Oddsolete Future

Published on July 20th, 2011

Alex gives us his take on the uproar about Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Em All.

As the lone dedicated hip-hop fan in my group of friends, I’m kind of the go to guy for anybody wondering about trends that are going on in hip-hop. Questions like, “What new rap music is really good?” “You must hate Drake, huh?” and “OHMAGAWD, THE WEEKND IS THE BEST!” abound (answers: Big KRIT’s Return of 4Eva; outside of the accent, not really; the beats are pretty cool, but the singing does nothing for me). Unsurprisingly, I have had to discuss Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Em All quite a bit over the last six months.

Odd Future is a ‘hip-hop collective’ of sometimes talented but mostly just interesting rappers and producers, with the legitimately talented Tyler, the Creator as the group’s leader/most prolific tweeter. The group has drawn comparisons to the Wu-Tang Clan, mostly because of a swelling of underground buzz but also because there are, like, a hundred people in the group. They have also been compared to Eminem, mostly due their often-offensive lyrical content.

I suppose the zenith of Odd Future’s exposure came in May when Tyler, the Creator released his latest solo album, Goblin, a mostly-decent collection of dark, sparse beats, with Tyler’s uncomfortably deep voice all over them. Tyler and Hodgy Beats had recently performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, complete with a swagtastic Mos Def cameo, and their following mini tour was a remarkably hot concert ticket. There was a long New York Magazine profile on Tyler, a predictably great Nardwuar the Human Serviette group interview, and the Internet was generally ablaze with talk of Odd Future.

Oh, have I mentioned that most of the group’s members like to rap about rape and murder and other things that are not particularly pleasant? If you know and/or listen to Odd Future’s key members, you are probably aware of this. If you don’t know and/or listen to Odd Future, I’m honestly surprised that you’re still reading. There has been a media uproar of sorts, particularly with the release of Goblin, where people have complained about the lyrical content found on Odd Future records and mixtapes. Perhaps most famously, Tegan & Sara sounded off on Tyler, the Creator’s album content, and Tyler responded to them on Twitter in predictable fashion. This started the Twitter version of a bandwagon, with other artists and regular people chiming in with how offensive these lyrics may or may not be. And as much as I love Walking With a Ghost, I’m not exactly on Tegan & Sara’s side.

I’m surprisingly conservative when it comes to lyrical content; while I don’t think anybody killed their mother because Eminem told them to, I don’t think the existence of those lyrics really helps anything. I am generally a fan of Eminem, but those lyrics just tend to steer me to his better songs, ones where I’m actually interested in the lyrical content. But I always understood the reason for the backlash behind his lyrics, even though the peak of Eminem protesting happened when I was 14. Anybody protesting Odd Future’s work, however, is kind of confusing to me.

When Eminem concerts were being picketed by groups like GLAAD, they were being picketed not because of Eminem’s lyrics, but because he sold 3.5 million copies of The Marshall Mathers LP in a month. This guy was so huge that he was selling NSYNC numbers. And with such astronomical sales numbers, Eminem attained a wide variety of listeners, listeners that span a wide breadth of, um, how do I say this… intelligence. Since there were so many people listening to Eminem, he was bound to have some stupid, crazy fans that might be stupid and crazy enough to act out the conclusion to Stan. Odd Future’s own listeners are harder to track, as record sales are increasingly becoming an obsolete way to tell how popular music is now, but the most-hyped release from an Odd Future member was Goblin, a record that has yet to surpass 100 000 in sales. Goblin is a record on an independent label, so this is a pretty high-selling album by those standards, but the point is that these are only high sales for an independent.

When one meets a fan of Odd Future, they are typically meeting a vaguely intelligent, media-savvy person. As somebody who fits both of those criteria (albeit more the latter than the former), I can say that we are not the type of people who respond to these lyrics with any sort of seriousness. We are people who hate Gossip Girl, unless of course you’re ironically a fan of the way Ed Westwick mumbles all of his lines, in which case I’ll crack an Old Milly and join in. We’re idiots, but we’re conscious of our idiocy. And it is this consciousness that detracts significantly from any sort of danger Odd Future’s lyrics might have. If Tyler, the Creator were to sell a million records, then maybe I would be more concerned, but as of now I don’t think people like Tegan & Sara need to worry about that happening.

Last weekend, the Pitchfork Music Festival was held in Chicago, with Odd Future on the list of performers. Protesters showed up as well, apparently to protest Odd Future’s performance, but they were actually invited inside the gates of the festival and given a space to spread their message. By that point, they had stopped being Odd Future protesters, instead focusing on the oddly broad message that rape and violence are bad for society. Protesters tend to be loudly stubborn groups of people, but even these guys know that Odd Future isn’t really that bad for society. Their fans already know precisely why Odd Future’s lyrics are bad; they don’t need anybody explaining it to them. The mere fact that the buzz surrounding the collective has died down so quickly since Tyler’s album release merely proves that nobody needs to worry. They’ll be around for a while, even if it’s just Frank Ocean singing hooks for Jay-Z or Tyler producing for Pusha T, but they’ll likely never be famous enough for these misogynistic lyrics to really be a problem.

Is rape good? Obviously not. Violence? Nope. Odd Future? It hardly matters. They’re not threatening enough to need to be in the same conversation.

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