[29 March 2012]
You probably know Odd Future by now. They’re the L.A.-based hip-hop collective your grandparents would be horrified by if they ever went on the internet. They’re the demon spawn of the Wu-Tang Clan and pre-Encore Eminem, an impossibly talented group of kids in their late teens and early twenties who live by the philosophy of just not giving a fuck. They’re the guys who have been getting all the buzz—winning VMA awards, performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, getting their own television show (Loiter Squad) on Adult Swim, running their own record label—for rapping about dinosaurs, daddy issues, and butt sex, among other gloriously vulgar things. They’re the ones all the gay and female rights activists have been complaining about for their, um, liberal use of language. They’re also a hell of a lot of fun.
And so here we are with The OF Tape Vol. 2, the group’s official follow-up to their debut mixtape, 2008’s The Odd Future Tape. Aesthetically, not too much has changed. OF head honcho Tyler, the Creator and producer/sometimes rapper Left Brain are still showering the majority of these tracks with their signature, fairly simplistic, somewhat lo-fi production, one that mostly consists of the usual twisted synths and sequenced percussion. It’s perhaps the only aspect of Odd Future’s craft that doesn’t aim to offend, the kind that never wows but consistently allows all the group’s warped minds to spit without too much distraction.
And yes, those voices are still very much warped. Check tracks like “Rella”, where Tyler boasts about taking “three pills of Extenzo” to cure his erectile dysfunction in an eerily Eminem-style flow, all over a Left Brain beat that sounds like something out of a Donkey Kong Country level. The pure Waka Flocka Flame parody that is “50” sees Hodgy Beats (who finds himself on ten of the tape’s 18 tracks, the most of any member here) snarl that he’ll “fuck up your homies” and “your grandma”, while “Lean” has him dropping nuggets like “If I was a dinosaur, I’d be a flexasaurus”. None of the OF crew have traded in their weird, trademark vulgarities to become the next Shabazz Palaces, for sure, but that’s just part of what makes them so endearing. When Tyler facetiously talks of things like going to the gun store to shoot down fans who interrupt him while he’s “snacking on his pizza Lunchable” on “P”, it’s a reminder that his crew is still just a group of kids doing their thing, in what they see as good fun. If you’re not on board with them by now, The OF Tape Vol. 2 isn’t going to make any attempt to convert you. They don’t give a fuck, remember?
Things aren’t all obscure references, slurs, and drug talk, though. Nearly every member of the collective makes an appearance on the hour-long tape, which is both good and bad. While it’s nice to hear respects paid to the gorgeously soulful croons of Frank Ocean on “White”, “Snow White”, and “Analog 2” or the N.E.R.D.-esque funk of the Internet on “Ya Know”, their adjacency to the weed rap of Domo Genesis and comedic, Lonely Island-style excursions like “50” or “We Got Bitches” makes The OF Tape Vol. 2 much less focused then it could be. You can’t fault the gang for wanting to let everyone from Mike G to Taco Bennett get their moment in the spotlight, but by doing so we’re left with a tape that distinctly lacks cohesion.
Even still, virtually every member of the group shows marked improvement here. Guys like Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis, and Mike G—typically relegated to the shadows of more celebrated mates Tyler, Frank Ocean, and Earl Sweatshirt—all impress, consistently spitting dizzying, more original lines than they ever have on mixtapes past. After the mixed returns of Goblin, Tyler himself now seems to realize that less is more on his part. He makes sure to let his buddies shine, and wisely tones down the shock-for-shock’s-sake rhymes quite a bit, making his appearances all the more rewarding when they do occur.
By the time the ten-minute closer “Oldie” strolls out, everyone’s had their shot at the mic, including a returning, and absolutely on point, Earl Sweatshirt. The group’s vision for the tape, devil-may-care as it may have been, has been fulfilled, and Tyler gives us one last shout of defiance on behalf of his empire: “So instead of critiquing and bitchin’, bein’ mad as fuck/Just admit, not only are we talented, we’re rad as fuck”. Personally, I think the day these guys put all their talents together into a more unified effort will be the day nobody will doubt their rad-as-fuckness. For now, though, it’s still pretty hard to disagree with him.