**** crookedcartridge.com ****

Review: Odd Future


When I tried introducing some of my friends to OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), their reactions were that of bewilderment, and disbelief that this was quote on quote “real music“. With videos full of ridiculously overemphasized nonsense like “Rella”, it would be hard for anyone to take them seriously at a glance. When you dig a little bit deeper, some members of the group seem a bit more in control of their faculties than they let on. In fact, some of them are actually good at rapping, capable of putting together really clever lyrics. Other members are pretty lacking, almost stumbling over the beats very clumsily. In this pseudo-review / blog I’ll be going over my thoughts on the members that really stand out, and the songs that exhibit their skills the best. I’m by no means a huge fan of Odd Future as a whole, so there will be some criticism where it’s appropriate and inevitable.

That being said, I won’t be able to span across every little thing each member has released in terms of albums and mixtapes, otherwise I’d be writing this review for literally weeks on end. These guys may not concern themselves with quality over quantity, but they really have put out a metric shit-load of music and LP’s in their seemingly short time as a group. I might go back and individually draft up reviews for significant albums like Bastard, Earl and the OF Tapes, but really there’d be a lot of ground to cover.


Tyler the Creator

When I first heard about Tyler the Creator’s music video “Yonkers”, someone had described it to me as the new face of horror-core rap. In the video, Tyler refers to himself as an alter ego called Wolf Haley and vomits after eating a cockroach between morbid, existentialist verses about being dark and edgy. The beat is exactly what you’d expect from an underground artist; raw and uncut with an almost minimal feel at times. The wordplay, however, leaves a lot to be desired. There are a lot of “super-duper flow” moments, something that has been saturating the hip hop scene since the mid 2000’s. If you don’t know what I mean, I’m talking about lazily inserting a punchline like so: “It’s going down… Basement!” – Nicki Minaj… And before you go looking for that song, just don’t. Save yourself the time, it’s as stupid as it sounds.

If you think I’m comparing Tyler the Creator to Nicki Minaj, you wouldn’t be wrong. But just because he incorporates some of the qualities of really shitty rap doesn’t mean he’s a shitty rapper himself. In fact, Tyler the Creator is a prolific artist at this point in time, with a vast body of work at a very young age. Really the only problems I have with Tyler the Creator are his choice of lyrics, or rather the degradation of quality over time and his attached ego. Basically, at some point in time he rapped less about his emotional problems, blogs mislabeling the genre of his music, and calling himself talented. If you’re going to try and play off of some mysterious persona, it doesn’t lend you any credibility if you can’t handle something a blog said about you.

That being said, the kid’s got cool songs and a lot of it comes off as having been recorded in one or two takes. A lot of people end up sounding horrendously overproduced in mainstream hip hop, and for an underground artist gone internet-famous his voice lends itself to most instrumentals very naturally. In fact, most of the instrumentals OFWGKTA choose are surprisingly low quality and mixed very poorly, possibly intentional but I think it’s just because they don’t feel like getting any outside opinions, or perhaps they don’t want to sound like anyone else. A lot of the songs are “hardcore” in nature, involving a lot of lashing out at societal norms and standards. Unlike most rap these days, Tyler the Creator doesn’t necessarily talk about popping bottles or being covered in jewelry, but the same bravado and cockiness is present in other ways.

Many musicians in the rap industry seem to put on a totally false act for the sake of making money. One-upping each other with cars, chains and other displays of expense in order to appear powerful in the eyes of both fans and other artists. You don’t really get that so much with Tyler the Creator, there’s not this huge overwhelming presence of money-talk like most rap. But at the same time, his immaturity shines through in his songs in sharp contrast to the intellect he wants to portray. There is a gradient shifting from comedic insincerity to gritty brooding stuff on pretty much every release, in a very bipolar manner. As far as promising talent goes in the “underground” hip hop scene, Tyler the Creator is definitely one to keep your eye on.

Earl Sweatshirt

Whereas Tyler the Creator has had some choice few moments of cleverness in his verses with a somewhat unrehearsed flow, Earl Sweatshirt has a very seasoned sounding technique about him despite being so young. Coupled with a pretty sharp vocabulary, Earl’s syncopation and flow really brings this guy to the forefront in terms of raw talent. Now the guy’s still really young, but it’s hard to say if he’s got staying power seeing as he’s actually pretty understated in the whole scheme of things. A lot of the members are really out there, crazy assholes with no off-switch getting into trouble and breaking stuff at shows. Earl doesn’t seem so wild and rambunctious, exhibiting a really docile and composed style when he raps.

The reason why Earl isn’t necessarily the most involved member is complicated to say the least. His real name is Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, son of a famous South African activist named Keorapetse Kgositile. Obviously of righteous upbringing, Thebe must have rejected a sheltered life for more excitement at some point. Earl’s parents apparently found out about his rapping antics seeing as there are thousands of videos on YouTube, and for a long time he was on hiatus from performing with OFWGKTA. No one was really sure what happened at the time, but this huge gap of hibernation caused a maelstrom of rumors to spread. Odd Future started chanting “Free Earl” in several songs and he became this mysterious character.

According to Wikipedia, the all-knowing source of internet “facts”, Earl’s parents sent him away to Samoa when he “started getting into trouble”. Earl attended Coral Reef Academy, a therapeutic retreat school for at-risk boys, located outside of the Samoan capital of Apia. While a bunch of people assumed the kid had landed himself in jail or something, he was in another sort of imprisonment: Boarding School. But seriously, the jail rumors and whatnot flared this kid’s success and internet fame through the roof. Upon release of the OF Tapes Volume 2, Earl appeared at a live performance out of nowhere, also appearing in the music video for Odd Future’s last track on the album, “Oldie”.

Hodgy Beats

There are a lot of members in Odd Future Wolf Gang, and the really good members work to leave an impression with every verse. Hodgy Beats has a really unique flow, sounding really tight even on ridiculous tracks that are meant to be parodies. Hodgy seems to breeze through most beats, having the ability to yell and scream as well as laying back and being reserved. I honestly end up enjoying and remembering this guy’s stuff more often than not, having a very consistent sound and somewhat care-free lyrical content. Some of the best rappers in collectives seem to set themselves apart by simply not rapping about the same stuff as other members. This format seems to work perfectly with Hodgy, sounding very aloof and a little stoned at times, while maintaining speed and good diction while rhyming.

There are a few songs here and there between OF Tapes and his own side-project releases that leave a lot to be desired when it comes to performance, probably due to relative inexperience or alternate production techniques. But I can safely say, this guy has sounded basically the same for as long as I’ve been listening to Odd Future, and I mean that in the best way possible. Consistency can be the missing ingredient in a lot of OFWGKTA songs, so it’s nice to hear at least a few of the members come to the table with a little steadiness. Hodgy seems to be on most of the songs on OF Tapes Volume 2 for that exact reason. While other verses from members like “Taco” might sound really sloppy and honestly really bad, Hodgy and Domo Genesis work as a team to make a lot of the tracks redeemable when Tyler and Earl aren’t there.

Odd Future: The Group

 In the same way that some people rap about being gangster, trapping, pimping and other deplorably retarded shit, Odd Future have songs with wholesome choruses like “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school” to influence their young fan base. While you can try to dismiss these crass messages by comparing OFWGKTA to tongue in cheek “parody” artists like Lil B, it’s a pretty hard sell. When you have an entire crowd of impressionable kids screaming a chorus like that, they’re bound to end up taking some of it to heart, especially when they see that the people producing it are making money and getting laid. Some of these fans seem devoted to an almost cult-like degree, even going as far as to say they’re the best rap collective in existence.

In terms of marketing and networking, Odd Future has been really smart and even slightly greedy. In nearly every city they’ve performed, the group would rent out a store and plaster the address on twitter and facebook. In said store, they stock the shelves with Odd Future merchandise; skate board decks, t shirts, hats, and other obscenely priced stuff. Still, kids line up around the block and they make a killing, as apposed to the cuts they would take from selling the same stuff online. You’d expect a bunch of kids with money to leave it up to managers, producers, studio executives, what have you, but it seems like they’re taking a very hands-on approach. That’s actually something to be commended if they thought of it themselves.

With a new show on Adult Swim, these guys are bound to get a lot of attention from their target audience; rich, privileged kids. Having heard most of their stuff leading up to now, it’s definitely going to be a bumpy ride for this group if they don’t deliberate upon the message of their music at least a little bit. At present, their lyrical content ranges from sadistic, psychopathic bullshit to soft-spoken and pseudo-intelligent, which is not a good thing. When people sit down and listen to an album, or even a mixtape, there shouldn’t be this awkward whiplash of attitude changes. This can leave the listener with a jarring sense of disbelief, to put it simply, it’s hard to take anything they’re saying seriously when they act so ridiculous 99% of the time. You can’t act like Pee Wee Herman and expect people to take you seriously when you go out for the role of Clint Eastwood.

With little or no introduction to the group you would think their albums sound more like playlists put together in no particular order, especially on their newest album, The OF Tapes Volume 2. Some people are probably into that, but it definitely reads more as an amateur move by fledgling artists than a calculated strategy on their part. Since I’m on the subject again, another amateurish quality of Odd Future is production value. Every beat literally sounds like it was written, produced and released without any sort of mixing process or professional mastering. And if they did pay for mastering, they need to get their money back pronto because some of these songs just sound off due to the shoddiness of the beats. Odd Future’s lyrical content and performances aside, that lack of production value can be a death knell for even the best musicians.

 

That’s not to say that Odd Future has bad beats or instrumentals, actually a lot of their stuff is extremely catchy and Hip Hop sensible. They just lack that oomph that really professional Hip Hop has to offer, even the really shitty mainstream stuff. Again, some people like that totally raw sound, but there’s also a standard for what’s listenable and what’s peaked the fuck out and slowly breaking my speakers. A lot of it was probably done in something like FL Studio or Traktor, with a refreshing lack of sampling. This is something Tyler the Creator has mentioned in the middle of songs though, so they’re definitely not humble about it. Lot’s of people write original instrumentals, it doesn’t make you Yo Yo Ma. Let me reiterate,  the beats aren’t bad but they definitely need more mastering before they can compete with most Hip Hop on the Billboard charts.

As I’m writing this, I know I’ll have to touch upon certain albums in more depth because there’s really too much to say about this group. They’re strange, offensive, and something about them seems to connect with underground hip hop fans and newcomers to the genre alike. Maybe it’s because they’re unable to hold their tongues in the face of long-standing political correctness. Maybe it’s because they’re black kids acting crazy and at times playing into ignorant stereotypes. Or maybe it’s because they’re actually talented individuals writing deep, complex music filled with not-so-subtle hints to disobey and be a rebel… While simultaneously telling people to conform to the “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All Don’t Give A Fuck” way of life to the point of near-suicide. You know, for kids!

I imagine many of the members will fall back from the lime-light when people have had enough of them, but Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis will likely have a long career ahead of them if they play their cards right. Each of these guys have interesting voices at the very least, and once they actually start rapping about something of substance, I have a feeling their music will outshine most of the other members of Odd Future. So there’s my review of Odd Future, they’re really interesting in an off-kilter way, and if you’ve never listened to them I’d suggest starting with The OF Tapes Volume 2.


Categorized as: Music Reviews | Written Reviews



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.