February 22, 2012 29 comments
I have a Google Reader that allows me to subscribe to all of my favorite websites and be notified when they have new content. That way I don’t have to check back or scroll through every single post. Everything is neat and organized, and makes finding stuff later on a breeze. Anywho, I was checking Mostly Junk Food and they posted a new video from everyone’s favorite hip hop rebels, Odd Future. I used to consider myself a huge fan of Odd Future, as they have an insane knack for making cohesive bodies of work and painting very vivid pictures with their lyrics. Their story telling ability is way beyond their age, and that goes for all members in the collective. I even purchased a physical copy of Tyler, the Creator’s “Goblin” album. I was very underwhelmed when I actually heard the album, and the taste in my mouth from that has kinda carried over to everything Odd Future has done or released since then. Whenever I encounter them nowadays I always feel like they must win back my support by giving me what I, and most of the fans, really want: quality music.
“The random animals, the blonde wigs, the ejaculating on passers-by as Hodgy moves on the bed of a truck, it’s all art thru the eyes of ADHD school children. Not the talented musicians they have proven to be.”
After watching their new video “Rella” I was again left with a feeling of disappointment. The song is good enough, with dark production we’ve become accustomed to from Left Brain and pretty solid rhymes from Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis and Tyler the Creator. However, it feels like I’ve heard the song before. The song is pretty standard fare if you’re familiar with the catalogue that MellowHype and Domo Genesis have created so far, and Tyler’s verse is a nice touch. But the video is seemingly weird for the sake of being weird. I can go along with pretty much anything if it’s done well, but it all seems like it’s done solely for shock value purposes. The random animals, the blonde wigs, the ejaculating on passers-by as Hodgy moves on the bed of a truck, it’s all art thru the eyes of ADHD school children. Not the talented musicians they have proven to be.
I feel like it was less than a year ago that Odd Future were media darlings and seemingly making every right move needed to capitalize on their buzz. They were selling out concerts all over, they were on a European tour, and they were gaining mainstream recognition for Frank Ocean’s “Nostalgia/Ultra” project. And not to be overlooked was the mysterious disappearance of one of their most talented members, Earl Sweatshirt. This created the iconic “FREE EARL” slogan, which would emblazon t-shirts, apparel, bumper stickers, and more. Tyler then released the “Yonkers” video, which seemingly took the world by storm. Next thing you know Odd Future is performing on Jimmy Fallon’s show on network television. It seemed like Odd Future had the world at its finger tips and could do no wrong.
Then the wheels started coming off overnight. Tyler released a backwards thinking “GOBLIN” album, which seemingly was aimed at scaring away potential fans instead of gaining fans. Chris Brown tweeted a compliment to Frank Ocean, comparing him to award winning songwriters James Fauntleroy and Kevin Cossom, and Frank Ocean misinterpreted his words and this started a huge war of words between the two. This led to some pretty sketchy stuff outside of the music world, but none of that matters to the average fan. They want new quality music. Not re-releases of MellowHype’s “BLACKENEDWHITE” album via iTunes.
The reason that Odd Future garnered such media attention was that they were producing high quality music, with a new project dropping every few months. They were able to spread around the voice so that everyone in the camp was able to drop music, and keep the machine moving. Since “GOBLIN” was released and they created their own Odd Future Records label on April 26, 2011, they have gone on to release two albums. Two. They released “12 Odd Future Songs,” which was somewhat of a sloppily put together greatest hits album in October and The Internet’s “Purple Naked Ladies” in December. That’s right. A music crew that prided themselves on releasing high quality product has released only 1 album of new material in the last 10 months. It’s been almost a year since the world has heard a new project from MellowHype, Frank Ocean or Tyler the Creator.
The music that was released as free downloads was of very low quality. Mike G released the extremely poor “Award Tour EP” and Domo Genesis released a generic “Jackin’ for beats” tape in “Under the Influence.” Neither was going to win the rap collective any new fans, which is what every release should be doing since they were dealing with the lackluster success of the “GOBLIN” album. By the time they released the critically acclaimed The Internet album, most of the buzz they had created had vanished into thin air. People simply stopped caring about them.
I also would like to touch on the subject of Earl Sweatshirt. I don’t know if it was a marketing ploy, if he was really in Samoa, or whatever other rumors were swirling around his disappearance, and frankly I don’t care. All I know is that it’s been almost 2 years since he’s recorded any new material. Artists such as Maxwell can get away with taking 2 years off in-between albums because their back catalog is of such high quality and high replay value. Earl Sweatshirt dropped one ten song project, then disappeared for 2 years. The whole “Free Earl” thing is cool for a couple months. Not 20 of them. No one cares about Earl that much. After awhile you just become a caricature of yourself, especially considering when the group was at the height of their buzz and success while Earl was nowhere to be found. I guess they thought they could add Frank Ocean into the mix and no one would notice. Well, they were wrong.
To me, this is a case of an artist, or group of artists, forgetting why they achieved the fan bases that they have. You can’t remove one of your most talented members from the equation and expect the fans to remain. You can’t go almost a full calendar year without dropping new material if your collective has 9 people in it. You can’t release a lackluster project to the masses and then not follow it up with more material to amend for your mistake. You can’t substitute a controversial Twitter feed and Tumblr for producing quality music. And most importantly, you can’t continue to keep everything in house if you’re not creating fresh new interesting sounds out of that camp.
The quintessential Odd Future moment for me is when Tyler the Creator won an award at the MTV Video Music Awards and he gets up there, visibly appreciative of the recognition, and then gives an expletive laden acceptance speech. Tyler dropped a truly inspirational speech on stage but it was littered with so much profanity that after it was censored you couldn’t get the message that he intended to use to motivate his young fans. If you didn’t know who Odd Future was before that point you probably wouldn’t want to bother to find out what he actually said and would just forget his segment all together. And that represents Odd Future. They’re insanely talented, all of them, but they have a way of leaving bad first impressions. And often with fans, you don’t get a chance to make another. When the stove is hot, you have to capitalize. And unfortunately, they have dropped the ball. And now that they are gearing up to release a compilation album in the near future and more material, it may be too late. And it probably is.