Odd Future Odyssey

Lately, I’ve been trying to work out on paper why I have come to love the new rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (a.k.a. ofwgkta, Odd Future) so much. I’ve got essays about inner demons and darkness, essays about savage truth and evil honesty, I’ve even got an “essay” that just says, “Odd Future is the most awesome thing ever, omg” over and over again, but nothing I’ve written so far as really gotten my feelings across.

So instead of another of those essays, I’m going to try turning the camera on myself and more or less attempt to explain step-by-step how I got hooked on them in the first place, and you can just decide on your own.

Starting at the beginning:

Tyler, the Creator – Yonkers

This is the first thing I saw from Odd Future, a crazy dark, completely fucked up video wherein Tyler, the leader of the Wolf Gang, eats a cockroach, pukes for about 30 seconds, and ends up hanging himself to finish it off. I found this while cruising a site called yesyesyall.org, which focuses on graphic design and music (usually combined in music videos). So the first thing I really noticed about Odd Future was the simple, yet gritty and terrifying video by Luis “Pancho” Perez, who’s been director of photography on videos from LL Cool J to DMX.

Tyler kicks off the song with a brief bit of genius – “i’m a fuckin’ walking paradox / no i’m not” which, laid over the savage lo-fi beat, really gives you the feeling of insanity and chaos that Odd Future is swiftly becoming known for. It’s a fantastic introduction to the song, which is like listening to an eloquent, pop culture savvy hobo preacher.

This led me to:

Odd Peanuts Wolf Gang Kill Them All

Odd Peanuts

This is not affiliated, it’s just a random tumblr where somebody takes Odd Future lyrics out of their context and pastes them into Peanuts comics. Basically, what this did was expose me to a treasure trove of insane lyrics ranging from scary (above) to ridiculous (“we go skate, rape sluts, eat donuts from randys”) to I have no idea (“i’m with yo girlfriend eatin chips… mmmm stop the beat bitch”). Color me intrigued. I did a search on the “fuck a mask…” lyric and discovered…

Tyler, the Creator feat. Hodgy Beats – Sandwitches

Seeing them perform live, watching Tyler just freak the fuck out all over the place, and experiencing their manic punk rock energy sealed the deal for me. Stagedives, midgets, mascots, and finally getting carried off the stage by security while screaming “Wolf Gang Kill Them All” at the top of their lungs… it’s crazy and chaotic and terrifying, and I crave those qualities. I’ve never been great at defining my lust for lack of control, but Odd Future epitomizes what I want to see and hear whenever I get that craving. The craving for violence and madness and just letting go of what’s keeping me from climbing and subsequently jumping out of a tree. They satisfy like my “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac” comic books in that respect.

They performed at SXSW too, stagediving off the speakers into mosh pits, and i’m still kicking myself for missing SXSW and the experience of an Odd Future show.

At this point, I’m sold and I just want more. Imagine my excitement when I learned that these kids (none of whom exceed the age of 23, most around 18) have been putting out mixtapes and albums since 2008, and since there’s actually 11 members of the Odd Future collective, they’re crazy prolific, and most of their albums are free for download. I went on a goddamn spree.

Here’s a snapshot of the 4 albums I acquired within a few hrs of hearing them for the first time:

Frank Ocean – Nostalgia/Ultra

Ocean is more of the sultry r&b type, which is cool because I would do anything for smooth music. However, while being much on the smoother side of Odd Future, he doesn’t stray far from the crazy fucked-upedness of the group, as I hope the above song conveys. He meets a dental student/porn actress who gets him to smoke something laced with novacaine before shooting a porn with her. “Cocaine breakfast… yikes.” Dude samples Radiohead, MGMT, and Hotel California in its entirety, which is just raw.

Tyler, the Creator – Bastard

This album is a long rant to a therapist describing all the dark corners of Tyler’s brain. Not much in the way of sampling, most of the music is Tyler’s own creation betraying influences as diverse as NWA, Ariel Pink (“Blow” actually kinda sounds like “what if Ariel Pink wrote a rap song”), James Pants (holy crap! have you even heard james pants?!)…

…Eminem, and Liars. As one might expect from a rant to a therapist, the album ranges from dark, manic anger (as in the video) to emotional pleas to an absent father. But the whole thing comes off as very personal and honest.

Earl Sweatshirt – EARL

All over their tumblr (because of course Odd Future has a tumblr), you’ll see cries of “free earl” emblazoned all over the place. This album is the reason why. EARL was probably the first thing Odd Future put out to gain some attention, garnering praise from the likes of Pitchfork who called the album “mesmerizing” for Tyler, the Creator’s abstract, intelligent beats laced through with Earl’s excessively clever and crazy violent raps. EARL is an evil, fucked up, disturbed masterpiece put out by a 16 year old kid, which is why Earl Sweatshirt is missing out on the recent success of Odd Future – forced to sit it out at boarding school. His parents were not happy to find out about their rap prodigy son, so now, “free Earl” is the call which permeates Odd Future’s music, interviews, blogs… everything. Usually followed by the call “fuck Steve Harvey”, because of course fuck Steve Harvey. The dude is not funny.

Curious how Earl’s holding up?

Earl Sweatshirt at school

Radical – OFWGKTA

This mixtape features pretty much everyone in the Odd Future collective rolling out with their sample-happy best. The album flows smoothly between terrifying (in Tyler’s “splatter”) to funny (in Hodgy’s “round and round” describing a mostly food/sex-based relationship). Much like most of Odd Future’s albums, they playfully throw around lines about rape, drug use, suicide, hate, asthma… whatever. I really like all of these albums, but “Radical” is the one that displays the raw talent of all the members in concert. it’s a lot of fun to listen to, and it drags you right into it kicking and screaming. Great… Album…

Want some albums?

Here’s EARL

and Here’s Radical.

I hope I’m properly conveying my excitement about this group. I don’t listen to rap very much at all, I’m actually more of a LCD Soundsystem/Broken Social Scene sorta guy, but sometimes I crave some music that is violent and loud and terrifying. Odd Future is the first time I’ve actually been satisfied in that search; Nine Inch Nails isn’t violent enough, Marilyn Manson isn’t loud enough… most rap of the moment is about wearing expensive clothes.

But Odd Future captures the chaos I want to hear so perfectly, it’s like they went into my subconscious and dragged out exactly what I wanted. I understand that Odd Future’s not for everyone, and what’s better, they understand that. They make no apologies for what they do or say; they just make music the way they want to hear it. But I’m telling you, if you want to experience the blood, sweat, and spit of music like I do, listen to this right now.

(c) Brandon Stauffer All rights reserved. Contact Brandon through the emailz!

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