March 2, 2011


We Are the Future

Roger Kisby/Getty Images
Roger Kisby/Getty Images

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (or OFWFKTA, or simply Odd Future) is a 10(ish)-piece rap group from L.A., with members ranging in age from 16 to 19. Led by Tyler the Creator, 19, they’ve drawn comparisons to the Wu-Tang Clan for their abundance of constituents and multitude of solo projects. But in reality, their music—sparse beats that soundtrack lyrics about sex and a bizarre hatred of Steve Harvey—falls somewhere between that of the Sex Pistols and horrorcore rap.

Why should we care? Because they are, seemingly overnight, the hottest thing in hip hop right now. After making a fantastically insane TV debut on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (which captured the ears of Jay-Z), Odd Future got a Twitter shoutout from Kanye and—like any savvy rap act—hung out with Justin Bieber.

Here are five reasons why they’re currently so omnipresent:

(1) They have a gimmick but don’t take it too seriously.

While much of hip hop has become reliant on pop-chart appeal—an artist rhyming between a sung hook that takes center stage—Odd Future’s bratty-skateboarder shtick is decidedly contrarian. Tyler & Co. give the mainstream the finger by creating their own beats and writing controversial lyrics. And their intent to provoke is pretty transparent. As Tyler raps on “Seven”: “I didn’t mean to offend anyone. Oh, wait, I’m lying.”

Lines like “I’m opening a church to sell coke and Led Zeppelin/To f--- Mary in her ass,” attempt to one-up rappers past. It’s more cartoonish button-pushing than it is an angry tirade (DMX) or a macabre art project (Marilyn Manson). They even have a FunnyorDie parody video. At a recent New York City show, Tyler repeatedly warned the audience that Odd Future’s music will scare parents, before leading the crowd in a ridiculous, yet catchy chant of “Kill people/Burn sh--/F--- school”—only to trip-up on the words himself.

(2) Tyler has a viral video that’s truly badass.

A big push for the group actually came with Tyler the Creator’s (solo) video for his single, “Yonkers.” It shows him rapping, eating a cockroach, vomiting, then rapping again. And it would be gross if it weren’t so damn cool: The stark clip, shot in black-and-white, shows the stomach-churning act in silhouette. His jackass stunt is pretty much elevated to art.

(3) You cannot escape them on the internet.

After initial buzz, Odd Future gave themselves a huge boost by posting their group and solo mixtapes for free on their Tumblr site. The page, which is branding at its finest, also features goofy videos of the OFGWKTA crew skateboarding, hanging out, pranking—always in the coolest of streetwear. Tyler, meanwhile, gives a voice to the Odd Future ethos with his highly amusing, don’t-give-a-crap Twitter account, in which he basically insults people and baits the press. The press, in kind, retweet, link, and blog about Odd Future relentlessly.

(4) White folks like them.

Tyler’s mixtape, Bastard, begins with a verbal F-you to influential hip-hop blogs such as Nah Right that have declined to post his band’s songs. His bravado has stoked the interest of more hipster-y music sites that find Odd Future’s skateboarder-punk aesthetic most palatable. In particular, Pitchfork, that great arbiter of indie taste, has championed the group as “the perfect rap crew for our time.” (Not surprisingly, Tyler scored himself a one-album deal on XL Recordings, which puts him on a slate alongside Vampire Weekend and Sigur Rós.) This, in turn, has prompted highbrow outlets like Salon and Esquire to muse thoughtfully about how Odd Future’s rise may be zeitgeisty. The consensus, in a nutshell: Odd Future are smart provocateurs who provide a welcome remedy to the vapid Dr. Luke-ization of popular music. A more extreme Gaga, if you will.

(5) The outspoken Tyler can be soulful when he wants to be.

While Odd Future will always be recognized for extreme lyrics about assault and whatnot, Tyler’s debut solo album Bastard is actually an emotional rush about his absentee father. (“F--- all the fame and all the hype, G / I just wanna know if my father would ever like me,” he raps on “Yonkers,” which will appear on his upcoming album Goblin.) Meanwhile, he seems genuinely touched by the support of surrogate dads he’s found in the form of hip-hop veterans like ?uestlove (“Dude, Thanks Again. This Has Been The Greatest Week Of My Life So Far.”) and the Clipse’s Pusha T (“Pusha T Just Hit Me Up. I Don;t THink i Can Respond. If You Know Me, You Know How Much Of A F---ing Clipse Fan i Am. I Am Gonna Go Skate Now). And that’s the most remarkable thing about Tyler and his Odd Future hype: There’s actually depth there beneath the shock and awe.