In the past few months, buzz surrounding the young crew of California emcees and producers collectively known as Odd Future Wolf Gang has spread like wildfire. Not only have they amassed quite a following via free albums released through OddFuture.com but they’ve also captured the imaginations of Hip Hop oldheads as well. This is actually quite intriguing since we oldheads typically hate most new rappers and groups. Why are Odd Future Wolf Gang any different?
I’d seen Odd Future projects with the weird cover art all over the internet for a while now. I’d even heard the names Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy Beats, Left Brain and Domo Genesis from time to time form many of my Hip Hop blogging peers all throughout 2010. However, it wasn’t until my boy Has-Lo played a song called “Earl” on the Scrunchface Show this past Summer then sent me some YouTube and download links to other Odd Future projects and crew members I wasn’t previously aware of that I began to really take notice of them.
Once I began listening to various Odd Future offerings at the recommendation of many of my peers (including Rosalinda) I was instantly engrossed and needed to hear more but I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why at first. After poring through release after release and consistently finding songs that I’d keep on repeat for 15 minutes or more at a time it finally dawned on me exactly why I and a surprising amount of my peers were so receptive to Odd Future’s music. It reminded us of the old tried and true Backpack Rap aesthetic all over again.
Odd Future is a collective of teenagers that live in California and they not only rhyme and make beats but they skate as well. The best thing about Odd Future is they’ve developed their own lane and they don’t give a fuck. They make their music and release it to the public without worrying if it’s going to make a popular blog or if they’ll get signed. The industry is clearly not on their minds when they make music as 95% of Odd Future’s music isn’t radio friendly.
Oddly enough, the songs that are the least radio friendly are the ones my peers have played the most often on their online radio shows. The production perfectly fits the bars and the members of the crew can all spit although there is often dispute as to who in the crew is the nicest and/or the breakout star. This distinction seems to fall on Tyler The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. If Odd Future Wolf Gang was the Wu Tang Clan when they first hit then Tyler is RZA and Earl is Method Man.
The two Odd Future projects that my peers seem to focus on the most are Tyler The Creator’s “Bastard” and Earl Sweatshirt’s “Earl”. It’s surprising and refreshing to see so many older Hip Hop fans actually embrace some new emcees and producers for once. Especially since they’re not interested in making music that’s easily marketable and they genuinely seem to hate the media and having us gush over them. Weird, right?
In conversations with older heads they’ve revealed that it brings them back to when they saw or heard new underground Hip Hop on Sandbox Automatic, Hip Hop Site or Underground Hip Hop via RealPlayer clips or on 88HipHop.com. That same feeling of newness, excitement and discovery that had then they have now with Odd Future releases.
That same DIY/Independent As Fuck attitude and aesthetic that made us gravitate to different crews during the Backpack Era (1997-2002) is fully embodied in the OFWGKTA’s music. The beats don’t sound radio or club ready and their subject matter and lyrical content is clearly a byproduct of these teenagers being completely counter to the wave of culture the media has inundated them with their entire conscious lives.
Odd Future Wolf Gang’s approach to production, recording and distributing their musical output to the masses might be done much the same way most aspiring artists in 2010 do but they convey to us the same attitude as the crews whose records used to be popular purchases at Fat Beats between 10 to 15 years prior. Ironically, they’re throwbacks without really trying too hard to be (although in their music they often make references that infer they were influenced by this era. Odd). Even they seem to be surprised at their newfound “popularity”.
If you listen to tracks like “Seven”, “Assmilk”, “Pigions”, “Luper”, “Sandwitches”, “CopKiller”, “Super Market”, or any other random OFWGKTA selections you’ll agree they do evoke a feeling similar to the indie Hip Hop songs we copped on vinyl back in the late 90’s and early 00’s. These tracks could’ve been recorded on Tascam 488 MK II 4 track recorders and produced with EPS 16’s or ASR-10’s back then and they would’ve resonated with those fans the same way they do now.
Now that they’ve achieved some semblance of success and several Hip Hop blogs, music publications and even a few labels have come to gawk at them or show interest the Odd Future gang remain skeptical. Some might wonder how a group of kids spitting misogynistic bars about murder, drugs, violence, and whatever offensive or taboo subject you can think of draws in older Hip Hop fans. That’s an easy question to answer, we came up listening to Gangsta N.I.P., DMG, Spice-1, Kool G Rap, Nasty Nas, Big L, Akinyele, RA The Rugged Man (Crustified Dibbs), Necro, Cage, Non Phixion, Eminem and Horrorcore during our formative years.
That being the case, we aren’t turned off by the subject matter, all it does is remind us of the “good ol’ days” of Hip Hop. In this current era of cats rapping about their material possessions and the nonstop pursuit of fame, money, power, chart position, BDS spins, unit sales and status it’s ironically a breath of fresh air to hear some one say “Fuck you all!” on record. A little nihilism and genuine disgust with the status quo is just what I want to hear right now. We actually need it to be perfectly honest.
Another thing that the rise of Odd Future Wolf Gang points out without any intention of doing so is the complete lack of balance in today’s music scene. Whereas back in the days we had a plethora of groups and artists that occupied different lanes and they all could get time on the radio or MTV and BET. Those days are now long dead and if we hear anything smacking of originality compared to the dearth of inspiring music that’s forced on the masses there’s no question why so many people have responded to it.
That’s how and why a gang of foul mouthed skater kids from California ended up getting embraced by thirtysomething Hip Hop heads, various Hip Hop bloggers like myself, Khal, Noz and Combat Jack to Hot 97 radio show hosts like Peter Rosenberg. And to think, they were once pissed off that Nah Right and 2DopeBoyz wouldn’t post their material.
With the two main draws being Tyler The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt things are made even crazier due to the fact that Tyler became the default group leader because of his age and Earl was sent to boot camp by his mother and is being kept from participating in any of the recent Odd Future shows. This gives MellowHype members Hodgy Beats and Left Brain the opportunity to slide in and occupy the Raekwon and Ghostface Killah role in this ten man Rap ensemble.
I’m sure some of you are feeling some trepidation at the Wu Tang Clan comparisons so I offer you some more that you may be more comfortable with: D.I.T.C, The Great 8 of the Boot Camp Click, Hieroglyphics Crew, Solesides Crew, Outsidaz, Demigodz, Army Of The Pharaohs or Weathermen. Any way you word it, the definitely harken back to a foregone era and bring with them something that is sorely lacking nowadays. Is this attraction to their music subconscious? It may be with some but not really for me.
Why fight that old feeling of discovering something new and instantly liking it? Didn’t we grow up doing that with the overwhelming number of our favorite artists and groups? Have we become so cynical and distrustful that we won’t allow ourselves to anymore?
Instead of hoping that things DON’T go wrong and they don’t become too popular too fast or that they sell out or sign with the wrong label let’s just do what we did back in the days: Enjoy the goddamn music.