By TYLER ROSS
Since Odd Future blew up last year they’ve been all over the music world’s collective radar. Some love them–minimalist hip-hop enthusiasts and indie bloggers to mention a few–and others hate them–notably feminists and anyone who reads lyrics as gospel. That’s because they’re shocking. Their music has been labeled horrorcore or shockmusic. “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school. Odd Future here to steer you to what the fuck’s cool” stands out as one of the group’s obscene anthems on Earl Sweatshirt’s “Pigions,” released when he was only 16 years old.
For the constant dialogue that surrounds Odd Future, it’s upsetting how much of it only covers the explicit nature of their music. They’re shocking, they’re gross, they’re bad for our kids (they’re younger than your kids, first of all). The L.A. collective exhibits incredible talent beyond their young age.
If there’s any parallel to be made, it’s surely with the saga of the Wu-Tang clan, though there are noticeable differences. For one, where Wu-Tang told stories of drugs and violence, they did so through the lens of a street criminal, crafting intricate tales complete with fully-fledged characters and their own unique vocab. On top of that, with their first official release as a group, The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2, Odd Future is both younger and more experienced than the Wu-Tang Clan when they released their first album, the seminal Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 is somewhat of an odd intro for a group that’s been making headlines for months with their solo and group releases. From solo albums-–Frank Ocean’s nostalgia, ULTRA stands out–to group spinoffs–MellowHype, consisting of Hodgy Beats and Left Brain, have released three albums–there’s a lot of Odd Future related material out there already.
Fortunately, The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 brings all the members together and adds one more, Earl Sweatshirt, who’s been absent for quite some time. While Earl only appears on the album-closing “Oldie,” it’s a fitting return for one of the collective’s youngest and most talented emcees. The song comes off as a perfect example of what Odd Future do well. Over a sparse but deftly produced beat by Tyler, The Creator, each member drops his own verse. It’s a perfect exhibition of each member’s unique character and personality. Hodgy and his bravado-driven lyrics, Mike G’s smoked-up drawl, Frank Ocean’s measured and reserved delivery, it’s all there.
The rest of The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 sounds like a microcosm of Odd Future’s career up to this point; there’s a little bit of everything. The album is varied as each member brings different material and venture further in their production. That’s good and bad, though. While it’s interesting and mostly new material (Mike G’s “Forest Green” was released almost a year ago), there’s little flow or cohesion to the album. It’s strange hearing Frank Ocean’s somber vocals on “White” after the stripped down hip-hop of “P.”
Still, dense and varied is what you expect from a group like Odd Future. What you get from a group of over ten members isn’t a unified and cohesive effort. Instead there’s a jumble of material, something almost alluded to the by the title of Volume 2. There’s stoned and slurred beats, synths over tribal runs, and a slew of other sounds and ideas. Vocally speaking, the collective’s output is seamlessly stunning with intricate wordplay, storytelling, and a generally different vibe from each member. It may not work on a whole, but The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 is yet another example of a young and talented group building on their style and branching out at the same time.