26Oct/10Off

Peace, Party People: MellowHype (OFWGKTA) and A Tribe Called Quest

MellowHype is a duo consisting of Hodgy Beats and Left Brain; they are affiliated with the Los Angeles area crew known as Odd Future (OFWGKTA), who have gained quite a bit of blog-o-sphere notoriety in recent months. ((Steady Bloggin’ has been reporting on OFWGTKA for some time now, so catch up if you’re intrigued.)) Their video for their song “Polyurathane” which they recorded to promote their upcoming album Blackened White, sees Hodgy calmly denounce youth violence ((I have written other pieces about rap songs that deal with this topic, most recently in my post here on Juelz Santana and Masta Ace, but also in pieces on The Future Sound’s “The Function” , Twin Hype’s “Nothing Could Save Ya“, and yet another that examines songs by Main Source, Gang Starr, and Three Times Dope.)) in a concise but evocative verse ((I am not sure if the actual song is longer but for the now I will treat the song in the form it is presented in this promo video)) over somber but forceful production. ((“Polyurathane” is produced by Tyler The Creator and not Left Brain, as some have assumed.)) He begins by telling the story of  his crew arriving at a house party ((He relates this story with an attention to minute details that is quickly becoming one of  OFWGKTA’s trademarks. Something about his reference to his Boston Market takeout meal is both comical and intriguing; see Tyler The Creator’s verse on Domo Genesis’ “Super Market” for more of the same.)) where the vibe just doesn’t seem right from the start; girls are passed out on the drive way; ((Although OFWGKTA has gained notoriety for their highly stylized, exaggerated depictions of sexual assault and adolescent debauchery, the image of “some honies in the driveway, passed out on the floor” in this instance is related with a tinge of brotherly concern.)) the “mixed-race crowd” is broken up into mutually segregating cliques; there is more “hating” than “dancing” going on. The negative atmosphere reminds him of past instances of violence and his tone changes from weary to scolding: “I hate being around when niggas wanna bang/ and a fight break out and it’s one of them gangs/ acting like they manufactured, identical, the same.” While suggesting that violent tendencies are in some sense manufactured ((I’m guessing that one possible meaning of the title “Polyurathane” is that senseless youth violence is partly attributable to thoughtless conformity. Someone let me know if I’m completely off. )) and learned,  he places the responsibility in the hands of the individual: “Niggas can’t fight and revert to the flame/ Blew his brains out from not using his brains/ It’s so insane how we put ourselves to shame/ If the government could, they’d have all us nigras detained.” This is a bleak statement but the opportunity for change  by way of common sense and mutual respect is not dismissed; if all else fails, a dream-like high offers a temporary respite from madness.

The social commentary of “Polyurathane” reminds me of A Tribe Called Quest’s brief, single verse song “Crew” from their polarizing fourth LP Beats, Rhymes and Life. Q-Tip takes a different approach by narrating from the perspective of a mild-mannered man pushed to a crime of passion by the actions of a conniving friend ((“Crew” seems to be a complementary piece to the “The Jam” in which Q-Tip, Phife, and Consequence rap from the perspective of partygoers who become unwitting witnesses to the same crime.)); the man does not want to resort to violence and tries admirably to talk himself out of a regrettable course of action but his “dire” emotions get the best of him. The music of “Crew” sets an elegiac mood similar to “Polyurathane”‘; though separated by fourteen years both songs masterfully convey the fragility of public order, the swiftness with which emotions ignite, and the unsettled weariness that one experiences while contemplating such things. These are, for lack of a better catch phrase, songs about growing up. — Thun

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