example of what happens when artists have the space, time, and resources to work toward realizing their potential.

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3.5 out of 5

You can buy the album on Amazon.