When I first heard O.J. Hodding’s subtly accented flow clearly over a beat as smooth as a skater’s cruise down some stretch of concrete, it was like a gulp of cold water in this heat. Kicking Back quenches a thirst for clean lyricism I didn’t even realize I had.
There are a lot of new hardcore hip-hop artists coming up right now. With Desiigner, Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert releasing tracks and mixtapes that focus more on hard-hitting production than lyricism, the rhythm and flow of the Tribe kind now feels extra old school with the genre filling to the brim with gangsta rap. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. The sophistication and specificity of good production is at its most satisfying right now, in my opinion. But no one can claim they understand any of the lyrics to Timmy Turner.
Especially with Phife’s untimely death earlier this year, Hodding’s track comes at a time when it’s important to remember those legends of the 90s that paved the way for today’s rap royalty.
The simplicity in the production of Kicking Back, the first track in Hodding’s new EP Mellow, is misleading, though. That kind of subtle layering to create a smooth yet wavy flow with lyrics driving it forward as opposed to landing comfortably in an overpowering bass is difficult in its own right. This kind of subtlety is lacking in today’s bursting hip-hop bangers whose weight barely makes sense past its club and party reign. Mellow is hip hop you can enjoy in your apartment or on the subway without feeling the anxiety of not being with your crew doing cool things out on the town.
Not that Mellow’s message calls for much intellectual analysis but there’s no denying a calculated effort to communicate something clearly in each of its full-bodied tracks, even if it’s just to chill out. That’s okay too.