Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Odd Future: Hip Hop's New Super Group?

Odd Future, or Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All to give them their full title, are a rap collective from Los Angeles. The group is headed by charismatic front man Tyler the Creator, who also handles the majority of production for the rest of the members. Other rappers associated with the group include Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy Beats, Domo Genisis and R&B singer Frank Ocean. Their style of music has been likened to the horrorcore genre, but the members prefer to label their violent, offensive brand of  rap as 'indie rap'. The group rose to prominence with Tyler The Creator's Bastard, a free download available on their website. Other notable works include Earl Sweatshirt's Earl and Blackenedwhite, by subgroup MellowHype (Hodgy Beats and Left Brain). Blackenedwhite was recently reissued as a physical release, buoyed by the success of Tyler the Creator's second album, Goblin. The LP has to date sold over 100,000 copies, culminating in Tyler being nominated (and winning) best new artist at the VMAs. His video for single 'Yonkers' was also nominated for best video, but lost out to Katy Perry. Singer Frank Ocean is also making inroads to the mainstream, appearing twice on Watch The Throne.
The collective has been dogged by controversy, their dark imagery and themes include rape, self harm, suicide and casual violence. Tyler has been strongly criticised for his use of homophobic slurs, but has refuted the claim that his music is anti-gay: 'Well, I have gay fans and they don't really take it offensive, so I don't know. If it offends you, it offends you. If you call me a nigga, I really don't care, but that's just me, personally. Some people might take it the other way; I personally don't give a shit'.
The youngest of the group, Earl Sweatshirt, has mysteriously disappeared from the lineup, rumours stating that he has been moved to a correctional school in Samoa by his mother. He was 16 when he released Earl, the project embracing the same offensive content of the Odd Future canon. The rumours deepen the intrigue and intensify the hype surrounding their music, a 'Free Earl' campaign being launched at various performances. Famous for their live shows, Odd Future have been compared to punk rockers, smashing up stages, jumping into the crowd and injuring fans with skateboards. The group recently played T in the Park and the Reading Festival, being bottled off at the former while being somewhat better received at the second.
Listening to their music, the best comparison I can make is that it sounds like a young, deliberately provocative Eminem mixed with the darkest recesses of the Wu Tang's 36 Chambers. With a VMA under his belt, we surely haven't heard the last of Tyler or his controversial clique.

Further Listening:
Tyler the Creator - Yonkers

Earl Sweatshirt - Earl
MellowHype - F666 The Police

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