I like Odd Future / Tyler etc. as rappers and enjoy listening to their songs! But I think the “they are so subversive!” thing a lot of their fans claim is kinda dubious. I wrote this trying to explain their appeal without falling prey to the breathlessness that usually accompanies writing about Odd Future, when writers take the group’s claims at face value. It’s an attempt, anyway! Here’s an excerpt:
Someone once said a very smart thing about Eminem: By painting himself as controversial on his very first single, before anyone actually knew who he was enough to be offended by him, he interjected himself into the pop mainstream while simultaneously objecting to it. Odd Future do a similar thing here; the logo on Tyler the Creator’s sweatshirt is the same one that Lady Gaga wore on a t-shirt in a recent photoshoot. There’s a lot going on in that gesture, intentional or not: Supreme is a skatewear brand and so arguably it makes more sense for teenage rappers to be wearing it than Gaga, and of course they were also wearing ski masks with upside-down crosses scribbled into them, so there’s that. It all makes sense, though, if you think of Odd Future as Lady Gaga for straight dudes. Part of their appeal is their ability to shock (or create the impression that they should be shocking, anyway) by being outrageous without it seeming overly deliberate. It’s almost a unified aesthetic of outrageousness! And that’s appealing—it lets fans feel like they are in on something special without actually driving anyone away who might otherwise be a fan.
“Lady Gaga for straight dudes” is going to be totally right for a lot of people with only Fallon as their entree to OFWGKTA, but that’s really, really oversimplifying what and who they are. I didn’t mind /b/-boys as much as some did.
“Gaga for straight dudes” made me laugh, and isn’t inaccurate, but /b/-boys pretty much gets to the heart of why I can’t get with them. It’s one of those weird situations where I don’t dislike them at all and quite enjoy some of their music (esp. by Earl), but nowhere near enough to rave about them or rep for them because fundamentally 12-year-old boys trying out shock tactics is a fucking boring aesthetic and I’ve always disliked that type of kid anyway. So seeing this RIDICULOUS HYPE is making me…dislike them a lot more? Everyone suddenly thinking they have to have an opinion because they got some press release from XL (IRL LOL at that, OFWGKTAXL is so obvious really)? Hell0, music journalists, stop depending on PRs to tell you who to think about.
I said this on Twitter but if we’re talking teenage DIY rap scenes, gimme the jerk kids any time: just as raw, just as witty, actually look like they know how to have fun (no, being gross and making r**e jokes ≠ fun). Or Angel Haze, who I haven’t talked about on Tumblr yet cuz I’ve been busy but who is an ACTUAL GENIUS? Download her mixtape and tell me it’s not, like, taking bits of what Odd Future and Lil B do but doing it ten thousand times better and adding so much more to it.
Also I guess it’s still true that adolescent male energy that sounds like it doesn’t take many showers will ALWAYS get the critic-hype more than adolescent female energy that gets its hair and nails did. Please do better, everyone.
I really dont want to be long winded about this, so I’ll try my best. Near the end of last year when BET did that highly laughable ”Best Rappers of the Decade” list, the lil’ high yella youngin’ inserted the idea that if Eminem was Black, no one would give a fuck. He was really alluding to the under-spoken belief in barber shop circles, that if a Black dude rapped about what Em rapped about, it would get laughed at or ignored, cause simply he’d be “one of dem weird niggaz”. Well, OFWGKTA (Tyler in particular) who in many ways mirror Em content wise, have turned on this notion on its head. OF are part of two converging cultural phenomena: one, the increasingly popular and higly problematic identity and ideological concept of post-race America AND “the colonization of rap” from the suburbs, middle class, and college educated. In simpler terms the White kids like and do what was once considered Black shit, and the Black kids do and like what was once considered White shit.
Odd Future’s audience, seems to be highly diverse (in regards to race and class) and young, so it makes sense that devil worship, rape talk, swastikas, and curses piled on top of curses would be “shocking to them”. It is also honestly why i gave the first run of albums Bastard to MellowHype passes, because the content is “age appropiate”. In the hyper-masculine, patriarchal and hetero-normative social realm of youth life. Which one of use didn’t say “faggots are disgusting, i’ll rape a bitch, yada yada yada” during our teens years. Luckily some of us learn beyond the miseducation and grow out of it.
No doubt, some of their lyrics are undefensible, but it leads to my point, that in a way coincides, but contrast with the previous statements. Odd Future also has a strong contigent of “old head” supporters. Heads like myself who grew up in that second “golden era” of 90s rap that valued lyrical ability/content, banging beats and personality. Beyond all the analysis people are starting to apply to artist like Odd Future, Danny Brown, Lil’ B, and Das Rascist, what’s happening with OF in particular is that they have a charisma and fuck you attitude (no matter if calculated) that is an intangible and distinguishes them other new croppers like U-N-I, Pac Div and Terrence Martin. The latter, while highly skilled, some have argued are rather bland in the personality department. Add OF’s penchant for phat drums, lo-fi and at times sloppy recording/mixing aesthetic, a listener finds an urgency and presence that has been lost in rap music. Too many rappers either droppin’ boides and pushing weight or saving the world became blase.The wrongly amended “shock rap” tag to OF, plays a nice roll to those with a passive engagment with their music, but it also masks the introspective and highly playful rap of OF that mirrors Pharcyde and The Gravediggaz more than Eminem, Esham and 90s-early Cage. Shit if don’t like OFWGKTA, I understand. Alex Macpherson alludes to some valid reason why, but to just lazily diss it as “Gaga for straight dudes” and pretentious alt-culture, is not really accurate IMO