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MellowHigh Gets A Little Too Mellow On Self-Titled Album

Who is MellowHigh? Easy enough: It’s the not-that-new combination of producer/rapper duo Left Brain and Hodgy Beats with an always game Domo Genesis. But really, who is MellowHigh? We know what they were a few years back. Domo Genesis played the entertaining, but not all that impressive smoker on his 2010 mixtape Rolling Papers, while MellowHype had their agenda laid out on 2010′s haunting BlackenedWhite. Actually, it wasn’t much of an agenda as the duo played the role of the less heinous delinquents to Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt’s horror show.

The group never strayed too far from the Odd Future template but the collective was never really about new ideas to begin with. Shock lyrics were one thing, but what captivated fanatics and critics alike was the collective’s undeniable energy and execution, a.k.a. two things that made BlackenedWhite such a compelling release. Hodgy Beats was the snarling technician—sprinkling bits of venom as he went along—with Tyler, Earl, and Domo Genesis stopping by to help. The more subdued Left Brain injected his voice through production that felt car stereo ready and inventive all at once. As the OF hype died down, Earl and Tyler went onto releasing impressive and occasionally confounding albums, while MellowHype couldn’t figure out the next step. The duo’s staleness revealed itself in the decent, but exhausting Numbers, and MellowHigh finds themselves continuing downward even with the addition of Domo. Too many things feel grayscale here: the hooks, a lot of verses, the production.

Part of the appeal of Left Brain’s earthy, synth-heavy style was how glitchy and straight up weird it was, keeping listeners on their toes. The weirdness is substituted for hamfistedness here. There are clear attempts at bangers throughout MellowHigh, but a lot of them have the effect of an amateur throwing jabs at a Floyd Mayweather. Given the group’s prior success, the occasional lapses into amateurism found on MellowHigh feel like a lack of effort, not some ambitious failure. An attention to melody and progression is apparent, but it all feels too standard for an Odd Future album—and standardization leads to boredom. The beat selection is decent in the first quarter of the album with a genuine banger in “Yu,” but soon we get the drowsy, staccato synths of if “Self Titled” and the skippable drone of “Troublesome.” There’s stomping percussion on “Roofless” and neon-gazing synths on “Cold World,” but nothing really sounds all that definitive.

The lack of effervescence on Left Brain’s part isn’t something Hodgy Beats can make up for either. Yes, he’s as technically intact as ever, and yes, Domo Genesis does drop the occasional zinger (“Spittin’ sick, ripping through visions of written syphilis/He slit his wrist to ink all these verses, blood in my penmanship,” he says on “Extinguisher”). But whether it’s lack of charisma or the limited subject matter, nothing really sticks. The haphazardly assembled hooks don’t offer much buoyance either, from the lazily performed ones (“Air,” “Nobody”) to the ill-advised (“Cigarillo”). So while Tyler seeks fulfillment in other creative avenues and Earl ferments himself at the center of speculation, MellowHigh is just there. MellowHigh has its thrills with some credit going to Earl’s playful verse on “Cold World,” but too often the album feels stagnant. Like hype, the thrills are only temporary. -—Brian Josephs

  • RNKTA

    wow i was looking foreward to this for 2 months and you just shat on them.

  • Rigby

    I’m still wondering why they gave Wolf a L.

  • st0ner

    fuck this article

  • PrettyMuFINKa

    The thing about music is that we all hear it differently. What may sound good to me, whoever’s reading this & the critic above, may not sound good to the either or. Critics in music make no sense at all since it’s a very, very subjective work of art, b/c that’s exactly what it is. So if this person doesn’t like it, that’s fine..he’s just giving the people who agree w/ him something to say when a debate about the album comes up.

  • Slim Joe

    xxl just hates odd future

  • JPxADA

    Stop riding Tylers and earl dick! As much as i give them credit for all they’ve accomplished i personally think that HB has been getting the short end of the stick and hes probably the most under rated rapper/artist right now. Obviously everyone has their own taste in music.

  • Ramon Rojo

    this album was weak af Mellowhype overstayed their welcome Left Brain’s beats are so simple and Hodgy is so basic and repetitive

  • MellowHigh Fan

    This reviews shit. They immediately talk about Earl and Tyler? Like it wasnt a Hodgy-Domo-Left release. Fuck Brian Josephs for this bullshit. Hate when critics base most of their thoughts on peers and past albums. Shouldnt a album review focus solely on THIS album. Doesnt make sense. It was a great piece. HOW THE HELL DOES DJ KHALED GET THE SAME RATING AS MELLLOWHIGH?

  • Hannya

    This review read more like a diss than a constructive critique. I dunno I thought the album was good.

  • Dugg

    Wait wait wait, so they LIKED Doris, and they DIDN’T like Mellowhigh? XXLMag needs some new headphones ya heard

  • Carl Smith

    nba this is the first time i agree with them this shit was bad

  • elyayers

    This review doesn’t even make sense. How are you going to review a Mellowhigh album, but consistently compare MELLOWHIGH’s album to Tyler or Earl’s album, and also frequently get Mellowhigh mixed with Mellowhype? Yes, Mellowhigh is a collective of 3 Odd Future members, but this isn’t an OF release. Don’t sit here and try to act like it is. Yes, Mellowhigh is simple Hodgy, Left and Domo, (not a huge change from Mellowhype), but comparing this album to MELLOWHYPE’s album is even wrong. If they were trying to release this as a Mellowhype album, it would be a Mellowhype & Domo Genesis drop, but it’s not. They’re all under one roof throughout this. XXL hasn’t really had credibility on selecting what talent is and what talent isn’t, given the constant XXL Freshman lineup containing horrible rappers. So I’ll take this review as a biased rant by someone who represents an organizaiton/publishing agency who struggles identifying talent. Thanks!