If Thee Tom Hardy's crotch-grabbing humor has as much comedic shelf life as a recycled knock-knock joke, it's only because by now we expect him to advance from being Professor Douthit's (9th Wonder) class clown to rap laureate in a class of respected emcees. He's almost there. Secret of Thee Green Magic is Tom Hardy's second mixtape under producer/ label head 9th Wonder's watch. If the best material continues to get better, this green magic should translate into a solid debut LP sooner rather than later. With a bottomless resource of beats in the form of 9th Wonder's squad of producers, The Soul Council, and Hardy's longtime beat squad, Thee Band Geeks, Hardy's only real worry might be abiding hip-hop's modern law that says up-and-coming emcees must collaborate with anyone and everyone, even if the idea doesn't compute. This happens a few times here, but most notably on "Take Em To...," where Yelawolf's weighty backwoods quacking intercepts the fun sunshine that Hardy loves to toss around on these mixtapes. Hardy would much rather be with fellow Jamla artist GQ on "So Outrageous," or Add-2 and Phil-Ade on "True Talent," and it shows.
On "Always In Command," 9th economically kneads a sample of 10cc's "Rubber Bullets" beneath foamy drum sequences, provoking Tom Hardy into three verses of classic rap taunting: "Holy shoot, I'm the truth and no need to polygraph it/ The music business is work with no room for lollygagging/ Unless she's part giraffe your girl is gonna be probably gaggin." Hardy flaunts and poses on "Epic Beard Man," "Isn't That Swell" and "I'm Grinnin" and finds playtime for Rapsody on "Your Favorites."
We get less playtime elsewhere: The philosophy talk of "A Tribe Called Pat" offers less wise-guy humor than normal for Hardy. And "Off the Radar," with the ghostly wind chimes and laconic drum taps of Seattle producer Eric G., launches Hardy into a vulnerable orbit, unlike anywhere we've heard him venture toward lyrically. Here, the line of questioning is about loyalty. It's not until the song's hook chimes in that we find out that it's merely about a female interest. For a minute, we thought Tom Hardy was addressing us, gauging our allegiances, worrying about whether or not we care about him yet. The joke is on us, right?