Tyler, The Creator breaks all the rules of hip-hop, both an irritating and exciting part of his personality. His tweets include messages which would destroy any other artists credibility “To any new fans, I’m going to sell out soon, can’t wait to hear you guys bitch about missing the old me”, “Fuck ‘real’ hip-hop. That shit is annoying. You faggots arn’t special because you hate mainstream and only listen to 90’s rap. Shut the fuck up”. And yet his lack of respect for hip-hop fans commands attention aswell as an ironic admiration. He listens to a very small amount of hip-hop and believes that his live shows are not rap concerts.
It all makes for a very unlikely candidate for the next hip-hop star. But perhaps the support he’s gained from the likes of Mos Def and The Roots comes from a wish to break away from the genre definitions which have plagued artists for quite some time. The ‘gangster’ versus the ‘conscious’ emcee. Tyler certainly isn’t either and his group ‘Odd Future’ are intent on letting people know that attempts to brand them as hardcore are way off the mark. Their lyrics are more violent than N.W.A., yet the delivery is cartoonish and closer in spirit to a pantomime villain than Ice Cube.
The production itself is unlike anything else we’ve heard in hip-hop. A strange mix of electro and rap with a heavey metal influence. Odd Future have created a larger than life persona backed by instrumentals which are breaking down standards. This is why the music is more of a movement, rather than a continuation of hip-hop stereo-types. The left field production is sure to spark a bunch of copy cat acts hoping to impact on the industry in the same way. The underground has always responded to fresh ideas and the imprint left by MF Doom and Madlib is sure to be repeated with OFWGKTA.
When you first watch Odd Future it’s like witnessing a car crash. The images are so dark to the point their disturbing yet you can’t look away. Who knew it was still possible to shock a hip-hop fan who taught he’d seen everything. But then the themes of rape, murder and insanity have never been presented quite so relentlessly by a 16 year old. Even Earl’s mother was so disgusted she banned him from the group.
Lost within the fires of controversy is the astonishing success and possible future blueprint of their methods of exposure. Home made beats, with the final projects given away for free. It spits in the face of those with complicated gear and record deals. Odd Future is proof that giving your music away for free can still reap rewards. The fact there is five plus emcees in the collective will generate a lot of interest. We may well be witnessing the first wave of a teen hip-hop movement merged with youtube culture.
So how do we as fans react to the nature of this music? Whilst i believe the artistic merit can not be denied and the ideas are creative, the content of the lyrics are vile. They are limited in that they display anger at everything and nothing and thus the substance of the music suffers. From a technical point of view they are above average, something which can’t be said of other new school acts such as Drake and Waka Flocka. Part of me wishes that OFWGKTA would aim their anger at the political world rather than women and children.
But the real test for Odd Future is if they will stay stuck, limited with vulgar repetition or if they can show enough versatility to stand the test of time. The great artists of the past have always showed mulitple sides to their personality. 2Pac could deliver “Hit Em Up” and “Brenda’s Got A Baby” at the same concert. Eminem put “Kim” and “Stan” on one album. As it stands they are the first hip-hop group to have success with themes more common with death metal bands and books by Anton LaVay than Run DMC.
Not concerned with how fresh their runners look they are known to sport upside down crosses. The current climate of collective boredom amongst the hip-hop audience will allow Odd Future to rise to the top of the genre through a combination of controversy, internet hype and genuine talent. One things for sure there will be a lot of debate to come about this group. Yet for better or worse their biggest impact may well come from shifting the sound of hip-hop in 2011.