Odd Future Unmasked

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All is the band your parents hate. They’re obnoxious, repulsive, scary. They talk about rape and murder. Their music videos often involve puking and graphic violence.

But it’s all an act.

Odd Future is just a group of teenage  skaters having fun at your expense. They’re disgruntled hip-hop heads expressing their frustration with popular music, spoiled rich kids and political correctness one dismembered body reference at a time.

These guys are punks. But who else has the guts to jump on Jimmy Fallon’s desk and scream in his face during their television debut? Their performance on “Late Night” is exactly what hip-hop needed. In a world where your grandma knows the meaning of “bling-bling” and Ludacris is a household name, it’s time for something fresh. Something exciting.

Tyler the Creator and Hodgy Beats acted as the Odd Future collective’s ambassadors to the mainstream world, performing the song “Sandwitches” with the Roots. By the next day, the Internet was bursting with excited posts praising the performance, with big-hitting blogs like Pitchfork and Gorilla vs. Bear hailing the show as a modern classic.

Watch the three-minute video of the performance and you’ll see an awesome display of raw, youthful energy. Tyler and Hodgy are nothing short of menacing as they stalk the stage, eyes glaring from behind their masks. They look pissed. When these guys say they’re going to cut you up, you believe them. They bring to the stage a sense of anarchical urgency and angst reminiscent of N.W.A., mixed with the campy horrorcore novelty of Gravediggaz and all the grime and filth of Onyx’s delivery.

Tyler’s mic presence is unrivaled. He looks like a veteran MC as he prowls through the smoke machine haze. Part of his greatness comes from his use of the entire stage. In the background is a demonic-looking woman in a hospital gown, but instead of just leaving her as a human prop, Tyler gets in her face and growls his lines, making it that much more intimidating when he rips off his green ski mask and yells, “Screw the mask, I want that girl to know it’s me!”

Hodgy Beats lays down a solid second verse, pulling off his mask and switching up his flow in time with the music. Then all hell breaks loose. Tyler rushes over to terrorize the other guests and shoves the microphone in their faces, screaming “Wolf Gang!” over and over while Hodgy writhes and flails all over the stage, both of them giving seemingly every ounce of energy they could spare. You get the sense the audience is going to rise up and join the performers in a full-on riot.

It certainly helped to have the Roots on board as the backing band. There’s something special about having the iconic figure of ?uestlove visibly nodding his head and pounding out beats through the smoke. And let’s be honest, that tuba killed it.

The performance was a rejection of ring-tone rap and the watered-down hip-pop that pervades modern music. These aren’t the wannabe gangsters or braggadocious pretty-boys that you usually see on MTV or BET. But it’s not just about what they represent for hip-hop.

It’s considered “lame” to form your opinions based off the Blogosphere, but the Internet has an unavoidable, undeniable influence on music culture. The fact that respected taste-forming sites such as Pitchfork and Gorilla vs. Bear devoted coverage to this performance is something special in itself. Odd Future is the answer to everything people hate about hipster culture. They aren’t trying to look cool, they’re trying to freak you out, and maybe teach you something about hip-hop in the process.

There’s nothing new going on here. Odd Future owes a whole lot to the Wu-Tang Clan and a host of hip-hop forefathers. But finally, someone is pushing edgy, controversial and authentic rap music again. Bill O’Reilly is going to despise these guys.

Even if you’re not a fan of the music, you have to respect Odd Future’s devotion to absolute in-your-face insanity. That being said, I don’t really care if people look past the juvenile lyrics at what’s really going on here. Maybe people won’t “get” Odd Future. It doesn’t matter if they ever put out a recording that matches the fevered madness of the Fallon performance (but I hope they do). I’m just glad they exist.

-Joey Rabinowitz

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