If you’ve heard someone say “Free Earl” recently, then you’re at least vaguely familiar with OFWGKTA — Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, or Odd Future, for short — a loose collective of hip-hop artists that are all barely out of high school. The Internet buzz has created a mythical amount of fame for a group that has yet to really scratch the surface, though hipster rap fans and indie music bloggers all claim to love them. I just don’t get it (yet), personally.
NYMag recently asked if frontman Tyler The Creator was a musical visionary, or just an obnoxious teenager with a record contract? I listened to his first major release, Goblin, and it’s this insanely dark collection of violent characters imagined by Tyler. On one track he’s a vampire who likes “bitches who suck d**k and wash dishes.” On other tracks he’s paradoxically violent and anti-violent at the same time. He claims he’s not a homophobe, but he’ll drop gay slurs without hesitation. He has necrophiliac serial killer fantasies and will tell anyone to go f**k themselves. (But he might not mean it. He’s either just spewing what any other angry adolescent male would in his situation, or he’s creating mystery on a Bob Dylan scale.)
The music, meanwhile, is an unclassifiable mix of dreamy electro, jazz, 60’s acid trips, and trip hop – there’s nothing you can dance to, though I do quite enjoy the track “Yonkers.” The rest is… interesting, and unique. But is it good? It might be. But I don’t like it, and I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe I don’t have patience for fictional songs when Tyler and his motley crew’s real story seems like it would be more interesting. Maybe the hype just isn’t meeting their product — yet. I definitely see a lot of potential, though.
As for the group? Odd Future, who loves to incite audiences, may already be getting exactly what they want. They canceled a Detroit show recently because fans were throwing beer bottles at them, and they started a “near riot” on Boston’s Newbury Street that led to this embarrassing report by Fox News in Boston:
Earl The Sweatshirt, by the way, is the man everyone wants to free. He’s not in jail. Part of Odd Future’s myth (or it could be real – who knows?) is that Earl is one of their amazingly talented members who can’t release any music because his mother has him under house arrest in Samoa. When Earl turns 18, he’ll potentially be allowed to leave and start recording again — until then, “Free Earl” has become synonymous with anger and calls for violence against Earl’s mother.
Oh, and in an interesting new development, Tegan and Sara started a beef with Tyler The Creator when they wrote a lengthy complaint on their website: “Why should I care about this music or its ‘brilliance’ when the message is so repulsive and irresponsible?… When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry? When will they be treated with the same seriousness as racist and anti-Semitic offenses?”
Tyler’s response on Twitter? “If Tegan And Sara Need Some Hard D**k, Hit Me Up!”
If you like Odd Future and Tyler The Creator, please explain to me why. Until then, I’m just going to hope that they grow up quickly and start letting the music speak for itself. Good music will always speak for itself and, so far, all I’m hearing is a bunch of angry kids making noise.