It’s kind of hard to imagine but there was a time at the start of this decade when the California rap collective, Odd Future was the biggest thing in music. Backed by positive blog press and insane live shows the group dominated the conversation about the new era of rap. And while individual members like Tyler, The Creator, and Earl Sweatshirt were getting the most coverage, it’s was DJ Syd Tha Kid that was the most unique.
Being the sole woman in a group of loudmouth teenage boys, as well as being openly gay, set her apart immediately. Through her band, The Internet, she was able to channel that feeling of standing out with sweet R&B hooks and groovy funk sounds. On The Internet’s newest album, Hive Mind, Syd shows a newfound confidence in herself that makes the record shine.
Coming off her excellent solo debut record from last year, I was excited to see what direction Syd would be going next. That album, which was a dark and sexy dive into Syd’s psyche, was certainly heavier than anything The Internet had put out previously. But those looking for that same type of mood won’t find it on Hive Mind, instead, Syd is squarely focused on summer jams that will put you in the mood for love.
Early single ‘Come Over’ get’s things moving quickly with a sticky guitar riff from Steve Lacy and Syd sultry vocals begging a lover to make a visit. The song’s seductive mood is enchanting and is quite sweet as Syd talks about “playing Simon Says in bed” and lying with this person till the sun comes up. It’s a sex song that has a lot of heart, which is actually a pretty good description of most of these songs.
‘Mood’ has Syd finding out she’s starting to fall for someone after sleeping with them, and ‘Stay The Night’ is a beautiful ode to staying up with someone because you can’t stand to be apart even in dreams. Syd takes these tales of lust and adds maturity and wit to make them so much more than just an average bump and grind jam.
This is also helped by her backing band of Lacy and crew finding a maturity of their own. They have always been good, but it didn’t take much to see how much they borrowed from their past influences. Stevie Wonder, Funkadelic and Sly and the Family Stone could be heard in a lot of Lacy’s guitar work and in Christopher Smiths drumming.
But on Hive Mind they add a bit more of themselves into their sound and in turn, the album feels more like their own personal effort than a tribute to the past. Lacy sings more, like on the top-tapping lead single ‘Roll (Burbank Funk)’, and Smith’s percussion work on ‘La Di Da’ make the song one of my favourites on the album.
Yet for all Hive Mind does to push the band forward, it does suffer a bit from bloat. This has been a common complaint across a lot of The Internet’s work but on here it can lead to some very big drag moments. Songs like ‘Wanna Be’ and ‘Bravo’ are fine but suffer from being quite similar to other tracks on the album, and go on a minute longer than is needed. Sure, Funk and Soul music often does go a little longer to give listeners time to really dive into the sound but because the band is doing such a good job already at building a sonic world the additional length of some of these songs doesn’t add much.
Still, Hive Mind is a great summer record that will probably continue to get play as the year goes on. It makes great use of everyone’s talents and showcases a bright future for where they might head. For now, though I’m content to be lost in their world for a bit, letting the grooves take me to wonderful new places.
Hive Mind is out now via Columbia.