These are your children
Nothing’s shocking in Odd Future’s sandbox
By Michel Miller 09/27/2012
I forgive Hodgy Beats. Despite the interview we had scheduled, the 22-year-old rapper from the equally loved and loathed hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA or Odd Future for short) apparently didn’t feel like talking to me, and I can’t really blame him. If I were a young black male making the kind of music he makes, writing the words he writes, getting the hype he gets, I’d probably blow me off too. But, because Hodgy Beats couldn’t be bothered to give me 10 minutes, I’m forced to join the ranks of music writers who can’t resist weighing in and waxing philosophical about the gang of surprisingly intelligent brats who carved a fat niche in hip-hop essentially by mocking it.
Formed by a handful of feral, creative, middle-class skaters from the Ladera Heights suburb of Los Angeles and elsewhere, the boys and girl that make up Odd Future — Tyler, the Creator; Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis, Syd tha Kid, Left Brain, Frank Ocean and others — began manipulating words, beats and fans in 2007. By 2011 they were critics’ darlings with a robust stable of sycophants, nearly as much prime editorial real estate in their press portfolios as the Kardashians — Italian Vogue, Interview, Billboard, Spin, Thrasher, Pitchfork and Paste, to name a few — a clothing line and their own television show, LoiterSquad on Adult Swim. Most recently, they are credited with resurrecting L.A.’s Fairfax district (or quickening its demise, depending on who you ask). The genre they chose for themselves on iTunes is “Fucking Awesome,” a nod to their skate hero, Jason Dill, but when it comes to their elders, respect and homage are rarely part of their vernacular. If Odd Future was competing in the Hunger Games, they’d win.
Though Odd Future’s music is free, detractors might say there is a price to be paid for encouraging musical expression that celebrates rape and murder. Despite their misogynistic musings, homophobic hooliganism and narcissistic nihilism — no great deviation from the rap zeitgeist, anyway — they’re not nearly as scary or controversial as they would have you think. They’re also not as shallow.
There are those who criticize them for the abject brutality of their lyrics, and there are those who criticize them for their middle-class upbringing, calling them posers. Whether you think they’re a legitimate act or class clowns run amock, you’ve got to give them credit for turning loitering in front of a skate shop into a TV show. That’s alchemy. Plus, they’ve managed to make beats that nearly reinvent the form. Their credo is “Don’t give a fuck,” and not unlike certain spiritual belief systems, not giving a fuck is turning them into winners.
Equal parts Revenge of the Nerds (Odd Future) and Lord of the Flies (Wolfgang Kill Them All), as Charles Manson once said, these are your children. It’s not all pretty. It’s not all ugly. Teenage posturing about sexual domination, demonic possession, murder and mutilation isn’t entirely original, and Tyler, the Creator probably owes as much to Darby Crash as he does Wu Tang’s RZA, not to mention Richard Pryor. (Hey, Tyler, google GG Allin). But disguised as the anarchic ravings of sociopaths (“kill people, burn shit, fuck school”) are the plaintive wails of young men trying to navigate a fucked-up world with a broken compass and a hologram for a map. These are your children. Wah.
I forgive Hodgy Beats for disrespecting my time. I also forgive him for thinking there’s anything groundbreaking, challenging or interesting about lyrics like, “I’ll push this fucking pregnant clown into a hydrant stuck in the ground.” Because, offensive as Odd Future can be, they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, as teenagers and as artists — holding up a mirror. We are all responsible for what’s reflected back.
Odd Future will perform at the Ventura Theater on Saturday, Sept. 29. Earl Sweatshirt and Syd tha Kid will not be in attendance. For tickets and details, visit www.venturatheater.net.