(Obligatory ‘I heard of them before you did’ post)
About a year ago, I stumbled on a track called ‘Seven‘ by Tyler the Creator. I can’t remember how I found it, because it isn’t really like anything else I normally listen to (not that it matters), but I vaguely liked it and that was that. Fast-forward to the weekend just gone and Tyler is spazzing out on prime time television (not spaz meaning spaz but spaz meaning good), jumping on Jimmy Fallon and rocking over The Roots.
Not that it came as too much of a surprise. Though I didn’t really get too into Tyler when I first heard him, during the summer last year, I heard a couple of other tracks from within the collective that get me a bit more interested. The standout by far being ‘Earl’ by Earl Sweatshirt.[audio:https://www.mattnortham.com/blog/wp-content/images/2011/02/02-Earl.mp3|titles=Earl]
It’s a dark track, with an even darker video, but the raw quality of it is undeniable. Earl is currently out of action due to parental interference so there’s not much music available from him outside of his eponymous debut album (which is dope) but he’s, in my opinion, the one to look out for from the group. Partly due to the absence of Earl, mixed with the fact that Tyler pretty much produces 90% of OFWGKTA’s output and also has a slew of quality solo material to his name (not to mention an abundance of swag. Yeah. Swag.); Tyler the Creator has become the most vocal member of – Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. He’s like the RZA to Odd Future’s Wu-Tang. Actually, if you’re into allusions to popular vaguely similar hip-hop collectives, the comparisons with Wu-Tang don’t stop there and are mentioned frequently whenever Odd Future are brought up. But I wont bother with them because it’s actually annoying. All that matters is OFWGKTA make good music and they’re steadily blowing up.
They got a Guardian article at the end of last year after their first London gig, that describes them as:
… a dozen or so teenagers, calling themselves things such as Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genius and Hodgy Beats. Hailing from the Crenshaw district of LA, they’re suburban rather than ghetto kids, but no hint of a comfortable upbringing has made it into the music, which is dark as hell and has little to do with any prevalent hip-hop trends.
I’ll happily steal that description.
When I mentioned Earl’s parents up there, I wasn’t joking. These kids are actually kids. Just in their late teens / early twenties depending on who you’re asking, they’ve managed to create a movement of sorts that has seen them go from homemade videos of them just fucking around in L.A. to national television coverage in a ridiculously short space of time. I don’t deny that they’re putting in the work, but I’m sure even they would admit that the buzz is bizarre. They’re far from being international platinum selling Jay-Z’s / Drake’s / Wu-Tang but of course, Wu-Tang weren’t Wu-Tang overnight. It’s been really dope to witness (not first hand obviously – they’ve not hit Bournemouth yet) their rise over the past year and it’s exciting to hear the music and see the moves they’re making. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not a fan of everything they’ve released, and some of the content definitely isn’t catering for the ‘white, pushing 30 and married’ market that I fit into but as a fan of rap, I more than appreciate what they’re doing. Also, from a more aloof, non-fan like vantage point, what’s really interesting is how they’re getting their music out.
They’re a self contained unit not only in terms of music production and rapping, but also with their artwork, videos and general online presence. Who needs a marketing department when you’ve got tumblr, youtube and twitter(?) As far as I can make out, they’ve not actually charged any money for any of the dozen or so albums that can be attributed to the collective, opting instead to release them for free via zshare/megaupload/etc on their website. I might’ve just exposed myself as the pirate that I am but I’m pretty sure that every download I’ve got from them has been sanctioned and is legit. I’m curious to see what’s going to happen now that they’re trending on twitter and charging for stuff on iTunes – but I’m sure they’ll do alright. Tyler just signed a 1 album deal with XL Recordings and I doubt that’ll be the end of their record label adventures. Go and jump on the bandwagon before it’s too late. Get the music while it’s free and interesting and dope. And if you heard it here first, thank me this time next year when Hodgy Beats bumrushes the Grammys and gets his ODB on.