As other members of the Odd Future stable receive major-label treatment, it's difficult to avoid drawing comparisons between the group's meteoric rise and that of the Wu-Tang Clan in the mid '90s. This isn't necessarily due to the music they're creating, but because of the way they're being marketed and the whirlwind of buzz surrounding anything associated with the Odd Future brand: Just as anything bearing the Wu's iconic "W" symbol was once a signifier for intrinsic quality and a surefire head-turner, so too are the creepy D.I.Y. sleeves from the Odd Future camp.
Now, it seems, is the time for this piquant L.A. crew to cash in on their notoriety, as a remastered version of BlackenedWhite by MellowHype (a side project consisting of Odd Future's Hodgy Beats and Left Brain) arrives on Fat Possum Records, after being released for free online last October. Except there isn't actually much "remastering" to speak of here—merely tracks that have been cut due to contractual issues (with cult hero Earl Sweatshirt now missing in action) and a glossy new single, "64," as the album's centerpiece. And while the song is a visceral number in keeping with every Odd Future staple, the physical edition of the album has lost a lot more than it's gained ("Hell" and "Chordaroy" are both sorely missed).
It comes as no surprise that BlackenedWhite was cherry-picked to be the wider world's second serving of the Odd Future sound, with its more measured approach offsetting the outrageous ferocity of Tyler the Creator's Goblin. Hodgy Beats, MellowHype's MC in chief, tackles far less vitriolic subject matter than Tyler tends to, and his casual stoner-rap flow is easier on the ears than Tyler's acerbic barking. There's no room for nonchalant rape talk, but violence, women, drugs, and money are very much a part of Hodgy's repertoire: "GunSounds" is packed to the gunwales with references to popping fools and the like, and "Circus" is an explicit sex tale in which the rapper throws around a number of sassy euphemisms, while the album at large is knee-deep in drug culture and awash with bolshie gangsterisms.
Producer Left Brain's instrumentals are tailor-made for Hodgy's torpid rapping style, and they conform to Odd Future's distinctively trippy, lo-fi synth sounds and fidgety arrangements. The duo strikes a fine working relationship throughout BlackenedWhite too, with Left ensuring his colleague's standout bars are accentuated with a quirky sample or a sudden key change. In all, this is a far more accessible affair than Goblin; it never comes close to being as downright offensive, and Hodgy's breezy flow helps make this a far easier album to digest. And with this less abrasive entry to their canon, perhaps people will realize there's more to Odd Future than controversy and shock value.