A video emerged earlier this month of Tyler, the Creator—the chief of Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future—wilding out onstage during an L.A. concert by Atlanta trap rapper Gucci Mane. When Tyler starts manically pogoing too close to the Brick Squad boss while he’s performing “Photo Shoot,” a security guard wraps his hand around the young rapper’s throat, drags him stage left, lifts him off his feet and tosses him into the crowd like a dirty tissue. Seconds later, Tyler leaps back onstage and, while sporting a God-sized shit-eating grin, thrashes and headbangs until he kamikazes headfirst into the audience.
The moral? Odd Future are resilient. Not only are they immune to good old-fashioned physical violence, but also to traditional forms of critique. They’ve been repeatedly criticized for lacking rap skills, for being all shock appeal, no substance—see the “Yonkers” music video in which Tyler pukes after eating a giant bug and then hangs himself; a so-called “riot” incited from the roof of Boston’s Newbury Comics; militantly unapologetic anti-P.C. lyrics/Tweets/interviews; a police report filed against Left Brain by a female photographer who claims to have been slapped in the face while shooting a performance at New Orleans’ Voodoo Experience fest; and Tyler himself arrested on vandalism charges following a hometown gig in December. The list goes on.
This is certainly a valid critique considering Odd Future kept the press on its toes all last year with their gonzo antics and Internet memes, but never truly wowed with their music. Tyler’s Goblin debut was mostly praised when it dropped last May, though by December all anyone remembered were the problematic ethical implications of its lyrics. (Example: “Goddamn I love bitches/ Especially when they only suck dick and wash dishes.”) But the combined anger of a thousand P.C. Think Pieces only fed the beast, ultimately making it stronger. For this is a monster that thrives equally on positive and negative attention. Gucci’s security guard learned that strangling Tyler was not a solution, and angry reviews pointing out Odd Future’s misogynistic, homophobic and nihilistic themes also aren’t enough to suppress the rabid, but resilient, squad.
The demand now made of Odd Future is that they must musically prove themselves worthy of our attention. Can they make a good rap record and grow beyond the shock? This week sees the release of Odd Future’s The OF Tape Vol. 2, and a tour that stops by the Electric Factory this Friday. Maybe, in both, these questions can be answered. Below, tiny summaries of each new track on the new album. SWAG!
L-Boy talks mad shit about all OF members to hammer home the fact that words will never hurt them.
Above bass thumps and wanky synths, Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats swap bars swimmingly, showing their ability to counterpoint the beat and their tempo adaptability.
“NY (Ned Flander)”
Tyler raps about giving someone a handjob in a bath tub—only if the price is right—and a rubber ducky/blowjob combo he received from groupies in Kentucky.
The Internet, the sub-project of Matt Martian and female member Syd tha Kyd, drops a neo-soul cut that, much like their Purple Naked Ladies debut, sounds careless and tired.
A nasally Mike G raps swell on a head-nodding beat but this song’s about nothing, and not in that cool Seinfeld way.
Hodgy and Domo return to prove they have the best chemistry of any OF pairing on this shit-talking track: “Niggas claim to be scenic/ But I know they ain’t seen shit.”
Bizarrely split in two by silence and a metronome, Tyler revisits a deconstructed version of Goblin ’s “Analog,” first with Frank Ocean crooning about a ménage à trois with Nicki Minaj (hehe), and then with Syd singing about fucking on the roof of a treehouse.
“Fuck the police, break the law,” raps Hodgy, wilding out with Left Brain on the album’s first semi-Flocka, hyper-aggro track, in which they proceed to fuck up everyone, including your grandmother.
Hodgy spits furiously about preferring velcro to duct tape on an abrasively hypnotic beat until interrupted by howling, barking, big bad wolves and Ocean’s dada chorus about unsafe playgrounds as white noise appropriately devours EVERYTHING.
An explosively paranoid, funhouse beat and raging raps from Hodgy, Domo and a knock-knock joke-telling Tyler, this all-killer track’s the stand-out; as Hodgy claims, the “fortress is fortified.”
This second track with the “B” word in the title will be the one to piss off Think Piece writers, and it’s also an all-filler throw-away track.
“I’m a golden curse, call me treacherous treasure chest/ Better yet, I build onto the beat like Tetris,” raps Hodgy, proving with one of the album’s best lines he might be OF’s best rapper.
Frank Ocean’s responsible for some absurd hooks (see his Nostalgia: Ultra ) that disrupt the predictability of contemporary R&B. Here, he sings about interplanetary invasion and faded love as he did on “Strawberry Swing,” but his voice lacks depth and range, as this solo track proves.
This is what current trap-rap beats would sound like if Lex Luger came from Mars, not Virginia; switching from human to monster voice, Tyler says “Fuck hip-hop.”
“Sam (Is Dead)”
It sounds like there’s a Rhodes keyboard buried under the pummeling brass, and Tyler points that out (“Bring in the horns/ You hear that fucking brass?”) before dropping the name Geppeto for the album’s second children’s lit reference (see “Snow White”).
PW's Music Issue 2014