**1/2 (out of four)
The weird group of skater-kid rappers known as Odd Future (aka Wolf Gang aka OFWGKTA aka Golf Wang) managed to offend seemingly the country's entire music listening population when it arrived in the mainstream last year with grotesque lyrics and unapologetic attitude. Subgroup MellowHype, which includes rapper Hodgy Beats and producer Left Brain, was no exception. Its first release “BlackenedWhite” offered vaguely satanic imagery and songs about shooting police officers. But many observers who tuned in long enough to hear one homophobic slur missed some of the irreverent Odd Future subtext that suggested the group fit right into plenty of existing hip-hop lineages.
On MellowHype's new album, the substantially calmer “Numbers,” that heritage is clear. The energetic, punk-like rage that animates much of the best Odd Future music is largely replaced by a traditionalist, dudes-hanging-out style of rap in line with '90s New York groups like Camp Lo or Wu-Tang Clan. It's not necessarily a bad thing – this is maybe the happiest and most self-assured music anyone in Odd Future has made – but it does deprive the music of a certain immediacy.
“Numbers” invites you to chill with these guys, which becomes even more fun when OF stars Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean show up to steal the show on “P2” and “Astro,” respectively. “Under 2” is Hodgy Beats at his best, adopting a reflective mood not usually associated with this group, while “La Bonita” finds Left Brain joining in for some goofy rapping. But Hodgy Beats is still maybe only the fifth-most charismatic member of the collective (behind Left Brain), and many of these songs blend together as just cool rapping. Despite Left Brain's fantastically futuristic beats, “Numbers” isn't groundbreaking. It's just a break from what Odd Future is known to offer.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
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