Odd Future brings eclectic performance, outlook
BY SONNY GANADEN / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Los Angeles-based hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA, or Odd Future for short) is the most exciting crew currently performing. It’s also one of the most prolific, creating 28 albums and mixtapes and touring the world since its arrival on the scene in 2007, and over the last two years, creating its own, annual honest-to-goodness carnival at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
» When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16
Formed by a then-16-year-old leader, Tyler the Creator, the collective’s various members and subgroups were soon hyped by both teenagers and grad-level hip-hop heads. The lyrics can be nihilistic, threatening, misogynistic, ribald or lewd; the beats are tough and idiosyncratic, the delivery fast and tight; the content is a direct attack on white America, anything that represents authority or anyone who gets in the way of Tyler’s violent imagination.
Tyler the Creator uses every curse or denigration one could imagine, delivered in a burned-out rasp decades past his actual age, creating a scorched-earth energy for the outfit on stage.
So yeah, there’s a violent subcurrent, but bottom line, Odd Future shows are mad fun. In videos the boys jump on each others’ verses, steal and share microphones, and rock their own apparel mixed with superhero costumes. Threats buried in the lyrics are negated by the members’ nerdy style, which appropriates the worst of 1990s fashion; they look less like their SoCal hip-hop forebears and more like Napoleon Dynamite.
If N.W.A. members took their cues from the street and prison yard, OFWGKTA takes theirs from skate shops and Hacky Sack games. Despite a handful of hip-hop ambassadors performing into middle age, the genre remains a young person’s game, and Odd Future go with it in the most juvenile sense.
The Odd Future logo looks like a sloppy doughnut. Their merchandise consists of socks printed with psychedelic tacos and dolphins. At their carnival the prizes are all cat-themed.
COLLECTIVE members can be hard to keep track of. Some websites claim 60 members, but no one is certain.
Frank Ocean joined the group in 2009, prior to his “Nostalgia, Ultra” mixtape and 2012′s “Channel Orange,” which received six Grammy nominations.
Original members Hodgy Beats, Left Brain and Domo Genesis — all expected on stage Saturday — also tour as an Odd Future subgroup, Mellowhigh, with an album that dropped on Oct. 31, titled “Mellowhype.”
The most acclaimed of the collective is Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, rap name: Earl Sweatshirt. At 19, he is Odd Future’s youngest member, the son of Critical Race Theory progenitor and UCLA law professor Cheryl Harris and “Bra Willie” Kgositsile, political activist and former poet laureate of South Africa. After a critically acclaimed free album titled “Earl” in 2010, Earl Sweatshirt dropped out of sight, prompting fellow OFWGKTA members to hold “FREE EARL” signs during performances and a host of conspiracy theories on online underground hip-hop websites. When he returned to social media months later, it was revealed that his mother had sent him to a military boarding school in Samoa until his 18th birthday for behavioral issues. (Since then he’s often been photographed wearing an aloha shirt.)
Earl Sweatshirt dropped the studio album “Doris” in August; it featured production by Pharrell Williams, Alchemist, Ocean and Odd Future subgroup The Internet, and debuted at the top of Billboard’s Top Rap Albums chart.
Earl Sweatshirt references some of his upbringing on several tracks, his lyrics and wordplay as brilliant and original as anything in the genre. On “Sunday” he trades rhymes with Ocean, who raps about his physical altercation with Chris Brown in an L.A. parking lot last year.
Past the reckless fun of much of Odd Future’s music, some members are creating the most riveting material to emerge from hip-hop in years.
IN APRIL, Domo Genesis performed the song “Rusty” on “Late Night with David Letterman” along with Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. That brought the collective’s raw power to a national audience.
“A lot of people made a bigger deal of Letterman than me,” Genesis said, calling from a tour break in Fresno, Calif. He also acknowledged, “It was fun to do.”
Responding to critics who call his lyrics “weed-obsessed,” Genesis said. “Yeah, that’s true to a certain extent, but everybody likes to talk about what they like in this world. … Hold on, I’m going to put Hodgy on the line.”
“Um, hello,” said a voice with an intentionally falsettoed, Michael Jackson lilt. “This is Michael. I’m not sure what day it is, I think it’s the weekend. We’re here just kickin’ it in the trees, you know, playin’ with kids.”
When asked what Honolulu audiences can expect at an Odd Future show, Hodgy responded: “Hot bangers. Lots of hot bangers.
“Also, we’re going to debut our new mascot. It’s a big swisher pack. To sweep everything up with.
“Don’t worry about how it works. We’ll explain later.”
“OK, time to go,” said the voice on the line. “Me and Bubbles need to take a walk to the liquor store. But be sure to let the people of Hawaii just know that we are the best band in the whole world. And we are here for the people.”