For my first series of reviews, I am going to cover the primary works of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA). Odd Future consists of 11 young people from Los Angeles. They are rapidly gaining attention due to the violent, sexual and misanthropic nature of their image and creations. Being a borderline sadist myself, and connoisseur of all things bad taste, when I was introduced to Odd Future last autumn I took to them immediately. Lately, I had been feeling that Hip-Hop had fallen into a stasis and I was thirsty for something new to come along and shake the game up. Odd Future answered. As I watched their bizarre, Menace II Society/Children of the Corn-esque Youtube videos and absorbed their diabolic, irreverent and often disturbing records, I began to realize what was making their approach so effective. It was the same factor that made Eminem such a phenomenon in the late 1990's. Frankly, I couldn't tell whether or not they were for real.
Of course, some of the references and implications had to be false, such as claims to murdering police and raping on average 2 girls per track, but the serious tone and detailed accounts on some of the records had me wondering what was fabricated and what was plausible. Maybe they do partake of cocaine. Maybe they do commit sexual assaults. The nature of their videos were extreme enough to make ruling it out difficult. After many months of constant rotation, or just selecting the loop option on my iPod, and following their website and progression, it has long become clear that most of their antics are fictionalized, for now I have faces and personalities to attribute to the lyrics. Also, I've been double-checking their claims against Los Angeles missing persons and criminal activity reports. But for a few months there, Odd Future was fascinating in its ambiguity, and a little frightening in its implications. Could this be some new breed? Humans have been getting increasingly desensitized and demented, I reasoned. Perhaps this is the latest strain. Either way, it made for fantastic listening.
When I first took in a few albums, I felt that they were going to be spearheading a new movement or cult, and sure enough they are now "blowing up". And the odd thing is, they aren't doing anything markedly fresh. Gritty, Pharrell-influenced, offbeat production. Kool Keith styled grotesqueness. Horrorcore/shock value lyricism. A return to the collective, fuck-you persona of the Wu-Tang Clan. But they do it so well, and in spite of the revisited themes, it does feel quite original. The sheer variety of their respective members' styles, the intricate wordplay and enigmatic facade is absolutely compelling.
I began with the de facto leader of Odd Future, Tyler, The Creator (or Wolf Haley, or Ace, The Creator) back then, so I'll begin with him now. This is Bastard.
After a brief, vehement triade against 2dopeboyz and Nah Right, Tyler invites us back to an album which has not yet begun. Establishing Bastard as something of a concept album, a therapist appears and begins to coax Tyler into opening up. At first, it seems he's wasting his time, but without warning Tyler begins a 5 minute tangent that is at its worst, comic, at its best, haunting. Possessed with an asthmatic voice that sounds Howlin' Wolf after practicing a lifelong diet of gravel and blacktop, coated with cigarette tar and ashes, Tyler croaks simple, revealing lines over a chilling piano loop. Eerie synth pads sweep over his confessions to demonic ancestry, his disdain for a negligent, or dead father, accounts of failed relationships, his acknowledged wickedness, violent impulses, insecurities, suicidal tendencies, and his motivation for Odd Future. For the duration, Tyler is positively fuming, but brief instances of humanity shine through, which makes the inherently distant Tyler come across as almost sympathetic. To me, this is infinitely more effective than the all-out pity party that many emotional rappers are wont to do.
"I'm a dreamcatcher, but nothing but nightmares I caught."
"I'm bad milk. Drink it."
"Fuck a deal. I just want my father's email, so I can tell him how much I fucking hate him in detail."
If doesn't strike you as some hard shit, you probably have some form of dementia christened after you.
From irate to vicious. Keeping with traditional self-promotion tactics, Tyler makes reference after reference with above average impact and a familiar, homemade vibe, proclaiming the high quality of his abilities. Quickly demonstrating himself as a gifted internal rhymer, he illustrates Odd Future's mode of operation, which consists of property damage, refusing to conform to the current conceptions of mainstream rap, drunk driving, the occasional ass fuck and generally not giving a shit. Accompanied by a driving, popping beat and unsettling loop that fits.
"Escaping from concentration camps with a fucking girl born in a ramp, that I ordered from CCS with some diamonds that's VVS, like I went to Sierra Leone in a homecoming dress. With some matching pink panties, lipstick from my granny, "sup" on my hat, like that motherfucker Frannie."
3. Odd Toddlers
Sampling MF Doom's "One Beer", which sampled Cortex's "Huit Octobre 1971", the soulful wail and sick beat compliment some of Tyler's smoothest flow on this album. Goddamn, this might be the best beat on the album. Casey Veggies comes in with a solid verse, with his distinctive voice. A sweet interlude and then the instrumental wraps up. Hot shit.
"If you can't face it, my nigga, you can ask it, my accessorized accessories bring out my assets."
A hyphy-like, grating, monstrous beat carries Tyler over this brutal anthem that would not be out of place on Ted Bundy's "Me-time" playlist. French! could be stripped to just an instrumental, and your hands would still start itching for a neck to wring. Hilarious references involving R. Kelly and Chris Stokes. Hodgy Beats drops a dope verse, channeling a young Pusha-T.
"I'm fucking Goldilocks up in the forest, in the three bear's house, eating their motherfuckin' porridge. I tell her it's my house, give her a tour in my basement and keep that bitch locked up in my storage. Rape her and record it, then edit it with more shit."
"You seem confused anyway, pressure enough? You the type of dude that choke when the pressure is up. The pressure is to pump, and the pressure is us. Bitches havin' eargasms and the pleasure is us."
Pusha-T or Dre, that is.
Probably the most conventional chorus you'll ever get out of Tyler, Blow is a creepy, swirling narration of Tyler's failed sexcapades. If manipulative rape fits within those parameters. The squirting sound effects following "cum, plastered" always make me laugh. Damn catchy chorus though. The final murmur of "I just have one request...stop breathing" reminds me of Pavement, but still carries the same gravity.
"If you wanted a date, don't come. Now you gotta make it easy for me, don't run. You call this shit kids, well I call these kids cum, and you call this shit rape, but I think that rape's fun."
6. Pigs Fly
Another mellow beat for Tyler, along the lines of Blow. Delving further into Tyler's psyche, Pigs Fly brings with it the disenfranchised mood that must inhabit the entirety of Odd Future. Unlike other artists who vaguely gesture towards emotional distress, Tyler and Domo Genesis speak on their wrecked self-esteems, the emptiness that comes with growing up fatherless and the coping with dark thoughts and intentions. The dreary, hazy beat accentuates this.
"If you niggas selling dope, then you selling my shit. Selling my assets, I'm so damn illegal that I need to be arrest. But then they'll get my mom for 18 years of possession. She showed me affections like a drug dealer, using her pocket for my protection."
A blaring examination on growing up, which Tyler, and perhaps the general public, is not ready for. "Go to college, get a job, marry, have a kid, watch them grow and then you die. No, nigga fuck the system." I'm not sure what Tyler's expectations are. Perhaps it's the bittersweet loss of innocence and fading nostalgia of better times.
"You live your life all serious, while I enjoy mine."
8. Slow It Down
Hot beat, up front. Hodgy spits some solid lines, the vocals during the chorus work well with its exasperated "oh my god". Then Tyler brings it fast, funny and hard.
"Her kitty cat, fish, loves its tuna, I never use a fork, I always spoon her."
Fuck me rigid. Earl has arrived. Related to Tyler through his mother, Earl lacks the raw charisma Tyler carries, but fucks the mic bareback and calls it back the next day. Unfortunately, seeing as how he's only 16 or 17, his mother seems to have found about his budding career and shepherded him away to somewhere Tyler can't find him. I can't say I blame her, but shit is he talented. A stuttering, playful beat keeps it catchy and bouncing. Each verse is better than the last. I can't even talk about it without wanting to go listen again.
The whole song, motherfucker.
The best I can describe this track is, Tyler gets romantic. Frightening, right? It's very bit as twisted as expected. This is another great beat, with funky beeps and boops accompanied by a mournful, slow-jam synth wave. Great vocals with the "and wake up next to you" crooning. The second shroom reference I've heard recently, and superior to Kid Cudi's "split an eighth of shrooms just so I can see the universe". Tyler needs to get laid. I need to get laid. Anyway.
"Ready to watch, I'ma slip it in the tape deck, but put it in slow-mo, I don't wanna bust the tape yet."
These are some silly bitches. Tyler comes back again with an outright denial of anything resembling morality and some creative lyricism reminiscent of some Viktor Vaughn shit.
"My self-respect, I leave that in the lost and found, where the black girls get their weaves back."
I love this beat. Tyler is terrible with girls. This is probably the worst pick-up song I've ever heard. "Eat you out like jello?" He compares females' reproductive systems to food too much. Brotha Lynch Hung over here. More of the cannibalistic/rapist lines you came to love during French!.
"Half your body layin' on my chest. The rest is in my stomach, that's including your breast."
"Lookin' in your dead eyes, what the fuck you want from me. What did you want from me?"
Now I'm all peckish.
13. Jack and the Beanstalk
A sexual conquest song. Perhaps the beanstalk is indicative of phallic symbolism. Maybe Tyler's weird. He doesn't really have the credibility to do a song like this after the likes of French! and Sarah. He refuses to have a chorus for this song, simply opting to mutter "my nigga, no hook" instead. Lazy, or genius? Pretty generic beat, but the female (Syd?) vocals are nice.
"I make a straight bitch's pussy wet just like a noodle, and my dick must be dog food to these bitches' poodles."
Ugly, but it's great. Jasper and Taco are welcome additions. Dumb song, dumb on purpose. Excessive amounts of "swag", which kind of sucks, but I can overlook it. Silly song that makes me chuckle and wipe a rogue tear from my cheek.
"Bitch, I got that fuckin' swag. You don't know my fuckin' dad. I don't know my fuckin' dad."
The therapist, who has been popping in throughout the album brings the session to a close, with the final verdict being that Tyler is "a good kid, just misguided". More of the same from the title track, but that's fine. Melancholy, real shit. Hits home. Even though I have an awesome pops. You know what I mean. Pretty sick instrumental as well.
"Until I was old enough to understand that the fuckin' faggot didn't like me much. He loved my moms enough to bust a nut."
Worth the time?
Shit yes. Can be a bit of a grower, but some of the freshest work out there now. You can download all their shit for freezies at Oddfuture.com. For now, at least. They'll probably get wise and realize they can charge for shit this dope.