i don’t usually post about music in this space, but after reading a grammar’s thoughtful dissertation on Odd Future, i felt compelled to bend the content boundaries of truly untitled. having spent the past month (since the Fallon appearance at least) immersed in the labyrinth of albums and tapes that make up the group’s catalog, i can absolutely relate to the frustration that is embracing Odd Future as a fan. the beats and flow within in this LA goldmine of a hip-hop collective excite me as much the first time i heard PEs Nation of Milliions or Wu’s 36 Chambers (which is about as high of praise as i can give hip-hop.) yet, often the content spewed by Tyler, Earl and the gang is so offensive to my sensibilities as a basic human being that i find myself wishing they were rapping about anything else. i mean anything. so late last week i snuck out of the OF dungeon and i listened to the new Pusha T mixtape, Fear of God. twitter is loving it; everyone is proclaiming Pusha is finally gonna break out, meanwhile my ears have been held hostage in an underground Los Angeles basement by dudes in ski masks rapping about date rape for a month. but now Pusha’s coke raps seem juvenille and unthreatening (he should leave it to Rae and Ghost.) and the beats on Fear of God are dull with few standouts; the main exception being "Raid" produced by the Neptunes. i should have known it would be corny from the lame Scarface intro. don’t get me wrong, Pusha can flow, but this latest offering is uninspiring.
which brings me back to Odd Future. as a hip-hop head pushin forty years old, i’m going to have to “bracket” off the content mentally because they are the only new cats that are deserving of my valued ipod space. the world needs scary, dangerous music and we live in a place where it takes extremes to scare us now. for every Shaun Cassidy we need a Sex Pistols, for every Tiffany we need an NWA, for every Justin Bieber we need an Odd Future. or perhaps i just have a severe case of musical Stockholm Syndrome.
here are some of the reasons i’m drinking the Odd Future Kool-Aid:
agrammar: - Odd Future, energy, inclusion, and exclusion
A little over a week ago, for work, I wrote a quick SXSW recap post involving Odd Future — which wound up being trimmed down to a post about Odd Future, and then, after more editors went over it, an article about Odd Future, and then eventually I started to feel like whatever vague point I’d had might have wound up dulled and unclear. So here’s a clearer thought, which is not about Odd Future’s music or Odd Future as people or the value of their work, but more about my relationship with the process of maybe-liking Odd Future.
Because there are a lot of things I love about Odd Future. Some of the albums coming out of the collective actually remind me of listening back to hip-hop from the late 80s and early 90s, when you can actually hear the joy of people creating music because it doesn’t exist yet, and they need it to; Earl’s record in particular has that feeling, a certain playfulness and vitality. And I’m compelled by his brother Tyler’s charisma. I was a sulky teenage boy in the 1990s; of course I can connect with all his grim dark grumbling. As can teenagers today. When I saw the group in Austin, the energy surrounding them was fierce and sort of beautiful. A crowd of kids stood around chanting “FUCK STEVE HARVEY” in an effort to lure the group onto the stage. These were not kids whose lives I imagine being much impinged upon by the existence of Steve Harvey. Was there some point I missed where white Texan parents started boring their kids with his radio show on long drives? On one message board I read, there was a poster who thought “Steve Harvey” might be made up, just an imaginary object of Odd Future’s scorn. This has to say something about the lure of this group, that people want to join them in telling Steve Harvey to fuck off—just because the energy is right, not because they actually care so much who Steve Harvey is.
But then the next night, Odd Future cut short a set at a Billboard showcase—they stormed off after three songs—and I was surprised to see some fans on Twitter grumbling about it, feeling aggrieved or let down. These were people who liked the group’s energy. They just turned out not to like it so much when it was pointed at them and inconveniencing them—when it came off like a fuck-you to them instead of someone else. That’s not surprising: Most everyone wants to be inside the circle of this kind of massive energy, not excluded by it. What’s surprising is that some of these people were less than receptive, months and months ago, when a whole lot of other women and men gave a listen to music from Tyler and Earl and felt excluded by the end of the first verse—because all the ghoulish taunting about raping, kidnapping, or assaulting women wound up disinviting them from the get-go. In fall, Jon Caramanica asked Syd—the woman whose production and DJing underpin a lot of the group’s music—about that. Her answer: “Actions speak louder than words, and they treat me as an equal.” This isn’t exactly a full endorsement of those lyrics; it’s more like a way of saying she feels fully invited within the circle of energy. She’s included.
It’s those taunts in particular that ensure lots of people will never be able to feel entirely included here. There’s been plenty of discussion of the moral dimensions of that fact. Here’s another dimension to consider, though: Doesn’t that just kind of suck, that this group would turn out a lot of fantastic music that unnecessarily dis-includes a big chunk of listeners?