As the producer and de facto leader of the ten member OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) from Southern California, Tyler, The Creator, creates things. At 19 years old (“old as fuck,” according to him) he has created the Odd Future (OF) collective, he has created what Pitchfork has dubbed the “Swag Generation” movement, and he has created a whole whack of profane and provocative imagery –mostly videos, photographs and artwork–that define the group’s post modern and anarchist protest of “order.” But mostly, he creates music. This time an album called Bastard.
Bastard is not a new album. It was actually released in of February 2010, but unlike many new releases that spread like wildfire over the blogosphere and turn to yesterday’s news in a matter of seconds, Tyler, The Creator along with the rest of the Odd Future gang have remained oddly peripheral– if even– given the quality of the goods they have to offer. Nine months after its release, Bastard is only now beginning to garner some of the attention it deserves.
Their late coming (or ours) is largely due to the fact OFWGKTA doesn’t seem to have any reservations about burning bridges; at least not when the thought of taking it to the other side repulses them. Odd Future actually mazeltov cocktailed the bridge, if there ever was one, between themselves and hip-hop blog monoliths 2dopeboyz and Nahright who refuse to promote their music. They “get paid to post weak shit,” says member Mike G (OF’s mix n’ chop member), and OF clearly have no way of paying anyone. As kids who plan their activities based on how much birthday money they have left, it remains unclear how OF is able to afford their recording equipment let alone a PR rep or manager, since they post all of their music on their tumblr for free; which, though keeping them unpaid, has granted them complete artistic autonomy. Their content is entirely unmediated, unadulterated, and uncensored. It sacrifices nothing. So because they have nothing to lose and a whole lot of confidence to realize it, Tyler and OF have everything to gain: “Yo, Fuck you dopeboyz and Fuck NahRight,” says Tyler in Bastard‘s opening lines, “and any other Fuck nigga-azz blog that can’t put a 18-year old nigga makin’ his own fuckin’ beats, covers, videos and all that shit…” The Odd Future kids have guts.
Their success elsewhere in the blogosphere is due mostly to their “Fuck’em” attitude and straight swag (if something is cool, it’s “swag”; if it’s really cool, it’s “swagged the fuck out”), but as much as it has put a bit of a slow start on their publicity, the 2dopeboyz/Nahright boycott has also served as a unique source of hype for this mysteriously bad ass wolf pack. Yet the blog-shut out drama will soon fade to the background, inevitably, in favor of the undeniable fact OF have actually made some of the most interesting music in hip hop over the past year (if we can call it hip hop). The production on Bastard was all done on Tyler’s computer at home on Logic and Fruity Loops, but its DIY impetus does not in any way place a limit on the quality of the warped-out and at times twisted synth-based beats he creates. At times, Bastard sounds like a darker version of Don Cash’s Unbreakable mixed with the washed out synthscapes of Lil B’s more tripped out Eno-ambient works. In terms of hip hop, there are also musical similarities with the electronic washes that Wiz Khalifa and Drake rhyme over which aim more for ambiance and overall mood rather than a boom-bap beat. Likewise, the drum breaks in Tyler’s productions are only secondary to other instruments, sounds, and vocals which instead take the lead in creating a sense of pulse and rhythm. The percussion in “VCR/Wheels” is a fine example, sounding in stutters and hiccups underneath the washy synths and of the eerily dark and daring effects-warped vocals: “press my buttons baby, press my fuck’n buttons baby.” Tyler’s abilities with recording equipment and software at hand has made some very original, and in its own way, sophisticated music.
Sophisticated yes, though some may prefer to call it mere salivation for the profane. The pentagrams on the album cover, as well as the OF’s tendency to rap about rape and suicide has perhaps had a part in tempting Rolling Stone to dub this music “horrorcore,” but apparently they were off the mark because Odd Future responded: “WE DON’T FUCKING MAKE HORRORCORE OR WHATEVER THAT BULLSHIT IS CALLED…” Fair enough, because OF is no Necro. Others, taking a stab, have called them the modern day reincarnation of Wu-Tang; some have called them punk rock hip hop. But Tyler himself may have put it best in the title track “Bastard” when he warns, only half joking: “this is what the devil plays before he goes to sleep.”
At least thats what some more conservatively minded parents might think. Most often projecting in his low, grizzly and damaged voice, Ace goes straight for the topically offensive jugular in Bastard, rapping unconventionally in a style that hovers between rhyme and blank verse, mostly about his “Father, Rape, Box Logos and Jesus. Also Featuring Unicorns And Transexuals” (All Written Text From Tyler, On Both His Website And Twitter, Capitalizes Each Word Like This). “Seven” is a self-affirming “fuck you” anthem that sounds the most conventionally “hip hop” of all the tracks on the album with its forward and up-tempo momentum, fuzzed out beats, and stone cold rhymes: “I tell em’ to eat a dick quicker than Mexicans sprint over boarders / I give a fuck like a quarter with twenty cent.” It’s what hip hop might sound like less concerned about its “golden age,” meeting a commercial standard, wearing Gucci, or giving people what they think they want– and that even includes Odd Future fans. Like Tyler says, “Everybody listenin’ can suck my dick in Spanish.”
Beyond how their music sounds, there’s another generation-determined cultural shift apparent in OF’s music. Tyler, The Creator and Odd Future –as the name implies–are becoming young adults in an age of information overload; a world where the only way to define yourself may be push back against what you are not. Bastard is a reflection of Tyler’s frustrations, rebellions, and at times just adolescent messings-arounds in this less- than ideal climate. Though he reacts to his surroundings primarily on the offensive throughout Bastard, there are moments that expose Tyler’s vulnerability and reflexiveness about both his ethos and philosophic execution, as well as his recognition they are less than palatable for the masses. Yet as far as Tyler is concerned, this is not only the problem but the point. “Parade” tells how what are perceived as “bad kid” actions are the inevitable bi-products of his inability to conform: “I am a young man/still a little boy/ Wolf is my only choice… Go to college, get a job, marry have a kid/watch em’ grow, then you die /no, nigga, fuck the system.”
It’s probably a combination of growing up fatherless, growing up on the internet, and growing up in the midst of a familial and artistic group of like minded kids that has given Tyler, The Creator, underneath the shock tactics, an ironically sensible critical outlook on society. “Good kids make bad grown-ups,” warns Tyler, using his intuition as moral compass. If the “Good Kids” are the soldiers of normalcy who are unable to think and create for themselves, then consider Tyler, The Creator and the rest of the Odd Future gang some of the more rotten, destructive youth you’ve ever encountered.
3. Odd Toddlers (ft. Casey Veggies)
4. French! (ft. Hodgy Beats)
6. Pigs Fly (ft. Domo Genesis)
8. Slow It Down (ft. Hodgy Beats)
9. AssMilk (ft. Earl)
11. Session (ft. Hodgy Beats & BranDun Deshay)
13. Jack And The Beanstalk
14. Tina (ft. Jasper & Taco)