“I’d Rather Not Know Than to Know It All”: An Interview With Hodgy

Ryan Kim speaks to Hodgy about sobriety, moving to Toronto, accepting the past and more.
By    July 6, 2022

Image via Hodgy/Twitter

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Hodgy is amidst a rebirth. The one-time member of the Odd Future Wolf Gang is in a more meditative mood these days. His latest project, Entitled, arrives after a six-year hiatus from rapping and signals a distinct change in style. On the EP’s “Into Someone,” we hear the 31-year old artist crooning over an acoustic guitar song about loving one’s self. The project will also be his last as “Hodgy.” Moving forward, the New Jersey-born artist will release music under his new moniker, Gerry.

The rebranding is the result of intense personal reflection and soul-searching during his time away from the spotlight. Born Gerard Long, the former Hodgy Beats was a crucial piece to the collective’s wild success in the early 2010s. His The Dena Tape was the first ever solo project to drop under the Odd Future banner. Yet Long had also spent much of those years struggling with addiction. The rapper moved from Trenton to Pasadena at the age of 8 and began smoking weed at 12, which started his substance abuse. At the height of Odd Future’s run, making and recording music became an excuse for Hodgy to use drugs and ignore his demons.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic was the impetus for Long to defeat his substance addiction. When the world came to a standstill, Hodgy checked himself into rehab. After getting clean, the rapper moved to Toronto. Getting away from Los Angeles has allowed the rapper to spend more time with family and focus on his health. These days, he doesn’t like to go out much – unless it’s to the gym or to pick up one of his three children from school. This month, Hodgy is two years sober.

Entitled heralds a fresh personal start for Long that includes self-care, family, and lots of singing. His artistic choices throughout the project bridge the gap between the old Hodgy and the new. Two of the five tracks on the EP were produced by longtime Hodgy collaborator and original Odd Future member Left Brain. Together the pair formed the duo MellowHype with Left Brain as Mellow – the man on production – and Hodgy as Hype – the man with the raps. “People Change” and “We Never Knew” off Entitled EP were originally recorded as part of an unreleased MellowHype album back in 2018 and play like sonic time capsules of mid-2010s cloud rap. The other three songs on the project hear Hodgy over decidedly softer and acoustic beats, including the intro track “Everyday” produced by Gorillaz guitarist Jeff Wooton.

I had the opportunity to get on video call with Hodgy after the release of Entitled EP to talk about Toronto, his kids, and how his outlook on life has changed with sobriety. — By Ryan S. Kim

It’s been six years since your last release. Amazing to hear your return. What have you been up to during your time off?

Hodgy: I’m around people that I love every day. You know, and I find that I have conversations that are actually meaningful, that are more so beneficial to the body and less fleeting of thought. And that, you know, I do think about something that’s more thought provoking. It might inspire me to do some research or it may inspire a song. So it’s like, I don’t know, when I took a break like I was kind of going wild for a second, just like in my mind and the place that I was at at that time. I think it just was like, it just naturally organically happened. It wasn’t a subconscious decision, but it definitely wasn’t conscious like, ‘Yo, I’m gonna chill.’ Like, I ended up having more kids and I feel like that consumed a lot of the time that I just needed to be home and honestly work less. Work doesn’t mean create, like I’ve been creating this whole time. I just stopped sharing.

I’m curious about how the pandemic affected you. Like especially during the lockdowns, we all had to sit with our own thoughts.

Hodgy: COVID gave me the opportunity to fucking like, really chill out, like the beginning of COVID is when I went to rehab. Then a month after getting out of rehab, we moved to Toronto. I was supposed to go to a sober living facility, but I ended up renting a house here and I made that myself. I stayed in the house 5 days out of the week. I just really created a routine for myself and stuck to it. You know, I don’t really have much support, or at least for the kids. My mom or my aunt or a cousin or brother. Like the kids it’s like, literally just me all the time that’s also like can be really helpful actually to have like, really? Pure bodies around, I guess like no more than others. Honestly, I’ve just grown to learn to listen more.

Tell me more about Toronto. Why were you drawn there?

Hodgy: Oh, yeah, so their mother’s Canadian. You know, we decided that California wasn’t the place to raise children. You know, I have a… when me and my friends got signed I had a kid at the same time. I have him full time. So, I have my 10 year old soon to be 11. I have a four year old daughter and a three year old son. Honestly, I love this shit. It can get hard and you know, challenging at times, but like, for me, this is very enjoyable.

I’m curious about your connection with your hometown of Trenton where you’re from. One of your sons is named Trenton. What was it like to grow up there?

Hodgy: One of the reasons I named him Trenton is because the majority of my family is still there. And, you know, he’s my first son. I mean, they left a big impression on me, like, as a kid for sure. They say the ages one to seven are the most impressionable you know, I moved out when I was eight, turning nine. So I took everything from Trenton, New Jersey with me to California.

What was it like arriving in L.A. for the first time at eight-year-olds?

Hodgy: I was already making music when I moved from Trenton to Pasadena. I began making music at the age of six. I learned from like, being in the studio with my dad when I was younger, and my cousin actually showed me how to rap shortly after my dad had me in the studio. I was always in choirs and stuff like that. So I had like, the fundamentals when I moved to, you know, L.A. or Pasadena that’s when the real practice began. So basically, it’s, you know, experiences where, we pick up and are able to speak on wax, and put it down and tweak it later. So, I was just learning the basics in moving to L.A. So honestly, Pasadena, Los Angeles is kind of all I know, musically. I mean, as far as creating.

L.A. and the West Coast obviously have a distinct sound. Artists from other cities sometimes switch up their style after moving to L.A. to fit in. Is that something you’ve noticed?

Hodgy: I mean, my perspective on artists today is like, if they’re not from L.A. before they make it, then they’re in their own towns, or, you know what I mean? I believe there’s authenticity to what the artist is making in that time when they’re still at home. The moment you touch L.A., it changes. I feel like it turns into something else. So, being out here, and recording feels better. For me recording, I used to be like… it was always my therapy in a way. I’d say it still is, definitely. But, you know, I used to be on drugs hella, so that was also an excuse to use and escape.

I read that you’re celebrating two years of sobriety this month. Congratulations. How has your life changed over the last two years?

Hodgy: I’m by myself a lot now, like if I’m not with the kids. And that’s where I find the truth. Like, if there’s a person that can’t sit with themselves, and it makes them uncomfortable, I suggest… I won’t tell anyone what to do. But, what works for me is just sitting with it and getting better at it. I sit by myself a lot. I have friends who, when I work or create is when I see them. I’m not like a go-out-kind-of-guy. So if the kids are at school, I’m in the gym, grocery store, run some errands if I have to. And other than that, like, being in nature, or just simply like be at the house. I live a very simple life today. When I reflect, my life was so difficult from like birth, that I understand that there will be no more hardships or challenges or things that make us uncomfortable. Like I’m choosing to live a simple life. And it will, we’ll see how, you know, after the album is out, we’ll see how it goes. I’m just planning, you know, accordingly.

What about your approach to music, has that changed at all?

Hodgy: Saying that I make music is very limiting, but making the music, I’m limitless. You know, I believe as humans, we can do anything. You know what I mean? We set our mind to it, we truly believe and like, put forth the effort with consistency and repetition, there’s no way the shit won’t work. There’s no way at all. For me, it’s just like unlocking the belief system and closing the perspective of fear. When I create, it’s solely from a sacred place.

Is music healing for you?

Hodgy: Oh, definitely. I mean, for me, it’s the hardest thing to do in life. Yeah, you can get money. You can be famous. You can start a business. But can you heal yourself? Can you go back on those things that were programmed into you in your past? Those beliefs that you’re so stuck on, that you struggle with? That’s what music helps me do.

How often are you in the booth these days?

Hodgy: I have writer’s block currently, like I won’t be able to create until July probably. I have a cycle. And then July through the top of January, I’m going crazy. This is where I’ll take the time out to experience, live life, and study. I want to fall in love with myself again, and just be human, until God is ready to come back to me and speak through me. Even if that’s through a personal experience, I’m speaking about somebody else. But it sounds like I was talking about me. It’s you know, the process, the process changes, like, damn near every time I create, so I don’t really have one. It just comes out. And you know, we’ll see what happens.

What was your process for your latest project, Entitled EP?

Hodgy: I have so many songs, like, it kind of bugs me out in a way. Like last year, I made… in one month, I made 90 songs. And that was from September to October. So it’s like, some days I make two, some days I make four, some days I make three and just like keep it consistent. Some days I make one, but that’s what it ended up being. In selecting the songs, I just wanted to bridge like, some of my old shit, or like, new music. And, you know, back in 2017, 2018, I remember, you know, Left Brain and I were just like, at my home studio, and we cranked out a whole bunch of records. And then I re-recorded the ones that I felt that I was going to use. And two of them are on there. I mean, there was really like, well, like we had a whole album done.

I’m a MellowHigh, MellowHype fan and was super excited to see you putting out unreleased stuff. How has your mindset changed since recording those cuts with Left?

Hodgy: I’d say I just like, honestly, I’ve evolved. It’s weird to even say some shit like that because it can sound like a blanket statement or you know, it sounds really vague. But yeah shit, I grew up. I’ve noticed that, you know, your average human gets caught in their daily routine, same energy, same mood, same thoughts. You know, we have 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. Like, personally, for me, I want to get closer to 12. I don’t think about shit. (chuckles) It just takes a lot of effort to be consumed by something that truly doesn’t belong to us or isn’t us. So as far as my process these days, I allow shit to come to me as far as work goes, even in life.

So two of the five tracks on the EP are a MellowHype reunion. Can you tell me about what went into creating the other three? You’re singing a lot on this record, almost more than rapping.

Hodgy: I was four when I started singing. I lost my voice at 13. So when I took a break from actively working a few years ago, I started taking singing lessons. I was 24. And I realized, you know what, ‘This is evolution.’ Like rap is dope, rap is number one in the world. But like, I want to be able to attack art, sonically from all perspectives or as many that I can… like get good at. I mean, it’s like, for me, you know, not to. I’ve been rapping my whole life, literally. I’ve got 25 years under my belt and I’m 31.

How do you maintain your curiosity given your quarter century of experience, especially since you’ve been famous for nearly your entire career?

Hodgy: I mean, it’s just, it’s just what I do, like, I personally have a beginner’s mind when I create, and with everything else. I’d rather not know, than to know it all. Because knowing it all, I mean, or thinking you do, you’ve hit a ceiling that’s probably going to crash on you.

What does Entitled EP mean to your career?

Hodgy: This is my last project as Hodgy. Being known and you know, having backlogged on Spotify and Apple Music when you look my name up. Like moving forward, I’m going under a different name. So there is a fresh start, like even the YouTube that I have, it’s not linked to my old YouTube account. Like I’m just in a space where like, starting new feels right. Beginning again, feels right. I’ve accepted all the old shit, like I’ve made peace with it and that shit. You know, I went through a really dark time in order to get to like, where I’m at now. And I mean, I’m pretty, comfortable. You know, whatever happens happens, like, is it really in our control? That’s a question that I’ll probably waiver on and keep going back and forth on my whole life.

Tell me about your new name.

Hodgy: I’m going under the name Gerry. It’s a childhood name that I gave myself when I was young, because when my father left, I didn’t like the name, Gerard. And, you know, that was a child that needed to be loved the most. And that was a child that went through like the trauma and the, you know, the neglect and the, you know, whatever it was that I went through in the time. And he’s still… he’s still with me. I’m gonna go with that name. For me, it just feels pretty pure. I need to be reminded, like, I get, you know, the word is very used often, but if I get triggered, that Gerry needs more love. It’s just a form of loving myself unconditionally in a way.

Do you have a project ready or are you working on one to debut as Gerry?

Hodgy: Oh, I mean, I have an album that’s done. I’m planning to put it out this year, very musical and singing a lot. And it’s just like a direction that you wouldn’t expect me taking sure. Not even I expected it, but I’ve been practicing for so long that like, I finally have the balls to just you know… Fuck it, man. For me, it’s not about what people think and how they feel about me or the picture that I painted in the past. It’s about just being consistent in today’s time.

What’s it called?

Hodgy: Gerry is also the name of the album. I recorded it here in Toronto. A good friend of mine named Saya Grey, she just started releasing her own solo shit finally and it’s amazing. I’m on one of her records actually, but she produced the whole album.

What can we expect?

Hodgy: The project is very musical, man. Like I’m singing probably more than I’m rapping but there’s a good balance between the two. I’m still finding my sound as far as melodies and vocals and like a style.

Would you say that your name change marks a new beginning?

Hodgy: You know, it’s just like CeeLo Goodie Mob, then CeeLo Gnarls Barkley, then CeeLo Green. It keeps going. But I feel that Gerry, Gerry will be kept. You know, I’m fortunate enough to be young enough that I can consistently put music out until, what like, Kanye is like 44 or something? You know what I mean? And this is a new beginning, because I’m just not focused on the past, man. There’s no way you could move forward. Focusing on the past if you haven’t healed it yourself, like, so. For me, I’ve healed it. And I’m just moving forward and whatever happens happens because this is life. And you know, I’m optimistic. I’m open to anything really happening as long as I’m fucking sober, you know? I realize, like, if I were to use again, like, I would lose everything, my kids and myself.

That’s powerful. I mean it’s truly impressive what you’ve built. I’ve been a fan of you since I was in middle school. You’ve been in the game so long, do you feel the impact that you and Odd Future made on the culture?

Hodgy: Not really because at the time we were being influenced by each other. So, for me to be like an outsider looking in, I really don’t have that perspective, but we had a lot of synergy. It’s like, staring at a ball and there’s like eight n****s around the ball looking at the same thing, it’s like a different perspective, but it still is a ball. And yeah man, that time was great. Like, I feel like every time that I have in life is great because it always leads to some new perspective if you’re open to it, otherwise you’re in the vortex. So it’s like, I look back on it, like I [was] speaking to Clancy the other day and we’re honestly just reflecting on the shit and just like, I don’t know, it’s just like, it was so cool. Like, he opened up in ways that I never heard him express about the time back then. He and I have a really close relationship and it’s just – say I know every single member reflects. I can feel it when I do. That’s just something you know, whether we fell out on the surface or whatever, like when n***** is riding around in their cars or haven’t seen each other for a while and you know, you see each other like it’s like we really did that… together.

If you could give your younger self advice, is there anything you would say?

Hodgy: You were right.

What do you mean by that?

Hodgy: Back then I always used to tell myself I’d sober up at 29… I did. And it didn’t happen on purpose. I wasn’t like ‘Alright, I’m 29, it’s time to sober up.’ I kind of foresee things, you know, or maybe I just generate them to happen in my life, but it comes from like – yeah, I have no clue.

At this point in the conversation we were interrupted by Hodgy’s daughter. She requested her father’s assistance in finding her toy jaguar.

Hodgy (to his daughter): Did you leave it upstairs in dad’s room? Did you leave it in the playroom? Are you sure? Would you like me to go look for it? I will look for the jaguar.

Hodgy (on his way upstairs to find the jaguar): But I’d also tell myself like… ‘If you knew what you knew now, back then… Jesus dude.’ (chuckles) I guess everything has its time and place you know? Ok… there it is, I found the jaguar.

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