Last year, a group of Los Angeles teen rappers shocked the hip-hop world and music industry with their dark lyrics and anti-establishment attitude. With a shock value resembling that of Eminem’s Slim Shady LP, experiencing Odd Future felt like watching a car crash; you’re slightly repulsed, but at the same time, you can’t turn away. The group consists of Tyler, The Creator; Hodgy Beats; Earl Sweatshirt; Domo Gensis; Mike G; Frank Ocean; Left Brain; Syd tha Kyd; and Matt Martians, talented individuals whose loyalty to the group is as impressive as their skill set. After a year of successful individual debuts, including the notable Goblin by leader Tyler, the Creator, the buzz of this alternative hip-hop group died down and many fans questioned how long they would stay relevant.
Before the initial buzz of the group completely died down, they recently released their third collaborative album: The OF Tape Vol. 2 and reminded us that these Wolf Gang hooligans are only getting better.
What immediately surprised me when listening to the album is that each individual in the group appears to have improved his or her craft. MCs Tyler, Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis are featured on a majority of the tracks and trade off verses in a vein similar to Kanye & Jay-Z in Watch The Throne. In “Bitches,” Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats face off head-to-head and immediately showcase their progression by rhyming in a variety of flows. Domo proves that he is no longer the simple stoner rapper he once was by using complex flows and lyrics. While I personally questioned the skill and popularity of Hodgy Beats in the past, he shows throughout the album that his greatest strength is his versatility. When paired with Domo, he’s able to spit puns and flow to the tape’s more laid-back beats. But he’s also not afraid to re-up the shock value when rapping alongside Wolf Haley (another nickname of Tyler, the Creator). Interestingly enough, Tyler, who usually prefers to be the center of attention in the group, is arguably outshined by his subordinates throughout The OF Tape, Vol 2. His sequel to “Analog” (which appeared on Goblin) slows down the tempo and thus dulls the excitement of the original track. However, he still provides his value in the group through his unique style on tracks “NY (Ned Flander),” “P,” and “Hcapd.” Frank Ocean, the R&B star of the group, flexes his vocal skills in his solo track “White” but also reminds us of his loyalty to OF by singing the hooks to “Analog 2” and “Snow White.” Syd The Kyd surprises with her group, The Internet, and not only impresses with her production but lends her vocal cords in “Ya Know.” Each member shines at some point while staying consistent to his or her immature, crude and fun roots.
The album concludes with my favorite track, “Oldie.” A common tactic used by many rap groups; “Oldie” is a ten and a half minute posse cut in which ALL Odd Future artists (including Frankie & Jasper Dolphin) spit a few bars on a simple hip-hop beat about their origins and style. Earl Sweatshirt, the rapping prodigy that was sent away for a year to rehabilitation school, finally returns in time to rap a verse which was tacked onto the end of the track. He starts his verse with a rare triple entendre by remarking that the contrast in his and Jasper’s flows is like a pair of lips (the shades of the top and bottom lips are different, Earl is repeatedly ridiculed for his big lips, and a paralipsis is a rhetoric device of giving emphasis by not explaining it). The rest of the verse reminds listeners why he was compared to Nas at the age of 17.
As a whole, The OF Tape Vol. 2 serves the purpose of shining a light on the group’s individual members. Turns out, they’re still acting like immature teens. While hip-hop critics are waiting for Odd Future to make entertaining music without the need for crude shock value to give them a nod of respect, their third collaborative tape shows they’re not dying out anytime soon.