New Music Review: MellowHype’s BlackenedWhite
MellowHype are anti-poets. If certain poetry uses language for its aesthetic quality, to show beauty that transcends man, MellowHype uses language beautifully to show ugliness in men.
The new album, BlackenedWhite, is gritty, mean and unforgiving. Take track one, “Primo.” It starts with a beat that you’d expect to hear on a Lupe Fiasco album. But at about a minute in the beat slows down, ghoulish like a ketamine induced heart failure that gives way to “Gunsounds.”
It’s like saying fuck you to getting comfortable.
“Gunsounds” begins with a barely audible phone message where the clearest phrase is “faggot ass nigga.” Apparently, not all West Coast rappers are on the same page as Lil B.
This track is the (un)kind of track, like others on the album (Deaddeputy, Igotagun), that boasts an anti-groove: It resists the listener’s attempts to get too comfortable with the music. You’re kept in a limbo. You’re kept in an anxious in between space like the space Thomas Pynchon’s readers find themselves in. It’s hard to listen, but a lot of times you don’t want to stop.
I feel like Cam’ron and the Dipset crew used to make these kinds of beats.
“64” is where MellowHype are lyrically at their best. “Knock, Knock. Delivery, I’m the rhetorician/Body decomposition, ripping through your rhythm” is the hook. The second verse: “Leprechaun, hexagon, I transform: Decepticon/Rasputin, I’m half mutant, fuck financial aid, cash students.”
This is a celebration of language. What is MellowHype saying? Literally? Absolutely nothing. But say these words out loud, feel how the letters create the sound, the pairing creates the rhyme and allow whatever images to come. It’s intoxicating. But here’s the paradox: this beauty can’t be taken out of context. These words are a part of a greater, terribly oppressive, horror-inducing track. That last verse screams, “Salute MellowHype or mustard gas/I ain’t gay but I’m a fucking ass.”
Although songs like “F666 the Police” and “Rico” are politically charged (the group addresses racial profiling in the former and poverty in the latter), MellowHype doesn’t offer much justification for the overwhelming ugliness and vague hatred expressed throughout the album. Mostly, MellowHype’s rage explodes insularly and then falls back upon itself. The group throws insults at general “bitches” or “niggas,” which seem to be phantom victims that exist only within the album’s narrative. The “bitches” are markers to contain and direct rage, not real people MellowHype plan on killing, raping, fucking up, et cetera… (Unless of course I’m wrong).
It’s all very strange. The rhymes on BlackenedWhite are stellar on top of impressive, oppressive beats. But the concept is hard to digest. MellowHype’s album is purely about anger, nothing else. It shows ugliness with beautiful language. I’m left conflicted: Taking a step back, I appreciate a lot of BlackenedWhite. Submerged in it, I’m often turned off.
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