Friday, 17 February 2012

The Myth Of Odd Future

With the upcoming predicted return of the ‘lost’ Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All high profile member Earl Sweatshirt, the blog buzz is gagging around their dicks once again. It still isn’t entirely clear where Earl has apparently been, but now he’s returned, I’m pretty sure nobody gives a shit about that now. After giving a sneak preview of a song and demanding 50,000 Twitter followers in order to hear it in full, the kids leapt, gave him double that and received their present. It’s called ‘Home’, and it’s above. Fittingly titled, and it’s a good track. He concludes at the end of the song that he’s “back”; so that’s good, isn’t it?

It’s fair to say that Earl Sweatshirt is one of the premier members of Odd Future, with his distinctive vocals and his technically interesting and smooth samples, it’s nice to see that he has returned to the fold. After Tyler, The Creator (the movement’s king and overlord) released his dreadfully disappointing second album in the form of GOBLIN, it felt a little like the bubble had been burst on the bastion of Odd Future’s credibility. The album pays far too much attention to his fame, to negative blog posts nobody cares about now, and far too much rape-rap to really want to listen to - and is a generally clumsy, ugly and unsatisfying album. From releasing the album such a stand out album in BASTARD, and introducing a lot of people to rap and r’n’b who wouldn’t have before him, introducing concepts that rappers shy away from far too much, like depression and mental issues, growing up fatherless, and the fact that rappers like Jay Z are too obsessed with bragging about ‘Gucci’ and directing their music towards a society of people they’ve created a divide from. He provided an interesting niche in an unmoving genre that really needed it. But many now feel, he lost it.

Since then, the momentum for Odd Future has been wavering, relying on a few lesser skilled MCs and producers to take the helm. And in fairness, there have been a diverse set of releases from projects like The Internet, Mellowhype and Frank Ocean, all serving a distinct purpose that are doing a lot more than most radio r’n’b artists are. However, nothing essential, in honesty.

So, what is Odd Future now? Has it suffered from the frailties of being a Cult Of Personality skit? Far too many people were blogging about and wearing Odd Future, but how many are really listening to it? And how many of them, in fact, really understand its appeal? See, the problem with fashion is its reasons for existence can literally be defined by its popularity, which makes trying to convince someone that Odd Future lacks it, in many ways a hard task. But is it such a bad thing? People do have problems with the whole movement. I personally flit between admiration and dismissal very easily. I don’t think i’ve quite bought the season ticket to Odd Future’s banquet.

Also, their popularity isn’t the kind that is usually associated with rap. It’s very popular in the ‘indie’ and ‘hipster’ blog buzz, but not really with the traditional rap audience. Basically, it allowed white kids to admire black kids for behaving like white kids while making music for black kids that was in turn enjoyed by white kids. And it’s not surprising that this has happened, Odd Future are hardly a traditional bunch of r’n’b/rap artists. From their material, to their beats, to their age and even to their fashion sense, they seem to be more in-tune with young stereotypically white atheists than young black Christians. It’s fair to say they’re a different generation of kids, with a clear influence from free thinking philosophies, punk and DIY aesthetics, and the hipster (there needs a positive synonym for that word, seriously) artist buzz of the last five years.

And, in honesty, I think it’s totally a good thing. They’re a very positive and brilliant influence - in a genre highly populated by misogynists, religionists, materialists, money-obsessed, stupid people hyped over nothing and selling out before they even understand the music industry - these guys are literally doing it for themselves, for the love of it, the love of creating it, the love of putting it out there, the love of being different, not doing what is expected of you, living free and not conforming to conventional thinking or conventional living. Simply, doing whatever you want to do, how you want to do it. It’s certainly progressive and encouraging.

But, like everyone else it seems, I have fallen into the cult of personality trick right before your eyes, reader. I’ve spent all this time talking about them, and not their music. But, the thing is, it’s important. And as much as their music has lacked slightly in places, it’s still wildly brilliant that it exists. They’re changing what it is to be rappers, and getting popular doing that. I mean, they’re not doing it to the extend artists like Death Grips are musically, but as a social and personality led movement, they are encouraging.

So, with this exciting return of Earl Sweatshirt - who knows, Odd Future could just have turned the corner along their corridor to achieving their true brilliance, and achieving the potential that everyone on the blog-o-sphere is hoping for. 2012 looks to be an interesting year for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. In the words of the gang, 'Swag'.

Eliot Humphreys

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