While reviewing “The OF Tape Vol. 2,” one of the members who immediately caught my ear was Mike G. His role in the Odd Future crew isn’t as prominent as founder Tyler, the Creator or his long time running mate Hodgy Beats, which may be a reflection of the fact he was “a fan who was invited to join the group” – or so says Wikipedia. I tend to not trust anything written there further than the next edit, which is always one iota of one mouse click away. It IS true though that when you listen to the original “Odd Future” tape he’s not in the mix, and that since 2009 when he joined he’s gradually been featured more and more. The first step in that process was the “ALI” album produced by Syd tha Kid, which until recently was still available from Odd Future’s tumblr. Since MegaUpload got shut down though, you’ll have to look elsewhere around the internet to find it.
The first thing to know about “ALI” is that cameo appearances are all Odd Future. Tyler, the Creator appears on “Timeless,” one of this short album’s most interesting songs. The background music, much like the crew themselves, is a little unconventional and weird. It’s built over a loop of birds chirping somewhere in nature, and the drumbeat sounds like someone tapping silverware on pots and pans. The synthesizer sounds Sydney provides hold this eclectic mix together, and Mike G shows off his lyrical writing ability, which even at this prototype stage of his career shows a more focused thought pattern than some of his Golf Wang compadres.
“I could spend my whole life just tryin to get cash
Work hard then I pass like Steve Nash
Breathe fast, I ain’t tryin to hyperventilate
Forgive me Lord, it feel like I commit a sin a day
And then I wait for them days to turn good again
Get the cake, then I’ll tell them that’s the winners pay
To win today, would just seem like a lavish dream
Know what they mean? Everything ain’t what it seems
Angels sing then I feel like thats my roll call
I came with Left Brain, that’s my road dog
Switch lanes? Nah homie I’m a road hog
Brain to the pave look my mind on the road, dog
Said I’m just tryin to do this quick like make haste
Don’t take more than I can get to prevent waste
My music’s like confetti rain when you win a race
and you probably lose yo’ mind tryin to save face”
Other enjoyable “ALI” tracks with features are “Stick Up” starring Earl Sweatshirt and “Moracular Word” with Vince Staples. You could argue that “ThatNiggaTajSpeaks” is actually a group effort, but I’d prefer we not address that as anything more than a skit, and to be honest the lazy misogynistic attitude that informs it makes me regret anybody took two minutes and twenty-five seconds to create OR release it. It almost seems like a way to drag Mike G down, when songs like “King” are headed in the opposite direction. The flow here reminds me of the earliest days of Freestyle Fellowship, even though that Los Angeles collective’s first two albums came out before most of Odd Future was born. Mike’s laconic and melodic flow shows there’s something in the air out there. His verbals have a macabre movie theme, which is an interesting counterpoint to the laid back delivery:
“Nothin but +Rage+ in my entity, a page for a symphony
Still a fuckin +Firestarter+ lighters ain’t on this degree
My +Shining+ will never stop, fuck runnin from every cop
Wait ’til the sun goes down and have a showdown out in +Salem’s Lot+
Still workin the +Night Shift+, I am the +Doorway+
Golf clubs for violence this a different kinda foreplay
Sometimes they come back, sometimes they don’t
And sometimes I give a fuck but most times I won’t
And I think sometimes I’m made to sin, beat them ’til the broom is bent
Take a trip and add it to the bodies out in Chamberlain
The +Lawnmower Man+, couldn’t see all the holes I dug
Rifles on my back like I’m some fuckin kinda soldier bruh”
When Syd tha Kid and Mike G hit the right notes together, the talent of the latter really stands out. Even though they’re a few years old, tracks like “BlaccFriday” and “Crazh” are as good as anything that #OFWGKTA is doing right now. On such a short album though mistakes can drag an album down, and “Stick Up” stands out as a big one, not the least of which is that it’s six minutes long. The beat is influenced by Dead Prez but it’s definitely not bigger than hip-hop. I suppose lyrically it’s a fair crime fantasy, but it doesn’t impress me as showing what Mike’s really capable of. On the other hand the problem with “Brown Bag (’04 FTA)” isn’t Mike but Syd trying to get too cute on the boards and be OVERLY minimalistic, which creates a song that’s almost beat poetry.
Recent songs like “Forest Green” show that both Mike G and Wolf Gang have come a long way, but in an internet age where everything you release or do has a history cached somewhere, “ALI” is still out there from a time when this young clique was even younger, and just starting their rise to fame while expanding their team. They obviously drafted good talent even then, but “ALI” is not an essential for even a die hard head with Golf Wang tatted on their arm. On the other hand, it’s free.