To see the evolution of rap music in action, look no further than Odd Future. The young and effusive collective from Los Angeles is true D.I.Y., version 2.0, hip-hop for the kids.
The traveling circus that is, to use its full name, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, settled into The Republik last Saturday night, and fans were treated to a dizzying night of versifying and general tomfoolery.
While Tyler, the Creator, and Earl Sweatshirt are the lead attractions of OFWGKTA, the rest of the bunch — Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis, Mike G, Left Brain and DJ Taco — were given their fair share of the spotlight. (Curiously, the group’s one lone female talent, singer-producer Syd the Kyd, who was traveling with them, chose to sit this one out, letting the boys have their raucous fun. Better to check out the project she shares with Matt Martians called The Internet.)
Saturday’s show included a generous portion of stuff from both Odd Future and solo projects from each of the guys.
After some warmup by DJ Taco and a rather unfocused opening (including Hodgy coming on stage doing cartwheels), the guys got down to business. What usually has a little more subtlety and atmosphere in the studio is bumped up several levels in terms of energy in a live setting. Idiosyncratic, stream-of-consciousness spits like Earl’s “Blade,” and an inspired verse “Who that, oh, that new coon John Cusack/A Mecca button-up, shoutin’ bring Fubu back/Hands full of coke, mouthful of crack mu-zak/Odd Future on the doo-rag, guess who’s back,” take on the feel of a street battle.
While some moments of the show had a spontaneous feel to it — Tyler and Earl asking if guys in the audience were suffering from “dick sweat” like they were onstage and Domo leading a brief chant of a new verse that went “hot soup in my motherfuckin’ bowl” — there was a definite flow that was given some forethought, particularly in the middle when things slowed down a bit to bring some seriousness and drama. In particular, Domo intoned his mad love for weed in “Me and My Bitch” and Tyler’s rapping his nakedly heartbroken verses of “IFHY.”
What made the show so intriguing was that there was so much extemporaneous back-and-forth between the guys that it all seemed to be on the verge of collapsing under too much creative talent. But they pushed on, letting their thoughts and feelings fly over a rhythmic base that was sometimes skittered across the synapses and sometimes floor-shaking bass bumps.
In comparison to the more black-centic Public Enemy and Wu-Tang Clan, Odd Future is a lot more free-wheeling and solipsistic in nature, more attuned, than any group, to skate punks raised on the unfiltered Internet. No wonder that, at its appearance at the opening of the new in4mation hip-hop clothing store earlier that day, the fans that had lined up since 5 a.m. were basically middle and high school kids. They instinctively understand the absurd playfulness of the group’s merchandise line, whether it’s the initials “OF” styled as pink-frosted doughnuts or the phrase “Golf Wang” printed on T-shirts (take “Wolf Gang” and change up the first letters of the two words).
Hugely entertaining, it’ll be curious to see where these guys will be years from now.