Assessing an Odd Future with Syd tha Kyd

Odd Future with Mos Def at center; image courtesy of villagevoice.com

Note: As of July 12, 2011, the comments thread to this post is closed. I’m done talking about Odd Future, and frankly, unless you’ve got a constructive argument or a fresh take on them, you should be too.

Last week, Odd Future made an indelible network debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The prolific L.A.-based hip hop collective has been generating a lot of hype. I started hearing about them last fall. Music critics began latching on to their work and started following leader Tyler, the Creator’s Twitter feed, and comparisons to Kool Keith, Eminem, the Sex Pistols, N.E.R.D., Bad Brains, and the Wu-Tang Clan soon followed. Dutifully, I listened to some songs. The group is best recognized for their distinct sound and image, which features an austere production aesthetic and an obsessive focus on, among other things, all the ways people can rape each other.

I think I was supposed to be shocked and offended but frankly I was too bored to make it through more than a handful of songs. However, like many emotional states, boredom is variegated.

Primarily, I’m bored with the hype machine. Critics get duped. Occasionally I’m no different. And we all have a lot of things to reconcile before making any ruling, which informs Zach Baron’s Village Voice profile and Mehan Jayasuriya’s Thought Catalog post on the group.

But ya’ll, these Wu-Tang comparisons are lazy. The only things they share are spare beats and being a gaggle of black men (given Tyler’s recent signing to XL, I hope they also share a keen business acumen that allows them to exist as one entity for a label while allowing themselves to be free agents as solo artists). I think some music critics always find groups of black musicians as exceptional, perhaps because they never encounter more than one black person at a time. Living Colour is a black rock group?!? Even though African Americans helped invent rock music by integrating raced musical forms like country and the blues? WRITE IT DOWN. I can draw a sketchy parallel between Tyler and Method Man’s charismatic presence and conversational flow, but some other members have yet to prove themselves as singular personalities the way Wu-Tang did. Maybe Hodgy Beats is Ghostface Killah. Maybe drawing a comparison between Tyler’s cult of personality and fellow West Coast punk Darby Crash’s would wake me up. I can go a little further with the Keith comparison, though don’t think the group has yet to harness their free associative revelries with the comedic impact and verbal prowess that Keith does. Maybe drawing parallels is a stupid, baseless exercise that belittles all parties.

The second kind of boredom was informed by hipster incredulity, which is why I remain skeptical about MF Doom’s skills as an emcee. Odd Future’s iconoclastic punk spirit is exactly the kind of thing cool kids who don’t actually listen to much hip hop would champion. Odd Future may seem like a rank fart blast of fresh air if you aren’t familiar with, say, the talent on Doomtree or Rhymesayers’ rosters. Granted, their recent performance on Fallon’s show represented something of a passing of the torch. Roots’ drummer Questlove encouraged the booking, which scans as a kind professional gesture. And I agree with Tyler’s recent assertion that people who want Odd Future to stay underground aren’t real fans because they don’t want them to succeed. This tension is kind of fascinating, because it seems to me that Odd Future’s core audience is peopled with hipsters, who as a group skew white and of middle- to upper-middle class origins. In short, they can afford to drop out and stay obscure. Odd Future want mainstream success. I don’t want to make some racialist, classist assumption and say they need it, but they want the mass appeal that stretches past being a blogosphere curio. They want power. They might want endorsement deals too. Too bad they’ll lose a Super Bowl invite to Arcade Fire.

However, as a feminist I’m leery of hipster appraisal. This doesn’t necessarily stem from not wanting to be identified as part of the group. If you think I’m a hipster, fine whatever. Some of the nicest folks I know and some of the worst people I’ve encountered could be labeled hipsters. IDing them as such seems both irrelevant and relativist.

But let’s be honest: hipsters tend to carry a lot of liberal white guilt with them, especially true among the most (pseudo-)intellectual. A group like Odd Future can prompt unwarranted discussion about how their bleak world view dovetails nicely with the United States’ economic recession, which seems like a way for these people to congratulate themselves for constructing an illusion of racial sensitivity. I think this is problematic for two reasons. For one, this is a facile attempt at explaining their cultural relevance that requires greater political nuance. Steve Hyden recently argued that nü metal predicted the cynicism and maverick posturing of the Bush administration. It sounds great, but seems too easy to me. For another, isn’t it insulting to assume the economic recession and Odd Future have anything to do with one another? Doesn’t the assumption that urban-based youth of color are always associated with socioeconomic collapse seem . . . racist?

My surreptitious attitude toward hipsters extends well past my generation. It’s old news that hippies and beatniks sublimated chauvinism and misogyny because straight white guys set the terms. This hasn’t changed radically despite an influential feminist blogogensia. In fact, sometimes I think we haggle over progressive or subversive readings of this stuff when we should probably set all of it on fire. Anyway, I knew some hipsters would rationalize or justify Odd Future’s hate speech, because in this regard we are no different from the suburban smug marrieds we assume we have cultural capital over. I recently overheard one guy describe Tyler’s proclivity for rapping about holding women hostage in basements as a “motif” at a Marnie Stern show. Hooray, your liberal arts education allows you to justify rape in the same way generations of men have before you. I gave him the biggest scowl I could summon, but I wasn’t surprised. How can you be disappointed when you’re already disappointed?

I also share this boredom with my mother. When I was seven, I read Ramona the Brave. The first grade is stressful for Ms. Quimby, as is her mother’s new job and her family’s inattention toward her. At one point, she flies off the handle and starts swearing at her family, who allow her vitriol. Her blue word of choice: “guts.” What I gleaned from this book, as a wiser second grader to parents who then strove to keep a fledgling print shop afloat, is that I would like to start swearing too. Since I absorbed vocabulary from after-dinner conversations and stints in day care, I knew the right words.

My mom bargained with me, perhaps because she shares my belief that swearing children are comedy gold (for a contemporary example, watch Bobb’e J. Thompson steal Role Models from Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott). I was allowed to curse a blue streak, but only at home and never at anyone. I could only apply swear words as descriptors. But after a week of me employing “fuckin'” as an adjective, mom flipped the script! She told me that smart people know how to use curse words sparingly and draw from a larger vocabulary. “Fuckin'” remains one of my favorite words, especially when I’m angry and therefore southern. But she’s right. And that’s how I feel about Odd Future’s rhymes. It’s clear they play with complex language, but a lot of times those S.A.T. words, humorous observational asides, and left-field cultural references are obscured by swear words. And rape jokes. And homophobic epithets. I really don’t want to compare this group to the Family Guy writing staff but both should try harder.

This brings me to the major source of my boredom, which emanates from being too grown for this nonsense. I don’t think Odd Future are subversive. I think they need to grow up. I would like them to broaden their scope, hone their skills, and diversify their lyrical content. I don’t necessarily think they should get into message rapping or “elevate their people” or any of the other things white liberals ascribe to young black people who make them uncomfortable. I also think that some folks’ objection to the group’s rape narratives stem from the racist myth of the black sexual predator, which the group may be responding to. However, I think I’m meeting people more than half-way on that one. Because I never, under any circumstance, find rape funny. I also cannot abide by any of their casual homophobia and jokes about ass rape.

To me, there’s little difference between the intent of many of their rhymes and what the kid who sat next to me in the first grade was trying to accomplish by flipping his eyelids. Or what a high school acquaintance was after when he said that girls who get raped should just lay back and enjoy it. Or why young men (Tyler among them) develop obsessions with A Clockwork Orange (I recommend they read Gary Mairs’ critique of its legacy before donning bowler hats). Or what a group of homophobes are up to when they wail on a couple of gay men leaving a bar. It’s supposed to seem bad and cool, but it’s just childish and frequently awful. And please don’t tell me that as a feminist I have no sense of humor. I do. I’m also really funny when I go off on a rant or spill queso on my shirt. I’m just not laughing because you aren’t funny. You can do better. Odd Future can do better, but I’m not willing to give them the mantle of the new big thing until they do.

However, I have some learning to do myself. Recently Molly Lambert Tweeted about how Syd tha Kyd’s involvement challenges racist notions of the group’s preoccupation with rape (apparently her mom also mentored her in a high school music program–yay, cool moms!). Frankly, I’m somewhat unclear how a female producer accomplishes this outright but I do think Lambert is right to identify Syd’s role. Music producers tend to be men, both within and outside of hip hop. I’m curious about how Syd conceptualizes her role, but I’d imagine asking her what it’s like to be a female producer within a predominantly male group is insulting to her for both personal and professional reasons.

Syd’s participation is particularly exceptional to me because her beats are what I respond to most favorably. Her production aesthetic is minimal to the point of inducing claustrophobia but prone to disorienting passages. The beats bring the ultraviolence to a horror movie where the black kids aren’t always the victims (though I can’t celebrate their ugly tendency to victimize). This is what really gives Odd Future its sense of sonic terrorism, as Syd foregrounds their rhymes by having the voices dominate the mix while giving the listener grooves too slippery and slight to hold onto. It also makes the group distinctive, as they don’t use samples. For this reason Syd is as important as the group’s breakout star, and why I also hope she gets her own contract.

99 comments

  1. Daniel

    I agree thats the only thing I find difficult about listening to OFWGKTA. I really do like the songs they make and the accompanying beats but the rape topics just seems to pushing it out a bit too far. I personally know people who have been affected by rape and child abuse so I think that’s what makes listening to some particular songs of theirs more difficult as I really can’t see the humorous side of it even when I try to. The song that comes to mind is VCR as I think the beat is amazing but again the song is about rape abduction and keeping girls hostage.

    Now that they are becoming more popular too I think these sorts of topics can possibly stop them becoming as commercial as they may want to be as not even the rappers who appear to demoralise women by talking to them as “hoes” etc etc talk about that shit.

    But I agree they need to grow up and stop talking about that particular vulgar topic then I might actually find them easier to listen to and like them more.

    • Alyx Vesey

      Yes, this is *exactly* my problem with “VCR.”

      Ah, a constructive comment! I was waiting for one of those for this post. Thanks, Daniel. I’m especially concerned with how these thematic preoccupations with rape will translate to a mass audience. If some hipsters are already rationalizing rape as a “motif” and romanticizing the group’s punk energy, how will this go over with a larger audience? I’m very curious about how their Coachella show will be received. I’m not assuming it’ll be Woodstock ’99 all over again, but this is something the group might want to think about moving forward.

      What I find especially frustrating about Odd Future’s interest in rape–apart from the glibness in which the subject tends to be handled–is how it so dominates their lyrics. The group appears to have a real interest in horror movies (I’m not labeling them horrorcore), as well as monsters and paranormal creatures. This is super-interesting, and perhaps a good counterpoint to Janelle Monáe’s fixation on cyborgs and androids. But much of this gets eclipsed by all the rape.

      • Daniel

        VCR isn’t the only song either by Tyler about that particular subject nor is it the worst! ‘AssMilk’ is more graphic to listen to if you are paying more attention to the lyrics than to the beat, ‘Sarah’ is quite a detailed description of abduction, murder and necrophilia. While a few songs by Earl Sweatshirt such as epaR seems to be about rape too.

        To be honest it does seem to be Tyler the Creater and his brother Earl Sweatshirt who seem to talk about it most and have the most obscure topics with their collective EarlWolf as after listening to the other collectives such as MellowHype, consisting of Left Brain and Hodgy Beats the rape subject is practically non existant while the other collective/faction Jet Age of Tomorrow are psychedelic esqué instrumental beats.

        Just like the Twitter comment you included in your review also I tried not looking at it from face value and seeing if it could be justified or if I could even become ignorant of it when listening and just say its all fiction just like I would with say a horror film but that really didn’t work as they are not even describing it in a joking manner but in a graphic, dark and disturbing tone as if they want it to become believable.

        Plus about the horrorcore issue about how they say they are not horrorcore yet rap about murder, rape, death, suicide,abduction, homophobia, drugs, the devil, denouncing God, general demonic stuff, zombies and like you say paranormal creatures and monsters as well as having a generally dark and obscure sense of musical style then I think that it very dubious for them to not say they’re horrorcore, EarlWolf at least, as I thought most of that stuff consisted of been horrorcore anyway? But it is interesting to listen to anyway (with a few obvious exceptions) and how they portray it as controversial or weird as it may be.

        Oh I also forgot to say what a good review you wrote. Very balanced and showing both sides of the good, the bad and where they could be better plus it was even more engaging adding childhood stories of yourself haha but yeah well done and I may have to follow your site more for music reviews as I only found it through a random Google Image search of OFWGKTA and its my first time here..second now lol.

    • Slinkee

      One thing though.. Tyler doesn’t actually rape people.
      They’re just being as shocking as is humanly possible.
      They’re trying to chill your bones with the most intense and unbelievably violent bullshit ever spewed on a microphone, and for the most part, I’d say they succeed.
      The constant swearing and foul language only add to that effect.
      I mean really, who thinks raping nuns in funny?
      No one.
      It’s pure shock, and I for one, absolutely enjoy their audacious effort.

      I mean, obviously you’re biased on this issue; your domain name is feminist music geek. My point being exemplified by the fact that you only seem to commend Syd tha Kyd: the only female member of the group.

      Anyway, I don’t think you’re right or wrong, opinions are opinions for a reason, I simply disagree with yours.

      • Alyx Vesey

        (Sigh) Yes, I know Tyler doesn’t actually rape people. I knew Emimem didn’t actually kill his wife and that Marilyn Manson’s breasts were prosthetic. I’d also mention that I don’t only commend Syd. Rather, I was addressing the fact that I didn’t know she was in the group and that her presence could challenge many of mine and other detractors claims against the group (or she could just shrug it off, which doesn’t challenge anything). Yes, she provides to my mind the most interesting elements of the group–the austere beats. But I also point out that I think certain members of the group are lyrically gifted. Since I didn’t mention it in the post itself, Tyler also shows promise as a producer and video director. But I find it really irritating that because I suggest that they’re not fully formed geniuses and are instead promising young talent with horrifying gender and sexual politics (even if that critique may be embedded in the music itself), that I’m off base or missing the point. I’m pretty sure I do get the point; I’m just really troubled by it and object to it out of hand. I also find all the rape equivocation this group gets from fans to be profoundly insulting and disturbing.

        However, no fan has answered these questions in a way I find satisfying: What exactly do fans enjoy about Odd Future? What exactly has Odd Future succeeded in their supposed goal of spewing the “most intense and unbelievably violent bullshit”? Extending further, what exactly do fans believe to be audiacious about them? As I’ve made clear in this post, I don’t think narrativizing rape–and absenting a victim or survivor’s perspective–is audacious at all. I think it’s misogyny as usual. I’ve entertained and discarded several comments that trumpet the group’s talents, but they refuse to challenge or qualify what Odd Future contribute that’s new or interesting and why they’re fans.

  2. distance88

    This is the best analysis of Odd Future that I’ve seen–you hit the nail on the head so many times, thanks for this piece.

    I can definitely recognize the group’s talent (Tyler’s “Seven” and that Domo Genesis/Tyler song where they’re fighting in a Costco are standouts for me), but the hype machine is driving me nuts–and so are their sheep-like fanboys–I’m a bit leery of deeming these dudes ‘ground-breaking’ just yet.

    Initially, I thought that Odd Future were kind of representing the ‘status quo on steroids’–taking the misogyny, homophobia, and the stereotype of the black male as hyper-violent and hyper-sexual that is constantly bubbling under the surface boiling over in American society, and then cranking these things up as high as they could go. But that is, like you said, ‘meeting them more than halfway’ based on their limited catalog thus far and based on the narrow range of topics they rap about. Plus, I get the sense that they see rape as some ‘shocking-for-shocking’s-sake’ abstract, and not as the terrorist act that it really is.

    And re: Molly Lambert’s assertion that Syd’s Odd Future membership is a valid challenge to the rape critiques–I don’t really get it. Isn’t this the same kind of specious reasoning that white dudes use when justifying their use of the word ‘nigga’? (i.e. “It’s cool, I have a black friend.”)

    And yeah, I’m too old for this shit, too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have beers to cry into.

    • Alyx Vesey

      Well, thank you for reading what I actually had to say and representing your thoughts in a cogent, civil way. I like peaceable discussions in the comments section, so I don’t post snark. . . . I’ve been getting some snark–some outright hateful speech–that I think not only stalls conversation, but actually proves much of my point about how I feel about some Odd Future fans.

      As for Molly’s comment, I hope maybe she can clarify it herself. As a user, Twitter isn’t always the best platform to make these kinds of statements and I don’t want to speak for her. What I read in her comment was that Syd’s presence in the group, and what she brings to it as a producer, complicates how we interpret their politics. I at least hope it’s not as simple as “a girl is in the group–we’re absolved of all this rape stuff.” Because, of course, it isn’t.

      • distance88

        Yeah, internet comment sections (and the Internet in general?) aren’t exactly bastions of rational thought, especially if you happen to present–gasp!–an informed, dissenting opinion. All of which makes me appreciate sites like yours even more– keep up the good work & fighting the good fight.

  3. fuzzydunlop

    To clarify, Syd is the DJ and sometimes engineer for a lot of OFWGKTA work. She does not produce the beats. On Bastard and Earl, Tyler is responsible for the stark production.

    • Alyx Vesey

      Yes, I linked their Dazed and Confused profile in the body of post (you can also read it here), which elaborates on Syd’s role in the group, as well as Tyler’s involvement as a producer.

  4. Landis

    I’m so sick of this, “only people who don’t listen to much rap music like odd future”, argument. I have listened to MOSTLY rap music all of my life, and I think odd future show a ton of potential. They may not have made a masterpiece yet, but I’d be willing to bet they will.

    • Alyx Vesey

      I hope you’re not talking about my post, Landis, because I wasn’t mounting that argument. What I was saying is that many of their more prominent critical champions at the moment seem to be folks who have a casual interest in mainstream titans and maybe some of-the-moment backpacker hip hop and mainstream titans, but that’s as deep as it goes.

  5. Pingback: My Quiet Life » misogyny, homophobia, butt rape, and the odd future of hiphop
  6. Mdot

    I thing you hit it on the head I think Odd Future is a really talented group of Immature kids who have not yet found their voice but they are having fun doing what they are doing and in a few years some of them will make some really good music

  7. Dussek

    I remember seeing an OFWGKTA video somewhere where Syd mentions her dad challenged her about associating with them, given all the rape stuff, and she blows it off with a joke about “smacking b****es”

    It made me think of middle-class black 4chan users who don’t seem concerned with the rampant racism on the site. They don’t take it seriously. It’s a similar thing with Odd Future, who I get the feeling are a lot more suburban than they let on.

  8. CassettePlaya

    Well given the anti social theme of many of they’re lyrics including the sexism and degrading of women yet having an ironic sense of including a female in the group. It seems the homophobic aspect of they’re songs seem to be ironic too because it seems Syd Tha Kyd is also gay herself been a lesbian. I can’t fully confirm this at the moment but it does seem there are many references stating about her sexuality that she is openly gay.

    • Blah Blah Boom

      Syd is gay and so is Earl Sweatshirts mom (who sent him off to boarding school b/c of the lyrics and songs he was making) but not a single song by OFWGKTA is made without Syd mixing it from what I understand and she believes Tyler uses metaphors way more then people think, all his drug references are metaphors since he’s straight-edge according to Syd’s tumblr

      • Suhaida

        I agree to the statement above. They are ALL metaphors used in their songs and Syd is making a statement joining with OFWGKTA being; a female lesbian in an all-male homophobic rap group. It is just too early to understand that statement just yet.

  9. aldon

    This is silly. They’re scaring not only conservative america but liberal america as well. You’re picking out lyrics from 17 yr old rappers and evaluating them as if they were nonfictional essays. Theyre just rowdy, young skateboarder kids who grew up watching larry clark movies. Chill….OUT.

    • Dussek

      You don’t have to think critically about the world around you if you don’t want to, but telling OTHER people not to seems pretty unproductive to me.

      OF might be just skateboarder kids but they’re being embraced by kids (and some adults) on a massive scale and the reasons and social implications are worth discussing.

  10. Jason

    I think you pretty much nailed it when you compared Odd Future to the kid who flips his eyelids inside out. That’s what they’re going for – shock and offense. It’s that most basic need of any artist or creative person, to push people’s buttons and get a visible rise out of them. In this day and age, what shocks people is usually the most graphic displays of behavior people can muster. In the 70’s it was the Sex Pistols hitting people over the head with bass guitars and Sid Vicious cutting himself with glass (yes I know Iggy did it first +20 cool points for me.)

    The kids of Odd Future don’t strike me as being “inner city” or “urban.” They seem like the generation of black kids who grew up right alongside white kids and cribbed as much from them as the white kids cribbed back. Earl and Tyler aren’t doing anything any MC before them hasn’t done – they’re self aggrandizing. They’re giving themselves some swagger (no pun intended.) They’re making out like they’re bigger than they are. It just happens that they grew up listening to Eminem and Insane Clown Posse and the like, so for them it’s about rape and murder and gaybashing.

    But I have a hard time picturing Earl Sweatshirt actually cutting up dead bodies and wrapping them in plastic. I likewise have a hard time thinking Tyler, who raps about putting on pink panties and dancing around while his mom is out would wait outside a bar for two gay guys with a lead pipe in his hands. I likewise don’t think anyone is going to listen to these songs and go out and murder and/or rape and/or beat up a gay person because of them. If you’ve got that sort of behavior in you, it’s just a matter of time before it comes out.

    So then if what it comes down to is personal taste and what you’re offended by, then of course that’s your right and you don’t have to listen. I agree that the members of Odd Future are young and also hope that in time they mature enough to move past the violence and exploitation. The Beastie Boys certainly did. They changed a verse in Paul Revere from “I did it like this, I did it like that, I did it with a wiffle ball bat…” to something about a “kitty cat.” The violence and graphic sexual content are shocking at first, to be sure, but like anything else it wears thin after a while and if that’s all these kids have in their bag of tricks they won’t last for too long. But I think the level of their lyrical ability and the fact that they’re able to generate their own beats proves they’ve got genuine musical talent hidden beneath all that shock value. Maybe that’s Odd Future’s plan – sucker everyone in with the graphic content and then surprise the heck out of them by actually having talent.

    • gordo

      Did you ever stop to think that vulgarity can be a form of artistic expression? I like what another commenter wrote saying that Odd Future presents the “dark side” of the nice guy in their songs, although I would say that they actually give voice to the “dark side” of the average guy. Dudes like Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt probably haven’t had the best luck with women–at least with the girls they’ve wanted. In my opinion, the rampant depravity in songs like VCR is just a manifestation of their subconscious frustration and anger towards females who turned them down in the past. It’s certainly not moral, but art doesn’t have to be.
      What Tyler and Earl really remind me of is Eminem back in the day. Kim was a beautiful song about Marshal Mathers killing his girlfriend for cheating on him. Why was it beautiful? Because it was naked expression. He didn’t make himself sound cool; in the song, he screeched, cried, spazzed, and sobbed because that was how he felt when he wrote it. There was no glorification, it was just pain and self loathing set to a beat. Art in its purest form is honesty, and real honesty is never pretty.

      • Alyx Vesey

        Did you read the post itself or anything else on this blog? Of course I think that vulgarity can be not only a form of artistic expression, but a valid and liberating one at that. I’ve written tributes here to Lydia Lunch and Linder Sterling (among others) and praised Christeene in my SXSW coverage for BitchMedia. Christeene is among the most vulgar artists I’ve encountered in recent memory–in appearance alone, and certainly as a lyricist. I have no problem with vulgarity, whether it be unto itself, in celebration, or as protest.

        However, I have huge problems with what vulgarity can represent and how “artistic expression” can make allowances for real ugliness that goes unchecked, like misogyny and homophobia. For example, you argue that the depravity of “VCR” is “just” a manifestation of Tyler and Earl’s subconscious frustration and anger toward females who turned them down. What, exactly, do those women owe them and how/why do they “deserve” their wrath? Put simply, they don’t. And I do not tolerate a society that shrugs that off or justifies it.

        As for “Kim,” hmmm. That might be one of the hardest songs I’ve ever had to sit through and, while well-made, I have no interest in revisiting it (the same can be said of Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop,” a riveting song about a poor factory worker who kills his wife and kid and then himself, and watches himself die). “Kim” came out when I was in high school and was something of a turning point for me as a feminist wherein I felt I had to listen to too much of this sort of music and laud misogyny on artistic grounds (see earlier: Guns ‘N’ Roses; note also that nu metal was extremely popular at the time and supposedly spoke to the oppression of disenfranchised white boys who drove cars off the showroom floor, remember that Em was trumpeted as a musical genius, worth mentioning that people thought the Bloodhound Gang were funny–this all comes to bear and is hard for me to remove from its pop context). I recognize “Kim” has artistic merit, but can’t abide it as beautiful. I get that you’re entering into a beauty-as-emotional-nudity-and-ugliness argument, and I love me some Yoko Ono and some Wolf Eyes, but no. Bottom line: “Kim” is strangled to death and we hear it. I’m not transformed or enlightened by this. It just makes me think of all the women who get beaten up, raped, or killed by their partners and how little is ever done about that (this explains why I’ve phased out Miles Davis, Stan Getz, or the Shins; this also makes Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads a tough slog). “Kim” is given no agency because Em’s pain and self-loathing eclipse everything in the song. As it often does when controversial men make music. But it continues to make me wonder what the “real honesty” is here. It’s subjective and, here, one-sided. Maybe Tori Amos got at it when she covered “’97 Bonnie and Clyde.” Assuredly Kim would in some fashion, if she chose to pick up a mic.

      • distance88

        A few points–

        Just because something is ‘artistic expression’ (a mighty low bar to hurdle), doesn’t mean it is above reproach, much less critical analysis.

        Every heterosexual male faces rejection by a female at some point or another, the average/nice guy (dark side and all) moves on, they don’t create rape fantasies (on record or otherwise).

        Furthermore, how can ‘naked expression be beautiful’ if ‘real honesty is never pretty’? Logically speaking, both statements can’t be true.

        This contradiction aside, equating naked expression (and naked expression only) with beauty is an awfully slippery slope. I hope you have skis on, because racism, homophobia, misogyny, etc. could all be considered ‘naked expressions’… and I have a hard time finding the beauty in any of these things.

      • gordo

        The women in their songs obviously don’t owe them anything, and that’s beside the point. There’s no message of retribution against all the girls who turned them down in the past, nor is there any attempted vindication of revenge-rape. OF are just a couple of unremarkable looking dudes showing the true depravity of their sexual frustrations through music. White people have been doing this for years with their death metal or whatever, so I really don’t see what the big deal is.

        George Carlin once said, “there are no bad words, only bad contexts.” Well, when I listen to OF I don’t hear the words, I hear the intent, whether it be simple trolling (i.e- Assmilk) or communicating anger and heartbreak (i.e- Luper). One thing about this 4chan-influenced generation of misfits is that irreverence has become a lot more pervasive, with internet anonymity allowing for certain ideas to proliferate that otherwise would never have been publicized. Thus a lot of kids these days have a jaded and nuanced sense of humor that reflects their critical perception of the world.

        Moreover, there is no inherent contradiction in pointing out that a blatant expression of human ugliness cannot be beautiful, and yes I am entering into the “beauty-as-emotional-nudity-and-ugliness argument.” Sure it may have been one sided, but ‘Kim’ was an Eminem track, not an Marshall Mathers and Kim collaboration. It was HIS perspective being told and his feelings were the focal point of that song. Once again there is no purported morality here, only raw self-exposure. You may not like it, and you don’t have to, but I’m just giving you a different perspective.

        By listening to Odd Future, I am not condoning rape and homophobia, nor am I trivializing these issues. I am merely appreciating the balls-out energy, audacity, and artistic honesty of their music. And if you are concerned that OFWGKTA will influence people to do bad things by causing a paradigm shift in the mainstream thought of American youth, consider that people said the same thing about Eminem. Like the old Slim Shady, Earl and Tyler represent the outcasts, not the jocks. If they hit the radio, you can bet that their singles will have been extinguished of all debased material, and only the contrarian weirdos will listen to their dark shit.

      • gordo

        This argument might just be an “agree to disagree.” When it comes down to it, I like Odd Future for the same reasons that I like Eminem and Louis CK. I respect honesty free from all pretension, moral or otherwise.

      • distance88

        And if you are concerned that OFWGKTA will influence people to do bad things by causing a paradigm shift in the mainstream thought of American youth, consider that people said the same thing about Eminem

        Agreed. I certainly don’t expect to see a rise in the rape rate now that the privileged white male media and predominantly privileged white male fans are fawning over Odd Future (I think Alyx already referenced Cord Jefferson’s interesting–though highly flammable–piece at the Root about this dynamic in another comment). I do, however, expect to see a new wave of copycats–Human Centipedes of hip-hop trying to cash in on ‘shocking’ shlock (yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I get it–this is just my opinion).

        And I think the negative effects of such disrespectful lyrics are more likely to manifest themselves in ways other than ‘influencing bad behavior’–see Jay Smooth’s insightful tribute to Nate Dogg over at Illdoctrine where he says:

        “..one of his other gifts was knowing how to make disrespecting women sound really catchy. He had a knack for what might be the most dangerous kind of hatefulness, where you know how to take something hateful and make it sound really happy and upbeat and catchy and infectious so that it keeps worming its way into your brain until one day you realize you’re singing it out loud in Starbucks and everyone is staring at you.”

        Obviously, OF aren’t going for happy and upbeat, but I think they are going for catchy, infectious, edgy, and making deplorable acts sound cool. Granted, OF aren’t the only artists doing this; I don’t mean to single them out–I’d gladly hold any other artists accountable for similar content.

      • Sabac

        I must agree with Gordo. It’s simply put through the perspective of the actual artist. The feminists who happen to think this review is good, seem to defend artists like Tori Amos, and attack artists who have the opposite perspective. In all reality, neither side is actually wrong. Simply one side cannot understand the perspective of the other. It could be possible if one was able to open their minds beyond the confinements of their own lifestyle, but that is a impossible feat.

        Odd future isn’t the most skilled shock rappers to come out, I’ll admit that. They are really overusing the shock, I won’t argue that. I think, personally, Eminem did it way better. Noticeably, no one really agreed with Gordo, but when one person makes a few points against him, that person is suddenly praised as being “in the right.” This only shows you how biased each side really is to their own opinion.

        Both sides did bring up good points, but only one side was listened to, the pro feminist side. Feminism in itself is part of the problem, just as much as Racism, Sexism ect. Nothing is ever solved by picking one side. It’s evidently clear this reviewer favors one side and hates what is on the other side. I mean, Christeen is considered good for being vulgar, but Odd Future isn’t? I suppose all humans truly are hypocrites, myself included.

      • Alyx Vesey

        Sabac, I hope you don’t think all feminists hate Odd Future and love Tori Amos. I know some feminists who love Odd Future. I’m personally no big Tori Amos fan. So let’s not stereotype. Furthermore, this missive does encourage against a facile reading of Odd Future. There’s many complex issues butting heads with each other here, hence the length of this post and my continued frustration with it and the subject (which is both the group and the fan culture forming around it, with greater concern for the latter).

        As to your comment that only one side is listened to, I’m not sure what you mean. I am a feminist, so I wrote this piece from a feminist perspective (not the feminist perspective, as there is no definitive feminist perspective). I’ll grant you that feminism can itself be oppressive, especially when middle-class, straight, cisgender, able-bodied white women speak for or ignore the needs of women of color, queer people, disabled people, girls, and working-class people, but I’m going to argue from a feminist perspective because that’s where I’m coming from and that’s this blog’s larger project. It seems to me that you’re upset that I responded to and argued with many of the comments on this thread, which I tried to do with sensitivity and felt compelled to do because many folks raised some interesting points that I may/may not have entirely agreed with. There were a couple of decisions I made about not approving comments that I would rescind, but most of the commenters who were silenced by me wrote hateful shit like “suck my dick, bitch” that I felt didn’t need an audience because it’s so prevalent in our (on- and off-line) culture and, as the blog’s founder/editor/primary contributor/comment moderator, I take responsibility for making this a safe space.

        Finally, a point about Christeene. This is actually a good question you raise, and I’d direct you to the comments section of the profile Queerty did on her for a charged, productive debate. There’s certainly a well-spring of problematic racial issues going on with Christeene that deserve separate consideration. However, I don’t think Christeene and Odd Future have much in common–certainly not their record deals and not even their vulgarity. Christeene is a DIY white, southern drag performer singing/rapping about prostitutes, poverty, and a spectrum of consensual sexual expression. Odd Future is a label-backed black West Coast hip hop collective who rap, among other things, about rape, and have a lot of misogyny and homophobia to work through (along with Tyler’s daddy issues, yawn).

  11. Michael P Miller

    It’s not hard to see where you’re coming from, as with many people who make the same arguments. The group hits home with me because they have similar personality types. Sure we grew up around white kids and that’s had a big effect on us culturally, but we could still see the hood right outside the window. To me they’re the dark side to the “nice guy”. I hate rapists and people who think it’s no that serious, but after all the rejections and shit we get some thoughts go to “just take it”; they aren’t real but an expression of frustration which odd future clearly reflects in their music. Hip Hop heads like me, have flocked to these guys for general love of the music, and source material. Most of the shock and aw comes from the hype machine that’s been going, and it’s not like it’s anything new (see Eminem’s early years) Will it have any real implications in the future? I seriously doubt it. It’s just odd for me to see the tags you have for this post, because they feel like an oversimplification of the group’s themes as a package. With hip hop as it is now, a group of anarchic atheists getting their name out, is something I’ll stand behind.

    • Alyx Vesey

      Out of curiosity, have you read Nitsuh Abebe’s recent post about the group and issues of inclusion and exclusion?

  12. Factormax

    I’m never really listened to any other music than rap, and I’ve been with odd future since i heard “bastard” a year ago. I was somewhat turned off by the rape and such at first, but after really listening to their stuff I was absolutely amazed by the quality. Their production isn’t “sparse”, like you said, it’s incredibly complex, tasteful, and unique. In my opinion Tyler’s really only the 3rd best rapper in the group, as he can’t lyrically hang with earl or hodgy, maybe even domo. Plus all three of those guys have more diverse subject matter. Tyler’s shit can get a little bit too much “fuck this fucking shit fuck fuck fuck” for me. Regardless, nobody in rhymesayers or doomtree could even touch odd future. Those guys are played out…

    • Alyx Vesey

      Oh, I’m confident Psalm One and Dessa could dismantle any member of Odd Future if they wanted to (or, for that matter, anyone on either side of the game). As for my comment on their “sparse” production style, I’m not sure how you don’t think I find it complex. Sparse doesn’t mean uncomplicated here. I argue that to be one of the group’s most compelling attributes.

      • ekeog

        It’s not like you can compare Odd Future to Doomtree and shit like that anyways. Dessa’s a poet and an a cappella singer and a music teacher, OF is full of 18-20 year old skaters saying rude things to make each other laugh – their contexts and styles and artistic goals are completely different.

        Also, I don’t think this has been addressed in other comments, but what makes you think Syd is so responsible for the beats? I think her initial, crucial role was to have the place and gear for them to record with, and since then she’s done engineering and production on almost every song, but that doesn’t necessarily extend to creative control.

        Tyler and Left Brain have done a pretty big majority of the OF beats, so while Syd’s role seems to be expanding (she apparently did more work with beats on Goblin than earlier albums), I think you might be overstating her responsibility for the sparse, specific sound they have. That’s definitely the style of Tyler’s beats as well as Left Brain’s, even if they’re all different. Then again, with this group it’s really difficult to resolve exactly who did what on a lot of their things.

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  14. me

    “For another, isn’t it insulting to assume the economic recession and Odd Future have anything to do with one another? Doesn’t the assumption that urban-based youth of color are always associated with socioeconomic collapse seem . . . racist?”

    i have not heard any other commentator say anything that connected odd future to the economic crisis. Aren’t you the only one making that assumption, but masking it so it is not attributed to you?

    • Alyx Vesey

      Sure, I’ll admit I probably crutched too hard on what I’ve heard and overheard at shows and what I’ve seen proliferate in the comments section of several Odd Future YouTube clips. That’s the extent to attribution there beyond reading into how much critics play up their L.A. roots, where they felt alienated from whatever scenes were around them and thus made their own. I’m not entirely sure how I’m masking attribution for a belief I don’t happen to have. If anything, I’m probably anticipating some of racial problematics around fandom from predominantly white critics, as Cord Jefferson explores in a recent article for the Root. However, even if these critics haven’t made those connections explicit in print, I wouldn’t be surprised if they believe it to be true or have had arguments with one another about it. I’ve overheard this line of reasoning too often while standing in line during SXSW to think that only white festival goers believe in it.

      Also, to play the other side, some folks think they’re potty-mouthed suburban kids (for evidence, check this comment thread). I won’t ascribe to this opinion either because I don’t actually know them or their socioeconomic backgrounds. I know that Earl’s mom sent him away because of her concern over the group’s content and I know that Tyler dropped out of film school, but I have no sense of how this positions them in terms of class and thus won’t make any claims.

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  16. isaweasel

    Thank you for the insightful post.

    Before reading it, I had a perfunctory opinion of Odd Future as an good rap act with fantastic beats and I certainly could not have imagined anyone would be offering such thoroughly mindless, intellectually masturbatory analyses of their music (I am speaking of whoever thought that Odd Future was employing “rape motifs” in their lyrics or that those lyrics somehow exemplified anything about the current economic situation, not Alyx herself). It just goes to show that you can bullshit your way out of anything when you have a liberal arts degree. At this point, I feel the need to note the following:

    1. Allusions to rape, murder, necrophilia, cannibalism and torture are nothing new in either rap or other musical genres. We’ve even given names to these sub-genres in hip hop, death rap, and in heavy metal, death metal. I don’t recall either Necro or Cannibal Corpse receiving anywhere near this amount of attention for using the same themes in their lyrics. Notably, one is a Jewish guy from New York and the others, five white guys from Florida.

    2. I was pretty young in the 1990s but from what I read on Wikipedia, hip hop artists came under a lot of scrutiny for lyrics depicting gang life in large metropolitan cities. Some rappers were even put on FBI watch lists because of lyrics calling for the murder of police officers, can you believe it?! When Cop Killer came out, all anyone could talk about was how the fate of music was doomed and that society as a whole was on the brink of collapse because a couple of guys were (probably justifiably) pissed off a cops and depicted their murderous fantasies on tape. Talk of rape is new to the Top 40 and Grammy set, they are intrigued and shocked for the time being. But, if the same trend occurs with death rap as with gangster rap, in a few years, all rappers will have the obligatory rape song on new releases about how they raped that bitch good this one time. By then, Odd Future will be a bunch of has-been 30-somethings with regular jobs, steady income from royalty checks and/or drug addictions.

    3. Much like Odd Future is the kid turning his eyelids inside-out, we are the other kids watching him do it, getting grossed out and periodically asking him to do that trick he did again ’cause it’s soooo gross. And then we wonder why he keeps doing it.

    4. The mainstream (and even hipsters who supposedly are years ahead on what’s what whatever what is what) tend to become uppity, overly analytical or fanatical about ideas, people or movements they believe to be groundbreaking, and even though they most certainly are not by the mere fact that everyone is talking about them. Perhaps Odd Future offers up the same old crap in a shiny new package, and sometimes that’s all you need.

    5. Please believe me, I swear I’m not trying to play the race card but it just looks a lot to me like middle- and upper- class white people dissecting what a bunch of young African-American males are doing just to be sure they aren’t a real threat.

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  18. safetravels

    tl;dr: “I think I was supposed to be shocked and offended but frankly I was too bored to make it through more than a handful of songs.”

    Well there you go, right?

    Why is it that so many people just don’t get it? Why constantly judge artists as people and not as artists? Why do people think that some things they perceive as shocking are solely intended to be shocking?

    tyler explains it best here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OoZNENl0Cg&feature=player_embedded

    White film makers or death metal artists don’t get all this scrutiny for including the same themes that earlwolf do (notice the distinction, so many people judge OF on the basis of earlwolf, yet rape material crops up in only 3 of the 11 or so OFWGKTA releases)

    My opinion, and that clearly of odd future, is that people have got it right with those film makers and death metalers, not with their shocked approach to earlwolf. Get over yourself. Being offended by something is not a valuable, meaningful or significant reaction in any way. It’s about time people realised that art and morality are completely separate beings.

    Putting on a persona (in tylers case, that of a serial killer from the 80’s he explains in the video) and not giving a fuck is what it’s all about. None of your moral concerns matter. They have repeatedly said that they don’t just make music for the shock value, and if that’s all you’re seeing then you should listen to more than a handful of their tracks.

    You’re welcome to not like it though. If you don’t like it on the grounds that some topics are untouchable and rape should never be a part of anything then enjoy your taboos. Personally I think that the sooner people realise that taboos are useless and almost anything is effective in the right measures, the better. And 3 albums that contain it out of 11 is pretty measured if you ask me. Don’t act like Bastard is about rape and not about his father though.

    ah you know what, fuck it. just watch the goddam video.

    • Alyx Vesey

      For someone who dismissed my entry as “tl:dr,” you have a lot of opinions about the essay you think I wrote. Frankly, I don’t understand how anyone can write a comment to a post s/he admit s/he didn’t read, especially when some of his/her criticisms are addressed in the body of the essay. It suggests an arrogance I don’t possess (made evident by your allowance that I’m welcome to not like Odd Future–how benevolent of you!). I at least like to read a piece in full at least once before commenting. To review.

      1. I’m not judging the Odd Future crew as people. I don’t know them personally. I’m only judging them as artists because all I have to go on is their music and the mediated representation of themselves that they give to the press (which, as with all celebrities, we’re free to chink away at). I don’t actually believe they’re doing the things they narrativize in song. However, I don’t think those narratives are strong unto themselves. I think there’s evident talent, but nothing that’s especially exciting or new or interesting about them. I especially don’t think there’s anything subversive about what they’re doing. I gather that they’re not just doing this for shock value, and make allowances for such intentions in the body of the piece. However, I’m not clear what they are trying to accomplish and have yet to be sold on the “artistic merit” of work that, at my most lenient, merely indicates potential. Also, they’re not above courting controversy and exploiting white fascination while pretending to shrug it off to acquire mainstream status. I’m curious about what they’ll do with it, based on their Funny or Die sketch.

      1A. You, however, do seem to be judging Tyler as a person by invoking the specter of his father. You’re right to bring that up, but don’t say that I’m judging them as people and then pathologize Tyler. Also, I hope we don’t go down a “he writes about raping and murdering women because his father bailed on him” road. If female artists with abandonment issues wrote songs about castrating rapists and murdering anti-choice vigilantes, there’s an incredibly slim change that they’d get a magazine cover or MTV rotation. If they captured any attention, they would be branded crazy, get an avalanche of blog vitriol, and have their ownership of feminism be attributed to daddy issues.

      1B. This gestures toward your point about untouchable topics. I don’t think any topic is untouchable. You would know this if you read the post or any other post on this blog. I have no use for censorship and don’t think Odd Future should be silenced. I especially don’t think talking about rape and murder are untouchable topics, particularly because when they happen to women, girls, and/or queer people, they are ignored, boorishly rationalized, or turned into stupid punch lines. Kara Walker using cutouts or collaborating with Dan Bejar to address the historical subjugation of black women and girls? Let’s smear some shit on the walls. But I’m not sure what or if this is holding a mirror up to anything. And just as they have the right to put their music out there, I have the right to puzzle my way through this and offer a critique.

      1C. Also, I’m horrified that we live in a world where rape doesn’t appear to be a taboo, but calling out a rape culture or a rapist culture is. It’s fucked up that we can validate rape jokes and vaunt tired-ass rape narratives as edgy and in the service of reflecting a higher societal truth, but do very little to stop rape as a societal ill. If Odd Future wants to get into that, then they’ll be subversive.

      2. “Only 3 of the 11 releases” aside (which, in my estimation, is still plenty–as a tangent, how ’bout that Jet Age release, huh? Pretty unremarkable, not unlike Kajagoogoo), I know they don’t just rap about rape. I mention this in the body of the post, pointing out that songs about rape has overshadowed the remainder of their content. And as Tyler mentions in the interview, I don’t expect him to continue covering the same kind of content in a few years time. I’d imagine we’ll get a lot of stuff about fame from him and perhaps rape will continue to emerge as a “motif” in a different fashion. Frankly, I’d be more interested if he dropped some Kafka shit on us.

      2A. By the way, since Tyler invokes Tarantino in the interview, I’ll come clean and say that I see the value in what he does as well (and like the second half of Death Proof and some of Kill Bill), but am not a big fan. Inglorious Basterds was one of the stupidest movies I’ve seen in recent memory, stunted by the lazy decision to kill off the heroine. I also have icky feelings about the director’s hands on Diane Kruger’s neck in the strangulation scene. Tyler’s also a big Kubrick fan and while I think England went way too far when they banned A Clockwork Orange, as I said in the body of the post, I think Tyler is in a position where he should think about absorbing the message of the movie and think about how playing with ultraviolence in front of a gaggle of adoring fans really means.

      2B. This gets to your point about how white filmmakers or death metal artists are allowed to cover this territory without scrutiny. This is totally an unfair double standard and I completely agree. It’s embedded in the post, but not addressed directly. (I’ll extend this argument to include black metal since Laina Dawes wrote a great piece about the ramifications of anti-Semetic, homophobic, church burner Varg Vikernes gracing the cover of Decibel following his release from prison).

      3. I’m not offended by Odd Future. I’m bored by them. I find this whole hype machine boring. I take offense to how easily it has equivocated on the issues Odd Future bring up, though I think we’re starting to see some interesting commentary matriculate. I never said I was shocked or offended by the group. I said that I think I was supposed to be shocked and offended, but I’m too bored. You even quote this to prove that I’ve only listened to a handful of songs and thus don’t really know this group as well as you do. So please don’t make projections when it’s in post. To repeat: I believe this group has some talent and unsettling ideas to present and capitalize on, but I don’t think they’re doing anything truly subversive or interesting with it yet, despite plaudits to the contrary.

      • LL

        Just a couple of points: ‘Clockwork Orange’ wasn’t banned in England, Kubrick personally withdrew it from distribution due to what he perceived as the hysterical media reaction in the country.

        You keep saying you are simply ‘bored’ by Odd Future, yet have written a lengthy piece about them and keep responding to posts here. This doesn’t seem to indicate boredom at all.

        I think a good debate about the morality in Tyler and Earl’s lyrical content is worthy, and even think you make some good points yourself. However, as you seem too eager to use this debate as a means of completely disregarding the entire group’s worth or musical status, I think you are conflating two issues. I wonder if you are a fan of rap music at all, and certainly my own tastes seems quite at odds with the examples you make. As such, I wonder if you should separate your understandable problems with some of Tyler and Earl’s lyrics with your disinterest in the music as a whole. Because as a rap fan of some many years I think I am not alone in welcoming the group as a musical force first of all, and Tyler himself as a totally captivating and singular new talent, both as a producer and MC. Some have put this all down to race, and perhaps race is a factor, but really I think the main reason that the likes of Necro etc received such scant attention in comparison was that their music was ultimately ignorable, whereas Tyler’s is totally the opposite.

        To cut it short, by all means debate these songs and these lyrics, I have had the debate in my own head and with others many times. But you seem to be having the debate as if Tyler and his friends would not be enjoying the hype and success if he and Earl hadn’t made some rape-fantasy songs. Certainly, you imply that the group are otherwise ‘boring’ or unremarkable, although having some potential – most of which you attribute to the presence of the lone female Syd, proving you also don’t know what the term ‘engineer’ means – she records the songs, she doesn’t make them. All of which is pretty insulting to someone like myself who is quite capable of recognizing and appreciating a fairly significant departure point in rap music, whilst simultaneously being able to accept that their are issues in some of the lyrics which are difficult to justify.

      • Alyx Vesey

        On Kubrick’s withdrawal, fair enough. I misspoke. However, it wasn’t just that he perceived there to be a hysterical reaction to it in England. There was a hysterical reaction to it in England.

        Also, yes I like hip hop. In addition to writing about hip hop artists from time to time here, I’m an editor and contributor at Scratched Vinyl, a hip hop zine. I’m choosy, but yes I like hip hop. I don’t understand why me not liking Odd Future would suggest that I don’t like hip hop. Surely you’re not suggesting that one collective stands in for the entirety of one genre, especially since hip hop is an umbrella for multiple subgenres and crosses essentially all international borders. Furthermore, I’ll stand by my invocation of the word “boredom.” I’m bored with the moral panic associated with this group, their cynical open courtship of said moral panic, and that many people breathlessly defend the group as transgressive when a lot of this is the same old regressive bullshit (some of which is ingrained into hip hop’s race/gender/sexual politics). All of this has only escalated since I wrote this last February, though it’s starting to die out (just like after people had their fun writing about Lady Gaga). I wrote a long piece on them because I think there’s a lot to talk about and a lot of complex issues with Odd Future. Also, I was addressing reception practices and fan culture related to Odd Future, which I find troubling and takes effort to unpack. And I continue to respond to posts because 1) some good points are made and 2) some terrible arguments against feminism are made, and I think they deserve responses.

        Also, you may think I overemphasize the significance of Syd’s contributions and attribute what I like about the group on the basis of gender. However, I think you’re minimizing her contributions to the group, which Tyler and others seem quick to defend. She does help build the beats. She does collaborate with other members. She is a vital participant. In addition to being an engineer, she is also a deejay, so her presence in live performances is important and potentially destabilizes how we (myself included) read the group’s politics. In point of fact, I brought her up at the end of the piece to challenge my initial impressions of the group because I just assumed this was a boys’ club. However, I also don’t think she’s the only person with talent. I note that they’re, as a group, marketing wizards and single out certain members who I think are talented emcees and in the comments section make allowance for the fact that Tyler’s a promising producer and video director.

        As to your point about how you assume that I speculate that the group wouldn’t be getting so much hype if they hadn’t made some rape-fantasy songs, I think that’s true and it’s really fucking sad. But eventually the hype will die down and we’ll see what we really have here.

      • LL

        The Stanley Kubrick point is somewhat pedantic on my part, but just to continue that theme, I will say that it was his perception which caused him to choose to withdraw the film, whether or not his perception was justified in reality is neither here nor there – the point I was making was that it was entirely Kubrick’s own will which saw the film being removed from exhibition in the UK.

        “Also, you may think I overemphasize the significance of Syd’s contributions and attribute what I like about the group on the basis of gender. However, I think you’re minimizing her contributions to the group, which Tyler seems quick to defend. She does help build the beats. She does collaborate with other members. She is a vital participant.”

        Actually I haven’t made any quantitative statement on Syd’s contribution, I only pointed out that her main role is engineer, and thus she isn’t mainly responsible for the group’s musical feel as you had described. Agreed, she is obviously an important participant, and not least these days a most handy symbolic tool for deflecting some of the misogyny critique – although personally I think these issues are far too complex for the prominent presence of a lesbian amongst the OF ranks to have much bearing. But I didn’t ever say otherwise. It is in itself interesting to a lot of people that Syd is a member, but only it seems to people who take a very literal minded and outrage-driven reaction to Earl and Tyler’s lyrics. (I will continually refer to these two as the culprits, as many have noted the vast majority of the groups output has zero ‘rape content’ and it is really a lazy generalisation to associate the group (a collective of individual artists after all) with these kinds of subjects.

        “As to your point about how you assume that I speculate that the group wouldn’t be getting so much hype if they hadn’t made some rape-fantasy songs, I think that’s true and it’s really fucking sad. But eventually the hype will die down and we’ll see what we really have here.”

        Well, let me reiterate that I think this is both false and also belittling too many people who have been following the group since before the hype and to those in general who enjoy and see value in their music quite aside from this one issue. After being put onto their low-budget DIY, giveaway material early last year I was personally shocked by the rate with which the group’s profile subsequently rose but I think that to attribute all of that to the fact that their are some unpleasant and numerous references to rape in the lyrics of two of the artists’ lyrics is myopic in the extreme, or else a strong case of only seeing what you (don’t) want to see. Because on the contrary, I feel there is much which is remarkable about Odd Future: here is a group of very young kids, obviously on the margins of mainstream rap, most likely on the fringes of any kind of mainstream youth culture full stop, taking matters entirely into their own hands – making their own music, seemingly for each other, offering it up online to be downloaded for free to anyone anywhere in the world who might be interested. By the time I got to checking them out, it already seemed that they had developed their own entire aesthetic universe in their corner of the world and internet, a world which was at the same time enticing, confusing, bewildering, ugly – at times simply awful – and musically often very pretty all at once. And they were still all teenagers. One had to be impressed by the sheer individualistic energy and verve of the whole thing, if nothing else.

        And without doubt, the main voice of all this was Tyler’s. Granted, Earl might be the more precociously talented emcee but to date Tyler is the only member of the group to contribute a truly ground-breaking record, which is ‘Bastard’. Listening to ‘Bastard’ for the first time, I found it pretty stunning to be honest, and certainly Tyler emerges as a uniquely compelling artist, both in terms of his production and his lyricism. Yes, there is a strand of somewhat contrived immaturity to his lyrics, but there is also much maturity in his overall approach and there is often painfully unabashed honesty which is often invisible in rap music. This was the work of an 18 year old, for god’s sake. To say that it isn’t an impressive feat is to fail to pay attention properly! So yes, I think that the hype – which I personally view from a detached standpoint – can be justified by much more than a peverse fixation on the more extreme lyrics in some of the output. The group have managed to engineer a record deal with one of the majors completely on their own terms and have done so because they basically proved that the record company needed them more than the other way around. Again, this alone is a pretty remarkable achievement and may yet have serious repercussions on how the traditional music industry operates in the future.

        So that’s my main point. By all means, let’s discuss the specifics of the rape lyrics. But please let’s not conflate that one issue with the success of the group as a whole, and attempt to equate the two directly. Because here is one listener who found these particular lyrics and songs incredibly difficult to digest and yet still found much to celebrate in the group’s output, and also quickly recognized the raw and rampant talent of Tyler himself. Because otherwise you are insinuating that all the group are good for are some easily condemnable hype-driven shock tactics lyrics which you find at once boring and worthy of a long and detailed blog post!

  19. ZeSpec

    IDing them as such seems both irrelevant and relativist.

    What’s the difference between a relativist identification and an absolutist one?

    • Alyx Vesey

      I’m not sure what you mean. Are you saying that I think all hipsters are the same (i.e., all hipsters like Odd Future)? If that’s the case, I don’t. In general, I’m not a fan of absolutions or essentialisms. I don’t think all hipsters are alike or all count themselves Odd Future fans (the kneejerk anti-hipster punchline would be that Odd Future is so last year, right?). What I was getting at was that identifying certain people as hipsters is slippery. I do recognize that I’m generalizing, if not outright stereotyping, some iteration of the Pitchfork hipster, which is itself a construct. Frankly, I’ve yet to see or figure out how to differentiate between hipsters and hipster culture, since who I might ID as the former tends not to identify with the latter. I’ve encountered that problem myself with how others view me. I don’t think I’m a hipster, but I know I engage with music that has prompted other people to consider me a hipster (hence my use of the term relativism). But while we can’t talk about hipsters as a homogenic entity, we can talk about norms and conventions of hipster culture, which often echo some of the embedded misoygny, sexism, and racism of previous iterations of youth culture. I think the embrace of Odd Future by this group (which we might identify as predominantly white and male, but not exclusively) is troublesome. I also think the agreed-upon or assumed role that white men tend to define and shape hipster culture is troubling. I’d imagine there are other folks, whether they identify as hipsters or not, who would agree.

      To challenge this position, I wrote a post some months back about Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox and queer hipster identity as a form of heteronormative resistance. It might be interesting to read alongside this piece.

      • ZeSpec

        I was asking a literal question because I didn’t understand what you wrote. I don’t understand how an identity can be more or less “relativist”.

  20. mride

    Sorry I know this post is a coupla months old (but I thought I’d throw my opinion out there anyway).

    Well Tyler appeals to hipsters because HE IS a hipster.

    I mean hipster in the international sense of being a social-climbing, self-regarding/myth-creating, fashion-affecting frivolity. Don’t think class or colour really define them, more their misguided sense of superiority over their peers and drive fueled by a vague urge to be recognised as “better”. Being from Los Angeles, he does this by blurring the lines regarding his class origins in various ways (skater) and masking his lack of real interest/personality (other than his own self-promotion) behind mindless “controversial and free-form” lyrics. Other giveaways are his slightly effete speaking style and affected use of the word “Nigga” ad nauseum. All of his music and attitude that I’ve seen seem like the juvenile and vacuous spewings of a fame/recognition-obsessed, disenfranchised-and-angry-about-it nerd.

    Can’t speak about the rest of them being hipsters, since personalities like his tend to surround themselves with people who tick boxes their persona cannot.

    As for his music? Just Kool Keith. While Keith obviously has/had hipster tendencies, he can’t compare with the younger, safer, prettier, classier, media-savvy kid who does Kool Keith-lite. Everyone listened to Kool Keith in the 90s and the mainstream said “Wow, that’s mental, but what does it matter compared to actually being nice music?”; they should say about Tyler “Wow, that’s been done and it does not matter. Go become a photographer/actor/heavy metaller to get attention.” While most successful musicians have his driven personality type, you get the sense with Tyler that he doesn’t really even like his own music; he just does what will get him noticed and give him that kick from being considered different/better/cool.

    I hope this doesn’t just come off as a hateful diatribe, I’m sorry as I did not intend it to be. It just occurred to me that the “popularity” of (hype around) this kid seems like the zenith of the hipster-meets-hiphop clusterf**k: over-promoted middle class black American skater fulfils all our dreams of how edgy and different hip-hop could be- and he’s legit cos he talks about crazy stuff, swears and says the n-word!(After Kanye proved himself to be a moron). I feel sorry for him because he’s only young and I don’t think the success he craves (and “bitches” he claims to want) will bring him any satisfaction.

    Sorry for all the dashes and slashes in this post too. Great blog.

    • Alyx Vesey

      No apologies need be made, mride. Smart stuff like this is what I hope comes from any post of mine. I especially appreciate that you bring Tyler’s own hipster status to bear on the group’s burgeoning success.

    • Alyx Vesey

      In fairness, I didn’t compare the two to one another. I was actually talking about hipsters’ adoption of Odd Future. I meet the endorsement with incredulity, as I did with the hipster adoption of Doom. Yeah, I kind of dug at Doom, who I personally find boring as an emcee. But I wasn’t comparing Odd Future to MF Doom. It would seem silly to do so–one is a collective, the other is a solo artist. We could get into some vague territory about idiosyncratic rhyme schemes or off-kilter production values, but ho hum. Instead, I was mentioning my skepticism toward hipster appraisal, particularly from people who have their token “underground/fringe/left-of-mainstream” hip hop artist they go to after tastemaker blogs and sites crown them. Am I speculating? Sure. But again, I wasn’t trying to compare artists. I was noting taste formations among hipsters who dip into hip hop from time to time.

      • Alyx Vesey

        If anything, I was getting at how comparing Odd Future to this hip hop artist or that hip hop artist is lazy and potentially informed by embedded racism. In doing so, I may not have provided context. I didn’t get into the ongoing history between hip hop and misogyny. Frankly, I assumed that my readers would have a working knowledge of it going into the piece. Plus, this post was already quite long.

  21. Pingback: A post about Sara Quin’s post about Tyler the Creator « Fun Games
  22. Pablo Guevara

    Excellent. EXCELLENT post. I found this article by googling Sid from Odd Future. I am glad you wrote this. Although I am a fan of the group, it’s great to hear another perspective. I never really took their stories about rape that serious, but I know a couple of women that have undergone the traumatic experience of a rape and this article made me think of how they must feel when they hear this stuff.

    But with that said, I also feel music is similar to movies with their different genres. You have party (movies like Animal House), action (Heat), etc… Odd Future would be categorized under scary movies. It’s just sick stories with dope beats. The reason Necro and others didnt succeed is because honestly they were boring to listen to. You can have dope stories but if your flow, your voice, and your beat is boring, then youre not gonna reach a lot of people.

    More than anything, I love what Odd Future represents. They are young and have a rebellious attitude. Elitist blogs like Nahright and 2dopeboyz have become the new MTV. They tell people what Hip Hop music is cool and what’s not. They don’t post new dope shit. And if they post new shit, it’s this weed smoking/ too cool for school artist that I really do not like. THey gave those blogs a big fuck you and said we’re gonna do this on our own. I am happy a band finally did this. Hip Hop is soft as fuck right now and this music gave it that youthful boost of energy, which I appreciate because Ive been hearing Hip Hop all my life (I can listen to Dr. Dre to Immortal Technique to Nas to Waka Flocka.) And their shows are fun as hell. Never have I been to a Hip Hop show were there’s mosh pits and crowd surfing. Granted rock shows have been doing this for year, but Odd FUture adding this punk element to a live HIp Hop show is dope. They added something dope to Hip Hop, a genre of music that I love. And I am really grateful for that.

    Thanks again for this post. It got people to talk.

  23. JBriggs

    This is a really great piece that I’ve recommended it to a bunch of people sick of the tone of moral panic surrounding Odd Future at the moment. I wish everyone who applauded Sara from Tegan and Sara’s ‘brave’ post (which was not only badly argued, misinformed and anti-intellectual to the point where it actually undermined any valid points she was making, but racist in a way that most of the other comments dealing with this band have thankfully managed to avoid) had read this brilliant analysis instead.

    • Alyx Vesey

      Well, I don’t want to pit my post against Sara’s. In general, I don’t like to pit ladies against each other and I include myself in that number. I think Sara made some good points, particularly about the group’s appalling ovations of misogyny and homophobia (which I’m believe extends to Tyler’s tweet about how he’s happy to offer his hard dick to Tegan and Sara–such “jocular” baiting abides by the homophobic idea that lesbians really just need a dick in them). As a musician who’s evenly remotely successful, taking that kind of stand is kind of brave. We shouldn’t get carried away by how brave, because clearly Tegan and Sara have a fan base that would support these actions. But sadly, it is pretty bold for artists to draw those kinds of lines in the sand.

      However, I really wish she’d put their music, politics (which are actually far more conservative and reactionary than they are radical), and cultural moment in context. She didn’t seem willing to put their contributions to hip hop into the genre’s larger history of misogyny and homophobia. Perhaps getting to your point, this plays into racist representations of black men as scary, immoral figures. (Note: I think there’s something to Tyler identifying with monsters in relation to how society views black men, even if I don’t think he’s grown past destructive, regressive antics). She also isolates Odd Future, which ramps up the moral panic by making their moment exceptional (see also: NWA, the Sex Pistols, Wanda Jackson, the Plasmatics, Body Count, Marilyn Manson, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Tupac, Cannibal Corpse, Judas Priest, Nine Inch Nails . . . ).

      I was also surprised that she didn’t talk about Syd at all. I don’t assume lesbian artists are going to support one another unequivocally, but obscuring her contributions altogether conveniently simplifies her argument. To me, that’s sexist. I can only hope that she just didn’t know about Syd. I hope she does now. I didn’t offer much room to unpack her role in my piece, but I absolutely know we cannot obscure it.

      In sum, thanks very much for reading and recommending my piece, JBriggs. I’ve gotten a lot of traction out of it alongside many other essays on this group, who I think are capturing a moment but haven’t done anything truly challenging or subversive with it yet. But rather than reading my piece over Sara’s, I hope we can put them in dialogue with one another.

      • JBriggs

        I wouldn’t want to put them in competition with each other and I did like the point that she was making about feeling that the lyrical problems she has with the music and what she perceives as the harmful nature of those lyrics within wider society overwhelming any artistic contributions that they make. That’s a reasonable position to take. But my appreciation of that point just furthered my annoyance when she sadly then undermined it with the rest of her article. I think the racism to it was in claiming that people weren’t criticising them (when clearly they are, the fact that Tyler spends the opening and closing tracks of the album discussing these criticisms should really disprove that) and then saying that people aren’t criticising them because Odd Future are black, which is the same sort of false logic that argues against affirmative action with claims that “Black people have it easy these days” when you’re talking to your black friend who can’t get a job. I’ve read a lot of criticisms of them and none of them I’ve read have taken that particular tone. She’s basically doing the “I’m not racist but…” thing, which always makes the thing you’re trying to say sound a lot more racist.

        I think the moral panic it most reminds me of is the backlash to the Brass Eye Paedophile special in the UK, which itself was a hilarious satire on the nature of moral panics. There’s a certain irony in attacking something which itself attacks the follies of mindlessly attacking something.

        What most got to me most about the Sara Quin piece was she weakened her own valid argument by refusing to engage with the possibilities that there was another perspective on the issue, to the extent that she implied that women, gay people and indeed any human being who might not feel the same was not as good at being a woman, gay person or human being as she was. It’s that sort of divisive “This is the real America!” rhetoric and it was just a really anti-intellectual position to take in my opinion. It’s like when she asks “Why should I care about this music or its “brilliance” when the message is so repulsive and irresponsible?”, you can easily respond “Why should I care about this message or its ‘bravery’ when the argument is so racist and anti-intellectual?” You should still care about the message and I do, but they’re making it hard for me to do so, just as Tyler’s lyrical obsessions and stark beats make it hard for people to get into his music. The difference is I don’t think Tegan and Sara know that they’re making it harder for some people to get the positive and interesting message they’re trying to put across.

        I wrote about my own feelings toward Odd Future here: http://somedaysthethundergetsyou.blogspot.com/2011/05/odd-future-wolf-gang-kill-them-all.html

        I also wrote a much longer and more convoluted response trying to dissect and explain my problems with the lazy-thinking and faulty logic behind Tegan and Sara’s piece (and Tyler’s response to it). I wouldn’t recommend reading that one though. It drove me pretty nuts writing it.

  24. Aj

    First of all that’s all ya’ll hear is the negativity in their shit…ya’ll not actually listening! It’s a big fuckin difference between hearing and listening. Ya’ll hearing they words but not listening to what the fuck they’re actually talkin about. Pay fuckin attention before u go tryin to knock their music and call them “childish” and shit. They’re tellin real life story’s and talkin about real shit. Bout time we have a group of young artists that talk about “real” shit other than how much fuckin money they have and how many bitches they fucked and wtf their jewelry and cars look like! C’mon man…open your fuckin mind and you’ll understand!

  25. Aj

    ITS ART! They’re music is artistic expression and they use metaphors in almost every line! Omg pay attention people! But whatever, not many understand artistic expression. I’m down for ofwgkta forever because I can actually relate to them, they’re real…absolutely no bullshit “industry” act from them at all. Now they’re fuckin “based”! They don’t have to lie about their lives…they don’t give a fuck, they’re gonna say the real and whoever doesn’t like it…OH WELL! They’re gonna be big, just watch. and I’m also a female producer myself (not big) but I produce pretty much all males and im a proud lesbian and I feel like the shit my artists say doesn’t offend me at all because its music….once again, ART!

  26. Panda

    Great write-up. I see your points, and am not here to discredit nor disprove any of your opinions or claims. I’m only here to speak my mind from an Odd Future fans standpoint.

    As far as musically, they’re amazing. It’s not every day that you have a large GROUP of young kids with so many different interests on and off screen (youtube). Their videos are funny, and full of irony and metaphors. Very smart for their age. They understand pop culture and how the youth of today are so impressional, like sheep in the herd and they are the wolves. No pun intended.

    Lyrically, the group as a whole can rap! I think critics don’t give OF enough credit there. They always talk about shock value and content but FORGET about the metaphors and song structure. Tyler is really good at storytelling because you never know what’s next. Earl is even better lyrically, dipping in and out of metaphors with each line and his aliteration skills are impressive for a 17 year old! I’ve been writing raps since I was 14 and no where near his talent, even now at 24.

    Tyler, Earl, and sometimes Hodgy are the only ones who rap semi-Horrorcore-ish, but not entirely. The shock value is in no way an excuse for their lyrics, but people with common sense should understand that it is just music. Sadly, once you hit the mainstream it’s fair game.

    They are rapping for the young kids, the skaters, the punks, the hardcore hip-hop fans with no voice. Being edgy, and outlandish and harsh is what’s popular right now. And with everything they do going viral, with Twitter and Tumblr they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The late adapters are hopping on the bandwagon and it’s only going to get worse from here on out. On the bright side, Tyler has stated numerous times that at this point in his life his raps reflect his interests at the time being. In the future it will change, we’ll just have to hold him to that and watch what happens.

  27. Panda

    Also meant to add in that although I think it’s not fair for them to be criticized so harshly, I think that ultimately it’s the groups responsibility to realize that they have an obligation to keep the fans in mind. Some listeners might in reality not be stable, maybe even crazy. It’s up to them to be careful with what they say as legitimate mainstream musicians. It’s okay to be the way they are, as long as their not ignorant to the power of persuasion.

  28. apaperbackwriter

    I just wanted to comment to say how much I love this post and how lucky I am that I stumbled across this blog while googling “Syd the Kyd”! I’m RSSing this shit!

    I consider myself an almost-fan of OFWGKTA. I’m a feminist who enjoys swagging out to their shit, but I can’t swag out to their shit without trouble. I don’t find it unlistenable, mostly because I try not to listen too hard to the lyrics. I’m used to this, of course, because I see/hear rape culture everywhere, certainly in their music.

    But I’ve felt all this anxiety welling up in me in the back-and-forth about this group. I can’t get on board and defend their lyrics as “just” art or brilliance or suburban teenagehood. I also can’t get on board with some of the criticisms that seem to come from a very stodgy place that takes me back to the 1990s culture wars. Or, worse, it comes from a white liberals who fear black monsters and are positioning these guys as the exception rather than the rule.

    I want to swag out to their music. I want to call them on their misogynist/homophobic shit. But I want to call out their critics, too, who would seek to make these guys the exception rather than the rule in a culture that is misogynist, homophobic and very much approves of rape.

    Most of all, I’d love it if OFWGKTA would get educated and switch teams. Don’t they see they’re really batting on the same team as reactionary-as-revolutionary Family Guy? I’m not optimistic. I just have a feeling that they’ll rise to fame on a hype wave, buoyed by pearl-clutching Middle America. Yeck.

    It all makes me dizzy, but your post grapples with all this elegantly.

    • Alyx Vesey

      Hey, apaperbackwriter! I replied to your super-smart Alicia Keys comment and am working in reverse. I really liked your comment to that post and to this one. I especially like the way you work through irresolution reconciling your politics and fandom. I don’t have tidy answers (it makes me dizzy too), but I can certainly relate and appreciate your words.

  29. Pingback: Odd Future in a World that Allows Rape - Matthew T Grant
  30. Gubz

    i like a variety of music
    i like odd future, a lot of the hype is justified
    their subject matter is profane etc but i’m not bothered by it only because i listen to it in private or with people who are smart or stable enough to enjoy or reject it without trying to get in my face with it
    i’m not saying i have superior taste or any such thing I’m just saying i dig it
    i think i’ve been desensitised slightly by the times i live in so i can scate over the uglyness of their thought process and just enjoy what i like, dope beats & lyrics
    I also think people like Alyx Vesey with their “yawns” and “sighs” are overly sensitised u get me?
    what i mean is when u’re type is over something or past something or above something or have seen and heard it all, u tend to get really sleepy when u’re asked to assess or review things that are meant to affect u in this way but don’t
    u’re so above it u can’t enjoy it anymore but you feel like u should give the impression that u would dig it if it was slightly different, better, interesting, deeper….
    this is fair enuff, to each his/her own right?
    i’m something of a hypocrite because i think some of the stuff they joke about rank amongst the worst & most disgusting crimes a person can commit still, i enjoy odd future because they choose to inhabit the mind space of these dark vile types the same way de niro will play a killer or eli roth will make sure we see the sickle pierce someones flesh with full sound effect, bone crunch & sadistic smile in place as its splashed and then drenched in blood
    art is art
    either its for you or it isn’t
    exploitation isn’t art unless u’re art is exploitation
    the comparisons to Marshall, Wu etc happen because we just can’t allow a new thing to be fresh it has to be someone’s baby
    Rap’s been stagnant on and off for a while, I find Odd Future, Tyler & Earl(increadible kid) etc refreshing among one or two other acts out there in any genre.
    In this internet age we get access to these developmental mixed tapes in a way we never did in years gone by.
    Goblin would probably have been the 1st thing poeple would’ve heard but we’re lucky to hear them honing their skills and developing their style as it happens
    Alyx, as a kid when none is around to raise or reprimand u, u get away with so much more mischief, theft, drugs, sex, liquor, profanity, lack of manners. I remember as a boy my friends and i would fanatise about Halle, Tyra, Janet(velvet rope) etc and how we’d love to break into their homes and ravage them. It was a form of one-upmanship, so the next guy would evoke an even more sinister scenario and so on…..it was disgusting but it was harmless why? cos we never spoke this way around anyone but us boys. we were posturing. Mothers, Sisters girlfriends etc never heard juvenile boytalk.
    In this day and age with tweets, blogs, books of faces and all it seems this kinda posing is open forum, “the times they have achanged”
    Now i agree OFWGKMA are quite explicit so the best thing is to turn it off if it bothers u
    it can get foul and pretty stinky so just leave the room or cover your nose
    it’s all love otherwise, peace n love to all the feministas

    • distance88

      So n****r jokes are all gravy as long as there are no black people around?

      Homophobic slurs? Who cares? No gays here!

      Basically, if you want to get away with hate speech and other forms of ignorant-ass bullshit, just call it ‘art’ and it’s all good?

      What a tired fucking argument.

  31. Lawrence Bricher

    I think some of your points here are valid, but I might suggest you go too far in some of what you say. For example, I think Odd Future do go much futher than the shocking lyrics, but I think the shocking lyrics are what sticks out. On Tyler’s “Bastard”, he reveals some deeply introspective lyrics, as well as the last verse on the album version of “Yonkers”, I think show greater maturity than perhaps you credit them with – and I think a more thorough listen to some of their lyrics may prove this

  32. KBiz

    Syd’s role changes nothing in their recurring themes of masogany and homophobia. In a youtube video Syd said her dad asked why she’d want to get involved with a group that talks about slapping bitches. She said she replied, “Dad, all I do is slap bitches.”

  33. Laura H

    Hey! Laura from Sydney Australia here. Thank you this post! As a pseudo-feminist myself, it’s always a bit difficult for me in my situation. I love Odd Future-went to their concert last Tuesday- but I have always struggled with the things Tyler says. The first time Tyler ever appealed to me (you asked for a fan’s perspective) was when I heard “Yonkers” about 8 months ago. The unapologetic swearing and clever Bruno Mars reference, the “dirty” beat (I’m a fan of dubstep, so it was similar to what I look for in songs) was all so exciting. It was crude, but it was the unapolegic nature of Tyler-the clear threats of violence and the disturbing references. Now, however, I find my favorite song to be “VCR”-it sounds incredible-his voice goes perfectly with the beat-but I can’t help feel a little guilty, loving it. Then I consider that I feel guilty being a fan of theirs at all. So, I suppose, from my point of view-the appeal was genuinely a consideration that they are “Game Changers”, like family guy were, as they poke fun at political correctness, but the more one considers that they find it amusing, the less one wants to consider that the thing entertaining them could hurt another. As a victim of rape by a man I had never met before on a train, I suddeny found myself thinking over that situation and imagining if it were someone (such as the man who did it to me) less alluring than Tyler saying what he says. In conclusion, as a fan (and someone who could’ve potentially been hurt by his lyrics), I have to say that the allure is the package. The beats have allowed me to distance myself from the messages-I ignore them, they don’t seem “genuine” or “real”-just “performance”. End rant.

    • BrotherColossus

      Thats the idea, it’s not supposed to seem real. Some people think they’re devil worshipers too. Yes Tyler the devil worshiper in his knee high socks and shorts with a skateboard. Its an act, an alter ego. You get the msg from odd future correctly, it’s ….i’d say pretend time for adults. There shouldn’t be any guilt associated. Now if you find that his lyrics show his real views or are somehow supposed to make people commit these acts….diff story. Great analysis

  34. crazylilsonagun

    all of you shut the fuck up if odd future was a bunch of whiteys then every thing would be just fine. and if you actually research the group and there reasons behind their music you would understand a lot better. some of the stuff they rap about is shit that happens on a daily basis but as soon as it comes from the mouth of a black man its an issue

    • Alyx Vesey

      Speaking for myself–both in the post and in the comments I authored–I would absolutely have a problem with Odd Future’s content if they were white, as I have had problems with white artists who write/perform similar content and gin up similar controversies.

  35. Mike

    Interesting read, with some common complaints about OF’s music. I read one of your comments asking for an explanation of why their shocking content is so admirable or likable in the eyes of an OF fan. I’m not sure you you have received an adequate answer yet, so I’ll just supply my own reasoning.

    Rape, murder, sex, and everything that OF talks about are not foreign subjects in the Hip-Hop and Rap genres. Lets face it they are talked about in many rap songs. OF just enhances the subject matters to stand out. So are they “fresh” to me because of their subject matter? Not really.

    What I appreciate about OF is that they are trying to show people that rap isn’t fucking fact. For so many years most rap fans believed everything their favorite rappers said. All the murder and drugs, everything they said they did in songs they must have done! I remember seeing all the hardcore rap fans back in grade school trying to act gangster because they thought their favorite rappers where all hard-ass convicts. This is where OF changes it a bit. They exaggerate the subject matter of violence and hate to show that they aren’t being serious. They are acting. I recall an interview with Tyler where he states that he is frustrated that his music gets a back lashing, when movies about the same subject matter depicting visually more disturbing imagery than his music get Oscars and are called “genius and spectacular.”

    Just like in literature, the fine arts, and cinema; music, even rap can tell totally fictional story for any reason. What I get from the music is a bunch of teenagers/young adults playing around with some sort of stereotypical label that some put on young underprivileged people; especially blacks: The drug addict raper low-life. In this respect the names they give them self’s are quite adequate to this role they are acting. ‘Wolf Gang’ ‘Kill them all’ ‘Goblin’. Any logical person understands they are acting because of the absurdity of their lyrics, so in this regard I believe they are successful.

    On the other hand, listen to a typical “Weed Rapper” like Wiz Khalifa and Lil’ Wayne, and its a bit harder to discern what is truth/fiction because of their style and appearance. OF talks about hardcore shit, but skateboards around, wears Supreme merch and acts like immature kids. That’s the change they bring, no BS fronts about who they are; trying to act like some gangster, but rather being so obvious that they are acting its cool.

    Their awesome flow and clever use of rhyming, while putting on the obvious fictional narrative, calls ode to MF DOOM who did the same but was no where near as popular or mainstream as OF is now. My favorite DOOM persona is his “King Geedorah.” He raps from the perspective of the King Geedorah monster from the Godzilla movies. People find his lyrics less offensive as King Geedorah because either they don’t understand his word-play or it has less impact because of the persona he takes on (a non-human fictional character from a movie).

    In reality OF is doing the same but gets more impact because people can relate to it easier since they are acting as humans that commit violent acts on other humans, just like what unfortunately happens in real life. Therefore it offends people that can not cope with the fact that it is a work of fiction perhaps due to first hand experience with the subject matter (i.e. Rape or murder). So those topics are hard to listen to.

    That’s just why I appreciate them. I don’t consider my self some “true OF fan” that goes to their concerts, yells out ‘swag’ like a dumbass, and feels all warm inside for feeling like a rebel. I just enjoy their attempt at bringing obvious fiction into the rap genre, something it has needed for a while.

    I know the above is disjointed and a sort of ramble, but hopefully you got something out of it and it isn’t too confusing.

    • Alyx Vesey

      Mike, you make some interesting points. Many of the topics OF address are as old as hip hop itself, but the group is different because they aren’t tethered to notions of authenticity the way many rappers have and continue to be. I also totally agree with your point that they’re most likely playing with stereotypes assigned to underprivileged people, and hint at this possibility in the post and address it more directly in the comments. Interesting connection to Doom as well.

  36. BrotherColossus

    I read the article and the first comment and If you actually listen to tylers interviews He says it like this: he enjoys saying the sick stuff, the things that creep into ppls minds he does it because it’s what he always did. In an interview he said he just likes to defy people he acknowledges that it was bad but thats the point. In one of his songs he says he didn’t make odd future to “Wear suits and make good decisions.” His music is not about trying to be evil or devil worship it’s supposed to be about the things in life ppl don’t talk about. The things that spark this disgust are things like rape and homophobia and all the worst things you could think about. His music is almost an expression of the thought “Why not”. Why not piss people off, why not spout evil opinions even if he doesn’t agree with them. Check his interview it comes through pretty clear here

    “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OoZNENl0Cg” Watch this for the short version

    He wants to get as much as he can from the public without changing anything, he’s going to expose himself as he is, a goof, a nerd, a skater, a troubled person and if he mellowed out his lyrics…it wouldn’t really be the same would it? If you can’t get over the evil words in his rap you’re not closed minded or up tight or anything. In that video he compares his songs to Quentin Tarantino’s movies….need i saw more. Quentin’s Movies are Messed Up! But people flock to them every time because It’s an experience few offer. In the end if you don’t like his music then it wasn’t meant for you if you do then it was….it’s as simple as that. He likes it…that’s why he makes it.

    Please, I know i wrote this fast, spelling and punctuation suck but just look over that.

  37. Ricky Dunham

    I once heard a statement made at a show by the singer of a band, which I’ll leave unnamed so the blame can fall on me, he said “I wish girls would never come to our shows, girls don’t even like music”; obviously that’s a narrow minded statement however, you personify that statement. You’re bored? Really? But not so bored that you can’t write a long and boring discourse on the subject, huh? Chock full of LSAT vocabulary more than likely in an attempt to justify, and overcompensate for, how you feel, which I believe, for all you might say, is just your feminist defense to being offended by rape references in their music. That assumption also supported by the fact that the only positive reference is given to the one girl, who makes juvenile and imbalanced beats, and of the group is certainly not the lone bright spot. You’re an elitist with no reason to be, as most girls who play at being involved in music are. Do yourself a favor, go listen to “Earl” over and over until you realize that despite your offense/boredom over the lyrics, that no matter how many times you could put pen to paper you could never write that, nor anything even close to on par with it lyrically no matter what feminist geek turd shit you chose to write about. You’re a self titled feminist who just wants to sound smarter than a man and put a group of them down when you can, but you’re bashing a group of teenage boys, what a victory. Not to mention that these teenage boys and girl are certainly better at and more successful at their craft than you are at yours. Anyone can make a blog, get a dictionary, and make their shit talking seem justified and intelligent, but beneath the postulating and vocabulary, it’s still just talking shit. Girls like you are what keeps chauvinism alive when the world should be beyond it. You create and perpetuate your own oppression. You deserve to have to struggle to gain even a measure of equality in a “man’s world”, if only because you have to put down teenage children to lift yourself up. You and
    Hillary Clinton can eat shit together, best of luck trying to beat men at a game that doesn’t exist – the sexist inequalities in the music and entertainment industries. Oprah is evidence enough of that.

    • Alyx Vesey

      Hahahahahahaha, Oprah built an empire. Sexism vanquished. Racism too. Quit yr bitching. And of course I’m talking shit. And I’m still totally bored, but would like to know who the singer of this band is, though I probably don’t listen to their chauvinist bullshit anyway.

      Also, while it’s true that anyone can build a blog (maybe you have one too?) I never took the LSAT and no dictionaries were used in the crafting of this post.

      • Ricky Dunham

        It was Brandon Schieppati of Bleeding Through, and I’m sure you wouldn’t like it, they are a straight edge asshole metal band, I don’t even like what they’re about, almost an antithesis to my own drunken beliefs, I just think they are all talented musicians and can appreciate them as such, plus I thought the statement was funny. But I don’t give a shit about them as people or what they stand for.

  38. Ricky Dunham

    Oh also I forgot to mention, the mantle of “next big thing” isn’t yours to award. Nor mine, but then I didn’t assume the right.

    • Alyx Vesey

      Um, I didn’t award Odd Future the mantle of “next big thing.” The tidal wave of press that predated and followed my rant did.

      • Ricky Dunham

        Of course you didn’t take the LSAT, otherwise you probably wouldn’t spend your time on a blog responding to my drivel, it was just a shorter way for me to say I agreed with a previous comment in that I thought your use of complex language and rhetoric seemed forced and unnecessary. And no you didn’t award them the mantle of “next big thing”, however in your original post you did note that you weren’t ready to, as though it were yours to give.

        Also, I didn’t accuse you of using a dictionary I was just making the point that anyone could, while at the same time certainly not just anyone could write some rap songs and become successful, that actually takes talent. Music being “good” or not is purely relative to the listener, and obviously you’re not the target demographic if in fact they have one, one of the final lines in one of their songs says “but fuck it, no ones gonna listen to this shit

      • Ricky Dunham

        Ugh fucking iPhone,

        Continued……”but fuck it, no ones gonna listen to this shit anyway”

        Although I do have to commend you on one thing, if talking shit pays the bills I don’t know what I’m doing at work all day. So while I do not have a blog of my own, if that’s a legitimately profitable career path then maybe I should start one. I’m obviously opinionated enough, but on mine instead of putting down celebrities, musicians, political figures etc….the way every blog seems to just negatively criticize, I’ll write mine about other bloggers that I think are bullshit, starting with you :). Thing is, once I do, if I’m even minutely successful, then I’ve made you worthwhile in being the motivation behind my own endeavor. Might be worth it though cause it’s not like you’re going anywhere anyway and if there’s a pie to be had I may as well have a slice. Maybe past your emnity for odd future, you’re actually a nice person who knows. Either way, point being, if you can make a living talking shit then I like that and applaud it, kinda makes you the same as odd future though in that sense, just a different medium, and I like that irony too.

  39. Justin

    This is about as stupid and off of an assessment that I’ve seen. This is very much a “hipster” blog article though its clear you’re a meta-hipster because you’re so hipster you don’t want to be known as a hipster but if you should fall in to that category then who cares because labels are for the mainstream. Hipsters don’t like OFWGKTA. They might like a couple songs but that’s all. Some of us do find rape funny. Raping nuns even funnier. You know what makes it so funny? Posts like this and generally the feeling people like you have about it. Its not the end of the world when somebody is raped. It seems these days rape is worse than murder. In reality rape is just somebody who forces sex on you. You live, and in the end its not that bad. Psychological damage? I’m sure there is a good bit of it. Would I compare rape with the psychological damage of say… being amputated against my will? Fuck no. Its just not that big of a deal. Odd Future comes from a society very different than you do. The Ghetto’s of LA are pretty serious business, despite what you may see on TV these days. People get stabbed and raped and killed and its not news for long. You want to know why OFWGKTA is popular and rising? This is to bling bling rap what Nirvana was to hair bands. Its going to come in and destroy it. It’s realer – despite the odd fantasy aspects of it – than anything you see on MTV these days. The way you just completely dismiss the connection of OFWGKTA to the current state of our nation is also stupid. These kids were brought up in war time. They have grown up within the recession. This is not some passing phase for them yet. There are no better times to look back on. This is what they know. It is relevant to the society they grew up in and live in. If you actually listened too it instead of skimming a couple songs you might know what has everybody buzzing. Also – it helps if you actually like hip hop. There’s no flo-rida or black eyed peas faggotry here. OFWGKTA is bringing raw hip hop back. Thats what everybody likes. Be offended. People like you are supposed to be offended.

    I’ll be surprised if this makes it to post. Also – I won’t be back. I bet you enjoy the hits you get from Google from this group you dismissed.

    • Alyx Vesey

      “Its [sic] not the end of the world when someone is raped”?!?!? Fuck. You. Justin. I’m pretty sure that the folks who’ve actually lived through rape (or died because of it, either by suicide or murder) thought it was the end of their damn worlds. You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. You also didn’t actually read this post, or you would have gotten the embedded counterreading of the group’s (heightened, but possibly true) racial and class positioning. Bully that you get to make shallow comparisons to Nirvana and opine about the state of L.A. Ghetto’s [sic] and launch into typo-laden missives from the safety of your bedroom/office space/library/wherever at some feminist stranger. Furthermore, doesn’t your suggestion that Odd Future “is bringing raw hip hop back” an indication that you’re not listening to much hip hop? And actually, no, I don’t enjoy the hits I’m getting from Google off this post. At. All. For one, it means lots of casual lurkers aren’t combing my archives and instead focusing on some rant I dashed off one day at work that doesn’t represent my larger interests. For another, it means I’ve had at least one of you offend me daily with your poorly written, noxious diatribes since late February, all while adding nothing to the debate. Matter of fact, I’m officially closing this thread because I’m exhausted by running defense against misogynist creeps when I actually wanted to engage in a civil discussion (and did, in some cases–mainly with people who don’t stupidly drop hateful malapropisms like “faggotry” and know that rape is more than “just” forced sex). If this is what “getting visibility” means, I want no part of it. Like any good meta-hipster, I’ll keep it underground and very far away from hate trolls like you.

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