If hip-hop can paradoxically be praised for anything, it would be its seemingly limitless potential for progression and reinvention, and there are still a handful of rappers who not only understand that, but also understand that it can certainly shape the market as well. Mell Hardy is one of those rappers. His mixtape “Hustle From The Heart” has only been out for a couple of days at the time of writing, and could be pegged as his best work to date. However, these praises are certainly warranted. On this mixtape Hardy achieves the perfect blend of emotional rapping filled to the brim with deep figurative language, brilliantly-crafted stories of streetlife and hustling, and out-of-this-world scenarios that extend from the deepest cracks of human consciousness. All of this is displayed over some of the most consistent arsenal of fiery beats and samples.
“Hustle From The Heart” is successful in largely being underpinned by the single thematic plotline of the grimy world of the street overbearing the majority of Hardy’s raps, however various hustling scenarios weave themselves in and out of the hellish scenes depicted as the mixtape plays out. Just listening to the opening title track, can one understand the vicious amalgamation of styles introduced here.
The dizzying sonic template of sprawling pianos, rumbling basslines and gritty head-bobbing drum beats evokes the greasiest images of the darkest corners of New York and the even greasier “transactions” that occur within it. Any mixtape that by the second track, “Praying For My Enemies” already makes a statement like: “I pray to God for my enemies. They don’t know no better when they fuck with me,” obviously means business.
Every detail, significant or insignificant, from Mell Hardy is delivered with neurotic accuracy all while being fueled by a ridiculously smooth and aggressive flow. Hell, I wish I could cite a few of these lyrics to illustrate the brilliance of story-telling involved but it would only be comprehensible if I posted the song in its entirety.
“Benjamins” is an adrenaline-soaked track of rhyme braggadocio anchored down with some pimp-as-fuck bass line and a jaw-rattling beat, Hardy delivers a mesmerizing barrage of rhymes heavy on internal rhyming and vague allusions.
The hard-posturing continues on “I’m On It” and “In My Traphouse” as Hardy wins serious points for being able to regale the listeners his on point storytelling, cooking up a batch of twisted hardcore rhymes. And though gangsta-fronting is fun, Mell Hardy has no problem shooting of sporadic emotional posturing and repressed introspective anecdotes. The spooky vocal hook and sparse beat perfectly embodies the hollow mood described in “All I Need”.
The twinkling piano melody, subtle chime rushes, and light finger-snaps provide a catchy hook, on “Loving The Dough”. From this, the obvious club track “You Don’t Know Me (feat. Rashaun Will)”, leaves an even greater impact for its heady blend of melody, fat beats and more crunchy rhymes.
As “Hustle From The Heart” progresses deeper and deeper into Mell Hardy’s conscious, it begins to get weirder. And the production is present to make it as bizarrely atmospheric as possible. “Long Live The Hustle (feat. Jay)” borders on the surreal musically with Hardy and Jay giving the track its urban edge. Hardy’s stream-of-conscious lyrics are a dense array of strong imagery on “I Just Wanna Win”.
“Dope Money” meanwhile is a somber number that feels comparable to a comedown after a strong dose of musical adrenaline that Mell Hardy has employed throughout the album. The intoxicating attitude conveyed both lyrically and musically, gives the listener a profound sense of relaxation. So yes, the album is brilliant as described. And then of course, there’s the whole nature of Mell Hardy’s rapping.
Like Aesop Rock and perhaps a handful of others, Hardy is that rare pedigree of rapper that some people may find exhausting to listen to for extended lengths of time due to this intense delivery, dense-rhyming and heavy timbre employed in the majority of his raps. This mixtape is yet another benchmark in his ever-evolving style amidst an era of mainstream rap that is increasingly becoming hackneyed.