Hodgy Beats Has Always Been Jerry

Hodgy Beats Has Always Been Jerry

By Tobias HessFeb 14, 2024

“I’m never gonna go back to the old name,” Jerry tells me from the back of a car in Toronto. Looking out on the Canadian metropolis from behind reflective sunglasses, stroking a beard that’s dyed a bright, neon red, his words float like a philosopher’s. “I wanna leave [Hodgy Beats] as a cool painting that just hangs on the wall and gains a little bit of dust.”

During our conversation, Jerry is sparse on specifics, gazing out at the city skyscrapers. But having his head in the clouds is a good viewpoint for Jerry, a place from which he can clearly look back on the past 10 years of his career.

Even though he’s in his early 30s, Jerry, who in 2023 changed his artist name from Hodgy Beats, has already lived many lives. Blasting onto the scene as part of Los Angeles’ Odd Future Collective, he was integral to a culture shift that altered the course of popular aesthetics and launched the careers of certified mainstays like Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean. A now-much-referred-to golden moment, his whole entry to pop culture was a crash course on the price and promise of fame.

“I was 20 when we got famous and it seemed cool,” he remembers. “At the time I was young and new to the world. But I've been here for a while now. And I choose to be more selective with how I move in the world.” That selectivity includes a name change, moving away from Los Angeles to the less music industry-focused Toronto and evolving his sound.

Eventually, Jerry found himself working with a team of musicians who were playing physical instruments, allowing a new sound to emerge for him that was equal parts novel and intimate. "I’ve always loved the musicality of hip-hop, where most things are sampled and computer-[based],” he says. “But once I was surrounded by musicians, I think my mind really opened up to other opportunities as far as where I can take my own shit.”

Jerry’s new project lovemesooner, which is serendipitously out today onValentine’s Day, is guitar-forward with an orchestral flourish, thanks in part to production from the likes ofChester Hansen of BadBadNotGood. It’s heavy on croons and less lyrically dense than his prior rap records, yet it still bears his music’s trademark cerebral quality, packed with ideas but not short on feelings. The record is a timely exploration of love and the gifts and challenges it can bring.

“Love is a topic we can't truly explain,” he says. “It's like a car purring. We can't prove why a cat purrs. I think this record is a display of that. Some of those songs are just me in a relationship with myself. Some of those songs are me corresponding with another person and her talking back to me. Some of it is made up. Some of it's true.”

Album standouts like “i’ll say it here” move with the theoretical temperament of Jay Electronica’s masterpiece “Eternal Sunshine,” which was rapped over the score of Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. Drums don’t even appear on the project until six tracks in, on “when you willingly.” He begins the track by saying: “Flight attendant check my itinerary/ Inside my brain I know it’s scary” before drums come in, lifting it all off the ground. The slower, left-of-center sound of the album may have been a clear path forward for Jerry, but it’s also a clear departure from what has been incentivized by today’s music industry.

“The breed of an artist that I am: we're like dinosaurs,” he says. “It’s about putting out the most honest, best shit [you] can. It's a gift that you give yourself. [The gift] is not in the fame game or the clout chasing.” As he speaks about the state of the industry he does so with an air of monkishness, like a wiseman looking at a world overtaken by sin. But there’s another energy present as well, one of spite. “They say dinosaurs are extinct, but in reality: they’re not, but they are dying.”

Yes, Jerry and his music are very much alive. And he spends his day reveling in that. “The joy is the shit that no one sees,” he offers, “going for a coffee, having a nice walk, cool conversations.”

When I ask him to consider what his fans, who have been with him for more than 10 years now, may think of, or get out of, this new project, this name change, he challenges the notion. “I don't really think about what another person thinks, because it's kind of insane to try to think about what someone else thinks,” he responds. A valid reflection on the limits of perception, so I try the question another way: What would Jerry, 10 years ago — who the world knew as Hodgy Beats — think about this current chapter?

“I have no idea. I’m not there anymore," he says. He pauses and then trails off from my initial question. “It's interesting when you say goodbye to something, like really say goodbye, with closure, with acceptance, with acknowledgement.”

“We have Instagram, and we're trained to post and leave our past publicly for others to view,” he says. “We think very algorithmically. We text more than we talk. We hold our phones more than we hold our loved one’s hands. We look at our phones more than we look someone in the eye. I struggle with the disconnection.”

I nodded. I'd forgotten the question I asked, but it didn’t really matter. Jerry is thinking about the big things, and the project certainly speaks to that. It has a lot of heart. A lot of brain. A lot of pain. A lot of love.

Photography: Scott Soens, Bryan Meltz