For whatever reason, I decided to listen to Hodgy’s (formerly known as Hodgy Beats) new album before anything else today—yes, before Ab-Soul, before Post Malone and *gasp* even before J. Cole—and I regret nothing. This album is surprisingly good.
Fireplace: The Not the Other Side is Hodgy’s official full-length debut, and the latest solo project to emerge from the ashes of Odd Future’s break up, which was surprisingly quiet for how much noise they made when they first arrived (not that there weren’t any tense moments, though). Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt were always destined for solo stardom, while Mike G, Left Brain and Jasper Dolphin have all but vanished from the public consciousness.
Hodgy is somewhere in the middle: quietly plugging away but not famous enough to draw a large crowd. The 26-year-old rapper has released three solo projects over the last couple years—DENATAPE2, They Watching Lofi Series 1 and Dukkha—all of which flew under the radar. On top of a declining buzz, Hodgy was also battling a few demons. “This album is really like the past five years of my life,” he toldThe FADER. “I was at a place where I was actually going crazy, and I didn’t have peace with myself.” He added, “At a point, I actually felt like I was gonna die.”
Hodgy turns that tragedy into triumph with Fireplace, though. Backed by groovy, speaker-knocking production from the likes of Nottz, Knxwledge, and 88-Keys, the New Jersey native delves into religion and romance while making loose references to Odd Future’s falling out. I have no idea how he secured guest spots from Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, but they don’t disappoint. Turns out Hodgy does a mean Frank Ocean impression, too (peep “They Want” and “Laguna”).
Today was a stupidly busy day for new music that’ll probably keep your ears buried into next week, but don’t sleep on Hodgy’s Fireplace: The Not the Other Side.
Three Standout Songs:
Odd Future will be remembered for being loud, brash and blasphemous if nothing else. MellowHype—Hodgy’s inter-group partnership with producer Left Brain—seemed to take particular pleasure in religious irreverence, like putting an upside down cross on their Numbers album cover and rolling a joint with a page from the Bible in the “64” video. But on the trunk-rattling “Resurrection,” Hodgy is reborn: “I gave up on you a while ago, and you still blessing me lord / You never questioned me lord / I feel your energy lord.” Gospel rap has been a theme of 2016, but you didn’t expect to find it on a Hodgy album, did you?
Fireplace is full of crafty (and sometimes convoluted) rhymes, but Hodgy simplifies things on “Turkuoise” and it makes for one of catchiest songs on the album. Sharing the mic with an unnamed rapper over a wavy-as-hell beat from an unknown producer (I can't find the full credits anywhere, but I really want to see them), Hodgy shows his softer side with charming, yet slightly corny lines like, “Baby you’re an angel / I could tell cause of your halo.” The album’s closing track, “DYSLM,” is about the bitter break-up with his baby mama, but for these two minutes and 41 seconds, Hodgy is hopelessly in love.
“Tape Beat” ft. Lil Wayne
There’s something about Odd Future that brings the best out of Lil Wayne. Tunechi was in rare form on Tyler, The Creator’s “Smuckers,” and while this isn’t as “legendary” a moment, Hodgy still manages to squeeze a vintage verse out of Weezy on “Tape Beat.” “I’ma sleep with the semi and never let people get near me / When the reaper come get me that’s when I reap what I’m knitting / So, you say you’re gangsta I’ma need some convincing,” he spits over BADBADNOTGOOD’s rugged, retro production. Hodgy more than holds his own, too.
Fireplace: The Not the Other Side was never going to be the most talked-about album of the week, even if J. Cole and Ab-Soul didn’t rock up at the last minute and take over the conversation. Hodgy doesn’t seem too fussed about shamelessly plugging his new project on social media. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time.
Fireplace is the reintroduction to Hodgy, born-again Christian and perennially underrated rapper. The raps are tight, the production is great, and there’s just enough star power to keep things exciting. You get the feeling Hodgy isn’t entirely happy about how things with Odd Future ended, but he’s clearly on a new course in life—guided by God and regulated by his realness.
Part of me wishes Fireplace delved deeper about why Hodgy “didn’t have peace with” himself and how his son “keeps saving” his life. But the other part of me is back on the Hodgy Beats bandwagon, excited for whatever's he got cooking next.
By Andy James. You can follow him on Twitter.