Tyler, the Creator and his large rap collective known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (or simply Odd Future for short) seem to have virtually taken over the hip-hop landscape in the last twelve months. This has caused confusion, consternation or admiration depending on what part of the hip-hop audience you consider yourself in. A lot of the older rap generation who never caught on to the social media phenomenon did not see Odd Future coming, as they developed their fanbase almost entirely outside the traditional print, radio and video outlets that made new rap stars in the past. They’re also more well known for collaborating with each other than with long-established rap stars, so outside of their frontman Tyler chances are you’ve never heard a cameo on an album that would introduce you to them. What really seems to bother some people though is their lyrics – at times purposefully and artfully designed to be as offensive, bizarre and disgusting as possible.

To be honest I’m not sure why that should be such a big deal to anybody who has been listening to hip-hop for more than ten years. I don’t find Odd Future’s to be any more crass than 2 Live Crew, any more explicit than N.W.A, or any more horrific than Gravediggaz. All of these artists caused similar amounts of concern from pundits who decried the decaying moral fiber of society, in disbelief that anybody could find such things (gasp) ENTERTAINING. Somehow that same outrage never applied to Hollywood movies about cannibalistic serial killers, Vietnam War bloodbaths, or strip club showgirls. This is not a soapbox for me to argue the relativistic nature of these formats though; I’m simply pointing out the outrage about Odd Future is overblown and quite honestly unnecessary.

I think what many people find offensive, particularly within hip-hop itself, is that this group of misfits has risen so quickly to stardom in the music world without “paying dues.” None is older than 24, and they’ve only been together as a crew for four years. There’s a resentment that Odd Future doesn’t deserve it yet. Nobody seems to believe they’ve already got a large fan base and major distribution for their projects, and they use the lyrics of members like Hodgy Beats on “Snow White” in an attempt to prove the point.

“Roll the weed LB, the police smell me
High profile suite, bring them hoes to the telly – NOT!
Bitches fuck yo’ shit up worse from DMX in +Belly+
Behind you back plannin your downfall, I thought that was your relly
Relative, skin her ribs and eat healthy
I belch a bitch and leave her tits on the shelfing
I felt a bitch, she let me in, welcoming
Fuck duct tape nigga, I like Velcro-ing
I ain’t the one to be tampered with
I make you shit all in your pants and your Pamper, bitch
Niggaz quick to sing a hook and make a dance up quick
For you it’s never or never, my camp’s legit”

Not only do Odd Future relish this criticism, they outright mock it. Tyler’s lyrics in “P” make fun of the complaints and the haters, doing so with another of their controversial trademarks – homophobic slurs.

“Let’s see, what’s wrong with me? Might be my fuckin Tourette’s, see?
I need a vacation cause all this shit got me stressing
So after the showers with Sandusky
Me and Sean Kingston went and rented a couple jet skis
Lionel rolled the blunts up, meanwhile me and Lucas getting fucked up
You can smell us +cuming+ like a faggot when he hics-up
Listening to Common’s last album to get pumped up
So finally asked {*edited*} when I can get my dick sucked
You know Casey Anthony, was handling
Droppin her kids off so she could come out and dance with me
Wine in the pantry, wrestling on my trampoline
Learned some new chords while you uncreatives were sampling
I’m Wolf, I spi flowt retardedly
As retarded as the sound of deaf people arguing
You hold the future of the kid you daughter’s gargling
Me, I have the Odd Future motherfuckin sargean’ing!”

The strength and the weakness of the Odd Future crew is that Tyler does stand out from the rest of the Wolf Gang, and in many ways. The deep voice and distinctive vocal delivery make him their highest profile member, which explains why his solo albums have found the greatest success out of the whole clique. He’s also the best producer musically in the crew, making him a double threat. The bouncy layered piano and drums of “NY (Ned Flander)” is 100% on point. “Analog 2” and “Wheels 2” both sound like some quiet storm crossover R&B material – showing another unexpected but impressive facet of his production skills. The aforementioned “P” is one of my faves though; the synthetic sounds, off-tune broken melody and bass really DO suggest that OFWGKTA +is+ the future of hip-hop music. Nobody else makes music like this; or perhaps more accurately, nobody COULD and still make it compelling and listenable.

On the tracks that Tyler doesn’t produce, Left Brain is more often than not hitting on all four cylinders. Left Brain’s “Sam (Is Dead)” could be a bass rattler from any hardcore Bay Area rapper, “Bitches” sounds like something minimalist Kid Cudi or Lupe Fiasco could flow to, and “Rella” (another fave) is that kind of techno thump Odd Future’s fans relish. Production will carry the Odd Future crew a long way, because they can follow the traditional hip-hop formats when they feel like it, or go completely off to the left and do things nobody else does in rap. In some ways they strike me as being California’s equivalent of Kool Keith – self-produced, unconventional, and poised to have a cult following that will last for years even if their mainstream star fades. My only concern is that Odd Future without Tyler would be like Leaders of the New School without Busta Rhymes – irrelevant. There’s hope for Hodgy Beats and Mike G among others, but they’re not stars on Tyler’s level. With him Odd really is the Future, and without him they’d probably not get near the amount of press they do.

Odd Future :: The OF Tape Vol. 2
7Overall Score