Odd Future have caused plenty of controversy with their homophobic, sexist, violent lyrics and also plenty of love for their groundbreaking brilliant hip hop. Josh Nicol is as worried as anyone by their lyrical content which the band defend as ‘being like Tarantino’ and tries to make sense of it whilst praising their great music…
Genius or fools or both? Odd Future make the most groundbreaking hip hop since Wu Tang Clan
I’ve been wanting to write a piece on the revolutionary, yet controversial hip-hop collective, Odd Future for quite some time, but over the past few months I’ve found it incredibly difficult to conclude an opinion on what I really think of them. Being of a similar generation to those in the group, I can relate to both the praise and the criticisms of this game-changing collective, who seem to be one of the most exciting things to happen to hip-hop in a long time.
The group’s leader, producer and innovator, Tyler, The Creator has been both commended and scrutinised by the country’s media, and you’d have to be buried underground to have ignored the impact they have made so far. Presenting culture from urban Los Angeles, Tyler has changed the face of hip-hop in just a few short months. His lyrical content varies from heartbreaking stories of anger and depression vented towards the absence of his father, to crude and vulgar lyrics that some people believe to be glorifying rape, murder, homophobia and misogynistic attitudes towards women. Even legendary producer, Steve Albini who shared an airport shuttle with the group, pointed out his disgust after spending time with them saying he hasn’t “wanted to strangle anybody that much in a real long time”.
Along with the wave of hype surrounding Tyler’s material, he has been shot down by journalists across the nation. Some claim his attitudes disgusting, others just dismiss his music completely, degrading it to teenage immaturity and ignorance. Yes, his lyrics are disgusting, on his sophomore album, Goblin, the word ‘faggot’ is used hundreds of times in casual expressions. He even uses sexually violent phrases towards pregnant women and continuously mentions ‘punching bitches’. The question is, is this just attention seeking? Is this a clever marketing act? Or is it just fiction, a story?
In previous interviews, Tyler himself compares his process of making music to that of film directors portraying gore and violent content. “Have you seen Tarantino’s fucking movies? Why does everyone get their dick cut off or something?” The point he eventually makes, is that as soon as a young black adolescent steps out of the social norms of making music, they get criticised for their lyrical content. Having mentioned his homophobic slurs and violent language, in the album he fills it with disclaimers and lyrics mentioning that it is indeed fiction. He wills people to “listen deeper to the music before you put it in a box”. Perhaps from his point of view, he’s tackling a new approach to making music, presenting himself in his albums with a repulsive, vile persona out of his own imagination, much like a character in a Tarantino movie. The problem most people have is that on first listen, the music and lyrics are unacceptable in a world where most people are searching for equality.
As far as culture goes, Odd Future have captured that. The music made by each individual in the group sounds like it’s been taken straight from the centre of LA, and not only gives us an insight into the urban LA music scene, but also puts youth culture into perspective. As a person of a similar generation to those creating this music, it doesn’t surprise me that homophobic slurs are used in casual conversation. If it’s not being used by teenagers, it’s usually heard in schools and colleges, even on the streets. As far as Odd Future showing us their world through the medium of music is concerned, it seems like they have given us a rather accurate portrayal. The big issue for me and others is that if they mean what they say, it’s extremely hard to listen to and support a band who have such shocking attitudes. The ambiguity shown by Tyler especially, as people are not sure what his opinions really are, may be the aspect that attracts young fans to his music. I suspect they don’t really agree with the lyrics, as the group’s in house sound engineer and sometime producer, Syd Tha Kid is an open lesbian, and if they were truly homophobic, it would be a different story.
Despite all this, when you step away and look at the collective as a whole, Tyler has created a project to be proud of. The sub-group Mellowhype, featuring rapper Hodgy Beats and producer Left Brain are constantly pushing boundaries and generating new ideas, with their latest material sounding like the bizarre mix of Massive Attack or Unkle with Hodgy Beats providing his distinct raps to create this fusion of genres. Even, Domo Genesis, the group’s resident stoner is maturing into a successful rapper and hip-hop artist alone, with his latest mixtape, Under The Influence. Amongst those mentioned, none are as violent and controversial as Tyler, The Creator. The group have an aggression and a raw DIY ethic that has never really been associated with the genre. Their gigs are renowned for stage diving, mosh pits and chaos. They’re fuelled with teenage angst and they are the closest thing to punk that hip-hop has ever seen.
Overall, I still find this incredibly hard to base an opinion or even come to a conclusion. One thing that is for sure, is that they’re giving hip-hop what it needs. They’re giving it flair. They’ve burst through the underground, and as their budget grows, their material is sure to evolve. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is another story, but Odd Future are certainly making an impact.
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Odd Future- genius hip hop crew or dodgy lyrics