Even as a seminal member of expansive Odd Future collective in the late-aughts, Hodgy was always searching for his own voice. He was the first rapper from the crew to release a solo mixtape, 2009’s The Dena Tape, but he found success for his work alongside Left Brain as one half of MellowHype. Together, they earned a place among the group's rapidly growing online following.
Since then, members of the collective have found their own paths and moved away from the shock factors that made Odd Future a cult favorite. For Hodgy, the transition from making music with friends to becoming a celebrated rapper in his own right wasn’t always smooth. Over the past few years, he went through a period that he describes as “rock bottom.” Public spats with members of Odd Future followed and it seemed that he’d split off from the collective.
Years removed from the heyday of Odd Future, the 26-year-old has had time to reflect and focus on himself. On December 9, he’ll release his first official album, Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide. The project includes features from Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, as well as production from BADBADNOTGOOD, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Knxwledge, and more. Over the course of the 13-track album, Hodgy’s catharsis comes through clearly and his voice is very much his own.
Hodgy recently spoke to The FADER about being inspired by fatherhood, connecting with his long-lost brother, and bouncing back from a dark place to create his new album.
You’ve been making music collaboratively and on your own for over six years at this point. Why did you feel like this was the right moment to put out your first official album?
I think the timing – the universe and the cosmos, and where I’m at in my life – it just naturally came together. It wasn’t really a decision that I made. I think it was the decision that was at hand, and I had to either go with it or not. I chose to go with it. I mean this is what I do. I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t making music at all. I was at a point in my life where I was like, I think it is time for Hodgy to just focus on Hodgy right now.
Were there any points in the past few years that you considered stepping away from music?
Nah, never. I’ve been rapping ever since I was 6 years old. I’m 26 now, so I have two decades under my belt. Sound is very therapeutic. Music in general speaks to me. It doesn’t even have to have words to it. That’s why I’m the one that adds words and my own instrumentation. It’s a very organic thing for me. It’s like, “I need to eat.” That’s what music is for me: it’s like my food. I get to say what I want, and be heard, and be related to. It was about time for me to be myself in my music.
A lot of times, introspective music tends to head into darker territory, but it seems like you’re in a very positive space on this album.
This album is really like the past five years of my life. I had to digest a lot of things I was going through. I had a kid at the same time that I got signed; I was on the road. A lot of things happened very quickly, and I never got the chance to chew it and digest it. I just swallowed whatever the fuck was going on and it just sat in my stomach.
It’s difficult to just be like, “Alright. Cool. This is my life now. Hella changes. Blessings come with curses and vice versa.” I was at a place where I was actually going crazy, and I didn’t have peace with myself. I mean, words are spells, you know what I’m saying? Maybe the things that I said in my past music came to life, and I had to deal with it. At a point, I actually felt like I was gonna die.
It was totally fight or flight. I’m the type of person where my emotions are in my eyes, my tone of voice. There’s no way that I won’t bring my energy to every situation. So, I was affecting people around me as well.
After going through those ups and downs, did you feel a conscious need to distance yourself from your past music with Odd Future on this project?
Yeah, it was a conscious thing. I mean, I was saying this shit publicly like, “Odd Future is cool, but I wanna do my own thing.” Other members of the crew probably felt the same way. It was like, “Where am I in this mix?” There were a lot of us. I was the one to voice it. I have to say how I feel so the shit leaves my body, and I can deal with it in the world without feeling a certain way.
I was so engulfed in the crew that I was being selfless to the point where it was showing in my music. “Yeah, you’re hyped and you’re angry but what the fuck are you hyped and angry about? Go figure that one out, bro, because you’re gifted, but we don’t understand what the fuck you’re going through right now. You’re kinda just being crazy.” But I’m just grateful to be here. The light at the end of the tunnel looks so small sometimes, it’s like a star. It seems like a long way but you can get there pretty fast if you do the work.
The light at the end of the tunnel looks so small sometimes, it’s like a star. It seems like a long way but you can get there pretty fast if you do the work.
I understand you designed all the artwork for this album. How has your visual art played a part in this self-actualization?
The reason I started doing cut outs and shit is because I have a brother that I met two years ago on the fuckin’ street in Hollywood. He’s my blood brother, but I hadn’t seen him since I was young. There was one point where he was living with me, and he’s a visual artist. I always used to watch him draw and do his art. I had been taking photos, but I wanted to try to do something that would bend my mind in a different way.
My mom had a “Bring Your Kid To Work” day, so I took [my son] Trenton, and they were all fingerpainting on canvas. It was really cool, so I started to work with the kids and fingerpaint. I ended up taking one of the canvases home, and there was this one night where I tripped out on acid – it was a bad-ass trip, too – and I drew on it. That ended up being the back cover of the album.
How did you end up running into your brother on the street in Hollywood?
I had a studio in North Hollywood. I woke up there one morning and went to get some food. I walked maybe a quarter mile, like across the street, to this Starbucks and my brother was right there. He tried to approach me like, ‘Yo, what up,” and I stiff-armed him like, “Nigga, watch out.” It was so weird that I left my order at the Starbucks and just went back to the studio. I blocked out a lot of memories from my childhood, so I don’t really remember meeting him or playing with him or anything.
After that shit happened, I’m getting tweets from him, and he was like, “I just seen you.” I felt like I was about to throw up, it was crazy. But I ended up inviting him to the studio, and he hasn’t left my life since then. I can’t get him to leave [laughs].
How has being a father influenced the way you approach your music?
It helped me descend. I was too high in the air flying around, looking for shit. Trenton is one of the angels that saved…saves because he keeps saving my life. He’s definitely been here before. My son says things to me that a grown ass man can’t even think. He’ll be like, “Yeah, Dad. I woke up and didn’t see you in the room, so I started sending messages to God and we were talking.” He’s 5 years old.
What aspect of this album are you most excited for people to hear?
I guess it’s not really about what I want people to hear. I think it’s about what I like the most. It’s fuckin’ musical. These instruments are crying, and laughing, and searching for something. It’s not just an album, it’s an experience. It’s beyond me just rapping. I’m speaking to reach higher ground. I’m at a good place right now, but we could be elevated at 11,000 feet. My mind is strong at this point. It’s like a fuckin’ mustard seed. I hope it doesn’t keep growing and break my skull like some James and the Giant Peach shit. I’m in a good place – never been here before, will never be here again – but I’ll continue to progress.