When Odd Future’s MellowHype initially released its sophomore mixtape, BlackenedWhite, I used it and Domo Genesis’s Rolling Papers as evidence that Odd Future was not uniformly interested diving headfirst into an abyss of self loathing and spite, of rape and murder, like all the group’s press suggested. Some of the best tracks on Domo’s tape were observations about altered states and supermarket cash register arguments. Similarly, Hodgy Beats and Left Brain’s work on BlackenedWhite displayed another side of the Odd Future universe. “Hell” had a chorus from rising star Frank Ocean about writing songs while watching anime. “Stripclub” found the crew thoroughly gassed about being inside the song’s titular (hah!) establishment. “Loco” had anti-police rhetoric and Black Panther references. Tracks like these had a humanizing effect on a group who had been pigeonholed in the press as another teenage horrorcore revival act.
BlackenedWhite the mixtape split the difference between social commentary, ordinary teenage navelgazing and the trademark Odd Future gothic mythos. BlackenedWhite the album is a different animal. For starters, it deads all the aforementioned cuts and more (the excellent Earl Sweatshirt feature “Chordaroy” vanished, one would think, due to clearance issues?), replacing them with two newly recorded numbers: the hellish “64” and the anarchic, volatile “Igotagun”. Less the rangier material, BlackenedWhite gains a kind of urgency, but it loses a measure of what distinguished MellowHype from their more volatile peers, which is unfortunate. Even if the retail version goes for a different vibe from the mixtape, it’s still worth mention that there is scarcely a bum cut to be found. There’s plenty of dope beats and lyricism here.
Hodgy Beats is a severely underrated MC, as is the case with any member of Odd Future not named Tyler or Earl. BlackenedWhite makes a serious a case for his emerging talents on the mic. He crushes the spitfire fast rap shit on “Igotagun”. He rides Left Brain’s woozy instrumental for “Right Here” like a born winner. He can kick the killer shit with the best of his peers too, if “64” is any indication. Hodgy is Odd Future’s utility player. Where some of his peers fall into a kind of musical tunnel vision, Hodgy plays off of (and at times against) their interests. I’d rave about his more contemplative rhymes, but most of them didn’t make the cut. Waah. Left Brain spits too, but his turns on the mic on “Fuck the Police” and “Circus” are novelty quality at best. Let’s be honest: his talents on the boards are the real draw.
Although Tyler the Creator’s Neptunes obsession is the pulsing undercurrent of much of Odd Future’s work from a production standpoint, it is in the work of Left Brain that Odd Future’s L.A. roots really show. At his best Left Brain imbues airy synths with foreboding melodic figures, presenting a more menacing update on the locced out, moogy thump that put West Coast rap on the map back when. Left Brain’s grittier instrumentals push g-funk to its logical, nihilistic conclusion. Feisty numbers like “64” and “Igotagun” are offset by laid back, almost hypnotic numbers like the droning “Loaded” and “Brain”, both of which use repetition and simplicity to dizzying effect. We should hear more talk about Left Brain’s beats, but again, his name isn’t Tyler, and the interest and attention showered on Odd Future is maddeningly centered on the group’s ostensible frontman.
All in all, BlackenedWhite is a worthy addition to the Odd Future canon. If you somehow missed out on the original mixtape (which has been out since last Halloween!), give this a listen. Yeah, this thing is only a half hour long, and yeah, a handful of the best tracks off the mixtape didn’t make the cut, and yeah, most of the material has been available for months. But fuck it. These cats deserve the money. Sometimes buying a record is less about gaining access to the music (which is disgustingly easy to find on the internets) and more about placing a vote. A vote of confidence in the abilities of the artist. And, of course, shiny pictures.