In a musical era where rap is becoming the forefront of the industry, The Internet continues to offer nostalgic alternative funk as a refreshing escape from the mainstream. Much like the rest of the Odd Future experiment (i.e. Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean), The Internet has successfully developed their own identity as a group of outcasts looking to make a mark in their respective genres. Having earned a Grammy nomination in 2016 for their third album, Ego Death, lead members Syd and Matt Martians felt it was necessary to take a break as a group, and head down the solo path for a couple of years.
Syd especially admitted to carrying a collection of songs that would not work unless she was by herself. Those tracks would eventually turn into her own solo project, Fin. With confidence soaring high, Syd’s record garnered rave reviews and earned her a spot as one of the best R&B songwriters of the generation.
Riding on a hot streak, The Internet felt like they were ready to get back together. As a result, the former Odd Future collective released their fourth official album, Hive Mind. This time around, the LA natives acquired no features, and realized that their true strength is believing in themselves, and their talented lead singer. My biggest problem with The Internet’s previous records was their insistence on allowing other artists to take the spotlight (like on the over-bloated Feel Good album), or failing to fill up dead air (like on Naked Purple Ladies). Sure, their known for very detailed and pristine production, but I’ve always felt like something was missing. To me, there were times where the group didn’t seem in-sync.
However, after a three-year break from each other, The Internet is back on track, and finally understands their full capabilities on Hive Mind. They sound more confident then ever, especially Syd. Their certainty is on full display right from the get-go, with the opener, “Come Together.” The guitar-driven track begins with the band harmonizing over dense instrumentation, lead by the bold chorus of, “”they gon’ get us to come together.” Steve Lacy produces a majority of the song here, and beautifully incorporates a bass guitar with funk-inspired horn arrangements.
“Come Together” is the perfect segue for the silky smoothness that follows. The Internet still brings that sense of nostalgia with each song, but also adds a modern twinge of hip hop to a majority of these cuts. Without any big name features, The Internet is forced to believe in themselves, and it works. Syd is the highlight, as her voice finally becomes the forefront in the mixing. “Come Over” is an irresistible victory lap for a group that genuinely deserves it. Matt Martians takes his shot on the drums and keyboard, utilizing the perfect platform for Syd to show the world what happens when she takes over a song. “Come Over” is by far the most in-sync The Internet has been.
Sure, there’s a level of fulfillment on this record, but also vulnerability and accountability. “It Gets Better (With Time)” features Patrick Paige and Big Rube preaching about confronting their demons and letting go of past mishaps. Paige even admits to to his alcohol problem and finally abolishing it (“”Heavily mediating but it gets better with time/And I’m sober now, no alcohol to hide behind”). Big Rube in his verse raps about his own perseverance (“Trials we face bring pain and sorrow, but resistance sir, is strength”). Moments like these show what The Internet can do when their songwriting is on point.
This record plays out like most albums of the decade. The first three or four songs are the radio-friendly hits, and then the real emotion comes out for the rest of the album. This time around though, The Internet’s hits are fucking awesome. “La Di Da” is a fusion of 70s and 80s funk, with a few savvy lines from Syd (Look at me, I’m so suave/Dancing like your name Suade”). she even references Lil Wayne’s iconic line with “I move like silent ‘g’ in designer.” The chorus is one of the more memorable ones from the year, showing what The Internet can do when their vocally ambitious.
Now, Hive Mind isn’t perfect. There are a few moments where they go down some of their similar restrictions from the past, like on the very obnoxious “Bravo.” The Travis Scott-like drum sequence feels out of place compared to the otherwise laid-back vibe the band is going for. The following track, “Mood” does little to enforce much of anything with regards to their current style. Syd is hidden behind one of their least intriguing beats as well.
Thankfully, the final third of the album becomes a practice in ambition, and a successful one at that. “Look What U Started” finds Syd at her moodiest, and the instrumentals represent that perfectly. The Internet uses those same drums from “Bravo” on their final track, “Hold On,” but more effectively. Their a lot more subtle and quieter than the former track.
Much like the Gorillaz record form earlier this year, The Internet shies away from features, and instead finds their full potential as a group. As a result, Hive Mind is their most personal and complete album to date.