Odd Future LLC
Odd Future LLC

Back when Hodgy was known as Hodgy Beats, times were a lot different. The 26-year-old California native was a member of Odd Future, one of rap music’s most promising and boundary-pushing collectives. At that time, circa 2012, the dozen members that made up OFWGKTA all shared a common goal in making dope music that primarily rallied around frontman Tyler, The Creator. But as most groups in hip-hop do almost systematically, the Odd Future crew gradually and unofficially disbanded, leaving Hodgy pretty much to his own devices.

Since then, he’s dabbled with duos but it’s his mixtape game that has been sturdy enough to land him relevancy in 2016. Both DENATAPE2 and Dukkha were underground grails that shifted his solo hype in a positive direction. Now, after years of bouncing from collective work to duo projects to mixtapes, Hodgy now has a full solo studio album out and -- believe it or not -- it’s being released under the Odd Future Records imprint.

The album’s title, Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide, is wildly abstract and completely on brand with the music it so non-figuratively titles. There is a short, mumbled intro that will undoubtedly leave listeners more confused than enlightened. “Kundalini” is where the album starts to get more coherent -- at least from a vocal standpoint. Hodgy and collaborator Salomon Faye both dish out uber-metaphysical rhymes about the devil, sorcerers and evil gallows to which Hodgy wraps up with “It's an exorcism cut demons off me like a circumcision.”

The track comes off as an attempt of being dangerously spiritual just for the sake of being dangerously spiritual. Based on his overall aesthetic and personality, there is a good chance he's actually practicing what he’s preaching but it feels as if he’s just trying to check off the “woke” box on some type of MC scorecard.

Luckily, the follow-up track “Barbell” is much better. The soaring mid-tempo beat produced by Jonti is exactly what a more casual listener needs to truly buy into what Hodgy is selling. There is a very clear honesty that shines through, especially with lines like, “We 'bout to see how fucking hungry you are/About how much about this money you are/This road is so fraudulent when becoming a star” and “Close my eyelids, feel my iris dilate/Ain't bothered by hate, I'm steppin' to it/We face the fate.” This kind of candid songwriting is showcased on other cuts like the self-aware “Glory” and the thought-provoking “Dreaminofthinkin.”

Collaborations are few on the project, but don't necessarily make or break the project. Lil Wayne links up with Hodgy for "Tape Beat," "Final Hour" finds Busta Rhymes flexing his skills and "Kundalini" features Salomon Faye melting into Hodgy's own delivery. While the rapper did drop the word Beats from his name, the relaxed vibrations on "Barbell" and the blissful boom baps on “The Now” are standout selections when it comes to production.

Hodgy gives a valiant effort on Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide, even though it has its hiccups. There is something to be said for a rapper that attempts to step outside of his prior collective’s shadow and make a name on their own. The good news with this release is that it serves as a starting point for the newly rebranded Hodgy.

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