Earlier this week I watched this video:
That is Tyler the Creator and Hodgy Beats, two MCs that make up only a fifth of the hip-hop organisation that is Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (we’ll stick with OFWGKTA thanks). As you can see in the video above, they know how to put on a show. Garden gnomes, possessed children, gargantuan brass instruments with names that escape me. More importantly though, they know how to create buzz. Right now they are the definition of the word ‘hype’ but don’t tell them that.
Odd Future have been active since 2007 and began releasing mix-tapes for free via their tumblr page in 2008. An air of mystery surrounds the group, with little biographical information on the members available. They are all young; their ages ranging from 17-23. To me, they seem like smart guys. They’re making fun of the music industry while simueltaneously poising themselves to conquer it.
OFWGKTA’s enigmatic and talented leader, Tyler the Creator spits rhymes full of menace on his debut mix-tape, Bastard. This was the first Odd Future release that I checked out after watching the Jimmy Fallon performance. His lyrics are disturbing and often disgusting. I’d heard of death-rap before but was never so much as intrigued by the concept of people rapping about necrophilia and rape. For some weird reason, Tyler’s modus operandi comes off as intrinsically disturbing rather than believable. The beats that back his rhymes are minimal. On the title track of the album (my personal favourite), a piano pounds away behind him and as the track progresses, synths swell ominously. It’s pretty refreshing to hear for someone who’s not fully-schooled in hip-hop, like me. Bastard served as a great entry point into the Odd Future experience and I’d definitely recommend it as an ideal gateway for anyone else interested in the group.
Hodgy Beats, Tyler’s sidekick in the Jimmy Fallon performance, has a pretty low-key, almost boring style. He’s very much a background player. The second most promising member of the group behind Tyler is probably Earl Sweatshirt who is in fact the youngest, having released his own debut mix-tape at the tender age of 16. Apparently his mum listened to it and forbid him from hanging out with Tyler and the gang from that point on. The OFWGKTA website is adorned with the slogan, ‘FREE EARL’.
Even Tyler and Earl have some ways to go before they are recognised as truly great MCs but Odd Future’s…future is looking very bright. Are they the second coming of the Wu? Nah. Their debut material is nowhere near as strong as Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 breakout classic, Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers). The comparison is too obvious and not very substantial. Like Wu-Tang Clan though, they are a product of the times. Wu-Tang burst onto the scene in the early nineties with gritty beats that blew Dr. Dre’s oft-maligned G-funk out of the water. They totally revitalised east coast hip-hop and paved the way for the future of the genre as a whole. Perhaps OFWGKTA aren’t as explosively revolutionary but their punk-mentality and market-savvy tactics are making the Gucci Manes of today look like chumps. The musical landscape has changed. Artists are releasing their work for free and relying on other means to create revenue in the early stages of their careers. Odd Future know what’s what.