Review: Hodgy Beats – Untitled EP

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Hodgy Beats
Untitled EP
self-released on 2.25
Free Download

Of the members of the enigmatic Odd Future crew Hodgy Beats always seemed to be the least absurd. He is eccentric, sure, but he is also a student of traditional hip-hop and a believer in the importance of a good soul sample. So, like many a hyped, emerging hip-hop artist before him Hodgy called in a crew of excellent producers (in this case Juicy J, Thelonius Martin, the Alchemist, and Flying Lotus) and threw them together on one record. This was the right and wrong move for a couple of reasons. It was right because the production on the EP is rock solid and it drew in a fan base that otherwise might have passed (not all hip-hop heads care for Hodgy but there are very few that dislike the Alchemist); but it was wrong because it makes clear that Hodgy’s craft is not even close to as fully formed as the guys’ who laced the beats. Don’t get me wrong, the EP is a really fun listen and it does exactly what it set out to do. But it also leaves me thinking about how good Hodgy will be, not how good he is.

All of the tracks on the EP have the mark of their particular producer but, in general, a soulful, stoner-friendly vibe runs throughout. “Bullshittin” is a bass-heavy, trunk-rattling southern beat. Hodgy quickly establishes the themes that he plans to tackle. First and foremost, he wants to make clear how exceptional he is at rapping. A stale subject, to be sure, but rap wouldn’t be what it is without a heavy dose of narcissism. The trick is for the arrogance to be wrapped up in lines that are lyrically interesting (whether that be through clever wordplay, varied cadence structure, or obscure metaphors).

With lines like “whats the morning to a 24 hour fitness” and “they wanna fry me like they battered me/ I’m a diamond they can’t shatter me”, Hodgy is no slouch. His verses are dense, bouncing rhymes off of one another and packing in the cultural references. Where the rapping sags is in the delivery. A big part of quality rap is the way that the words are spoken. One’s tone can be the difference between a vivid and ruthless verse and one thats simply nondescript. It takes time to develop one’s voice; and, by no fault of his own, Hodgy’s adolescence is his biggest deficiency. I can’t help but hear a young Kanye whenever he turns a phrase.

Still, the majority of the EP is fresh and immediately enjoyable. “Samurai” sports a twisted, funky beat courtesy of Stones Throw’s Jonti. Hodgy’s flow fits nicely alongside the quirky instrumentation. Like “Samurai”, FlyLo’s contribution steers clear of the hazy, Curren$y-esque sound that graces the rest of the album. It’s a relatively straightforward beat by FlyLo standards but, still, it’s clear that Hodgy’s cadence isn’t meant for even mildly glitchy beats. Blu and Nocando are gifted in that regard. Hodgy would be wise to stick to the slow burners like “Higashi Loves You”.

Considering all the dreck out there it’s hard to gripe too much about a hip-hop release with good production (that is largely culled from soul samples) and lyricism that has bursts of real quality. It’s a much more even keeled release than one would usually expect from an Odd Future member, and I mean that as a compliment. But still, while the EP may feel mature by Wolf Gang standards, it sounds distinctly underdeveloped in comparison to top-tier hip-hop. That’s largely because Hodgy picked a production crew that would, by default, make him sound his age. My advice to Hodgy Beats would be this: he should smoke a ton, keep screaming at shows, and wait for his voice to be able accurately reflect all those menacing thoughts.

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