Before I actually get into my review of, The OF Tape Vol. 2 it is important to understand what exactly the “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All” is. What started as a group of friends from Los Angeles trying their hand at beat-making and rapping soon turned into a full-fledged collective of alternative hip-hop artists. In 2011, Odd Future Records was formed, giving these very young artists full creative control over the albums they release independently, collaboratively, and collectively .
The group does not carry themselves as a “crew,” but rather as a sort of family. Their love for each other is reflected through their lyrics and their interviews. Consider Tyler The Creator’s line in the finale track, “Oldie.” He proclaims, “OF, shit that’s all I got. From my bigger brother Frankie to my little brother Tac (Taco). From that father figure Clancy to that skatey nigga, Naks.” Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt are actual life long best friends, while Syd The Kyd and Taco are actually brother and sister. They are just a group of youths who depend on each other emotionally and creatively. I think that many people can relate to Odd Future’s dynamic in the same way they feel towards their group of best friends. Now just create a record label with your friends and then you too can be as dope as Odd Future. Let’s meet the gang!
Name: Tyler Okonma
Stage Name: Tyler The Creator
Position: The Leader
Tyler The Creator had an affinity for music production way before he was ever reading at the 5th grade level. At the age of seven, Tyler would create his own album covers for imaginary albums. He taught himself piano at age 12 and began rapping at age 15. Despite his youth, Tyler has proven his talent in rapping, directing, graphic artistry, fashion designing, and even acting. In 2011 Tyler received a MTV Video Music Award for his song, “Yonkers,” off of his second studio album, Goblin. Tyler prides himself in not indulging in drugs and alcohol as a means of having fun or exploring his creativity. After all, Tyler is enough of a ridiculous character as it is. He doesn’t need any help.
Name: Gerard Damien Long
Stage name: Hodgy Beats
Position: The Original Gangsta
Hodgy Beats is the main rapper and half of the hip hop duo, MellowHype. His appearance is that of a classic “gangsta,” and his lyrics reflect the stereotypical thug culture that various rappers try to promote in their music. For example, the hook of the song “50” off of the album (which features his group, MellowHype) contains the lyrics, “Sock a buster in his jaw. Fuck the police, break the law. Twist your fingers up, grip your balls. If you ain’t got heart you ain’t got shit at all.” Take it as a parody if you will, or take it as a legitimate call to anarchy. Personally, I think the former.
Name: Vyron Dalyan Turner
Stage Name: Left Brain
Position: The Producer
Left Brain is the main producer and the other half of the duo, “MellowHype.” He produces all of the albums released under Odd Future’s record label. He has also been known to have a bit of a temper. Controversy has sprung up over his radical behavior after he slapped a photographer in the face at a festival in New Orleans. He also hit an intoxicated audience member while performing at a Skater of the Year party, who claimed that Left Brain “Doesn’t actually skate.” I mean, I don’t necessarily agree with his actions, but in his defense — that comment was pretty rude.
Name: Thebe Kgositsile
Stage Name: Earl Sweatshirt
Position: The Child Prodigy
Although the youngest, Earl is one of the more talented rappers in the group. His verses are well crafted and quite clever. I accredit his flow to the fact that he is able to enunciate every single word despite the speed and difficulty of his lyrics. Earl was just recently released from a behavioral program in Samoa, focused on rehabilitating troubled youths. While Earl was gone (for over a year) Odd Future promoted a “Free Earl” campaign. Much dispute came up over why Earl’s mother decided to send him away, with many ignorant fans accusing her of not wanting her son to become famous. Earl discredited these claims and assured everyone that he really did need some help. “I was fucking up,” Earl confessed during an interview. Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 marks Earl’s official return to the group. His departure and return is mentioned consistently throughout the album. In the finale, “Oldie,” Earl proclaims, “And Me. I just spent a year Ferrisin’ and lost a little sanity to show you what hysterics is. Spit ’til the lips meet the bottom of a barrel, so that sterile piss flow remind these niggas what embarrassed is.” These lyrics do a great job of highlighting Earl’s self awareness (which is something I think that many artist’s lack these days.) Also, he does this while referencing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which is nothing short of amazing.
Name: Dominique Cole
Stage Name: Domo Genesis
Position: The Pot Head
This young man is unapologetic about his use of cannabis. Through Domo’s lyrics, it is evident that he has a great understanding of the workings of the English language, and yet, he chooses to mostly rap about weed. In the opening verse to the track, “Sam (Is Dead)” Domo discusses the complexities of growing older. Domo says, “All the problems come with my growing age. Blowin’ haze. Trying to clear the doubt that’s sitting on my brain. I don’t complain. But the kid inside me’s feeling so retrained.” Through this quote Domo is advocating the use of marijuana as a therapeutic tool. A great deal of his independent work, including his solo album, “Rolling Papers” is accredited as “weed rap.” Although many artists’ could potentially be offended by such a simplification of their work, Domo doesn’t seem to mind it. I think that his acceptance of his position as a “stoner rapper” plays a lot into his down-to-earth nature. Clearly, Domo is not pretentious about his music and is happy to just rap about what he knows and understands. On Feb. 22, 2012 it was announced that a new strain of medical marijuana called “Domo OG” was released in honor of him. Hint-Hint to anyone studying in LA next semester.
Name: Mike Griffin
Stage Name: Mike G
Position: The New Kid
Mike G is one of the newer members of Odd Future. After joining the group in 2009, Mike released the mixtape, Ali. Reviewers praised Mike for his “laid back flow.” Mike’s self assurance is evident through his lyrics and his style. He takes on this “in-your-face” attitude while remaining cool and collected. On the track “Forrest Green” Mike smoothly proclaims, “But fuck that bullshit, I’m just tryna get rich with my middle finger up screaming swag me out bitch. Black kids on the corner selling drugs, go figure.” These lyrics indicate that Mike G is comfortable in telling it like it is. He is not going to hold back his feelings and is perfectly happy to give someone deserving of the finger, the finger.
Name: Christopher Francis Ocean
Stage Name: Frank Ocean
Position: The Eye and Ear Candy.
At 24 years old, Frank Ocean stands as the oldest member of Odd Future. Although Frank also raps, it’s his heavenly R&B vocals that truly secure his position in the group and make him stand out from the rest. He adds a definitive sex appeal to Odd Future that is only highlighted through the mature nature of his lyrics. An example of this can be seen in his song, “White,” which is the only straight-up R&B song on the album. Frank sings, “I woke up, you were there, tracing planets on my forehead. But I forget 23, like I forget 17. And I forget my first love, like you forget a daydream.” While the other members of OF rap about “fucking bitches and getting head” Frank actually sings about the concept of love. Such an idea can only properly be written about through an understanding of it. Such an understanding comes from experience, of which he clearly has had.
Name: Sydney Bennett
Stage Name: Syd Tha Kyd
Position: The DJ
As Odd Future’s DJ, Syd Tha Kid does not ever actually rap on any of the tracks. She is a masterful DJ with a talent for creating and mixing smooth beats and samples. The energy and flow of Odd Future’s raps is founded by her music. Most of their records were recorded in Syd and Taco’s childhood home, in a studio that she built for herself in the basement. Syd is the shyest member of OF and hardly appears in videos or interviews. However, in the few brief interviews that she does give, she is open to talk about her homosexuality. Critics are curious as to why Syd is willing to work with Tyler The Creator, as many of his lyrics are misogynistic and homophobic. She is clearly not one to be offended by the silly jokes her friends make. “But over the years, I’ve come across so many dyke singers, dyke rappers, people with real heart and passion, and it’s a shame that not one of them has made it,” Syd said in a recent interview. “And I get it — the world is just now starting to become open about homosexuality. I can’t really say I’ve contributed to that, and I’m grateful to the people who have set a path for me to be who I am today.” I think this quote best emphasizes Syd’s attitude toward her sexuality and about homosexuality in the media.
Name: Travis Bennett
Stage Name: Taco
Position: The Photographer (He’s more like that annoying little brother that you have to let play too, or in this case, produce an album.)
What is there to really say about Taco? He’s Syd’s kid brother and one of Tyler and Earl’s oldest friends. Taco doesn’t take himself seriously and doesn’t expect you to either. He can’t rap and hardly ever tries to. I don’t honestly believe that he can solve that Rubix cube.
Name: Davon Wilson
Stage Name: Jasper Dolphin
Position: The Wordsmith (Not really. He’s pretty terrible at rapping, but everyone loves Jasper.)
Jasper tries to rap but is fully aware of the fact that he sucks at it. Much like Taco, Jasper is mostly there to fuck around with his cool rapper friends. Both Taco and Jasper star alongside Tyler The Creator on their Jackass style show Loiter Squad on Adult Swim. A lot of the humor revolves around Jasper and Taco thinking that they are funny — they kind of are in a pathetic sort of way. Jasper just wants to have a good time. Plus, he loves dolphins.
Now that we know who’s who of the crew, let’s get down to the actual review.
I think that to truly appreciate OF Tape. Vol 2 it is important to see each member as a different character and understand the workings of each respective character. Similar to how Larry David serves as an exaggerated version of himself in the show, Curb Your Enthusiasm these young men also act as over the top parodies of themselves throughout the album.
In the opening verse to the song, “Analog 2”, Tyler The Creator owns up to this act when he says, “Bitches think I’m crazy but I’m normal. I just come off as a psycho maniac when I’m performing. That’s an act so I won’t bore you to death cause I adore you…” In this romantic song about a summer fling that Tyler is having with a girl at summer camp, Tyler claims that his insanity is all an act, but then he proceeds to talk like a crazy person. “It’s summer camp Golf Wang where the talking trees are.” While Tyler’s delusional nature comes out subtly through his verses, the hauntingly erotic tone of the song is influenced by the passionate voice of Frank Ocean and his suggestive lyrics. “If You meet me by the pier, bring the peer, we can ménage. Ooh, your girlfriend Nicki got that back I like to message.” Tyler and Frank highlight the variations of their extreme personalities through the differences in the subject matter of their lyrics. Frank sings about having ménage à trios with Nikki Minaj, while Tyler raps about “snowcones and poptarts.”
“Analog 2” is a perfect example of how the dynamics between these characters helps to establish the album as a chronicle of ideas and experiences shared among a tight nit group of friends that have fallen into the music industry. Each song allows these different musicians to spread their inner most feelings and attitudes with the public through the exaggerated nature of their characters.
Overall, this album provides a way for these rap stars to mock the rapper lifestyle by sarcastically promoting materialism, misogyny, violence, and crime.
The production value of this album is quite good, which is very notable seeing as it is all self-produced (atta boy Left Brain.) However, Syd Tha Kyd shines as the true MVP with her consistently impressive samples and beats that set a haunting, cool, and oftentimes beautiful quality throughout the entire album.
There are certain tracks that are just damn annoying (“We Got Bitches” and “Real Bitch”), but that’s mostly because they feature Taco and Jasper. My personal favorite songs on this album are “NY (Ned Flanders),” “Ya Know,” “Forest Green,” “50,” and “Oldie.” While OF Tape. Vol. 2” may not be for everyone; with the blatant obnoxiousness that occasionally ruins the flow of the album, any fan of rap should definitely give it a chance. In a way, Odd Future is like a unicorn. They don’t expect or care if people understand them or can relate to them, but they are in fact, real — and they are also magical.