Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All
are perhaps the perfect summation of today's contradictory, internet-driven, polarizing age. Take an undeniably talented crew of L.A. skate punks/rappers/producers with unfortunate tendencies for homophobic slurs and truly shocking depictions of violence against women, throw in an internet following that has exploded over the last two years, and you have the formula for the most divisive hip-hop artists of the 2010s. While no one would ever question the value of the works of teenage rap prodigy Earl Sweatshirt or the group's resident R&B master Frank Ocean, as a whole or taken apart on most of their various solo projects, Odd Future has always seemed like a group of young upstarts who were more interested in shock humor and obnoxious antics than being taken seriously as artists. While The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2
may not see the crew completely maturing, it is a remarkably consistent production that mostly features the aspects of Odd Future's repertoire that we want to cheer for, and it only allows their more reprehensible elements to rear their heads on rare occasions.
From the beginning of the album, it is readily apparent that all members of the crew whose names aren't "Tyler, the Creator," have been spending the time since the last (much weaker) Odd Future tape honing their craft. The real star of the album isn't even the group's frontman Tyler but rather the enigmatic and now fully underappreciated Hodgy Beats. Featuring on more songs than anyone else, his flow instantly recalls early 90s NWA. No one on the crew is ever going to have better mic skills than Earl Sweatshirt, but if anyone is going to come close, it's Hodgy. Domo Genesis is especially prominent on the album as well, but rather than being the group's most notorious under-performer, he comes into his own with the laid-back chill stoner response to the intensity of the rest of the crew.
None of this is meant to insult Tyler. His unique, non-sequitur storytelling has been well-known since "Yonkers," but on his solo outings, he's never been able to keep his more aggressive and abrasive tendencies in check. The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2
is easily the best rhymes and productions Tyler's made since "Yonkers." With his lurching flow and distinct queasy beats and oozy production values, the album spends a significant amount of time getting under your skin because of unsettling sonic ambitions rather than brutal sexual violence. The defining aspect of the album is that considering how much each individual performer has improved over these last several years, the album manages to find the perfect economy of usage for its many members and even its non-rappers like Sid and Frank Ocean have a chance to showcase their talents.
With the exception of epic album closer "Oldie" (which features nearly the entire crew on mic along with the return of Earl Sweatshirt for a simply phenomenal verse), the best tracks of the album are the ones that find the crew experimenting the most with their established genre aesthetics. "Analog 2" and "White" are the easy candidates (along with "Oldie") for the album's best tracks, and they both verge into THEESatisfaction-style fusion of avant-garde R&B and hip-hop. "White" is Frank Ocean's lone solo track on the album, and it is perhaps the most beautiful, minimalist thing the man has created yet. "Analog 2" is Tyler, Ocean, and Sid but it too sees the group exploring R&B and dark psychedelia. When the gang decides to push themselves, they can create boundary-shifting material.
Even though I called this Odd Future's most consistent album yet, that wasn't a very high bar to clear, and tracks like "50" and "We Got Bitches" overstay their welcome and then some. Regardless, the future for every single member of Odd Future is incredibly bright. Earl Sweatshirt's late return to the game and re-integration into the gang's live act over these last several weeks is the most promising sign since Frank Ocean joined. We wish the group didn't have to rely so much on shock humor (though it becomes very obvious in this album that they are simply trying to shock and don't actually believe the outrageous things they occasionally say), but when they can lay down a pure hip-hop track as fun and "knock you on your ass" as "Oldie," we'll put up with their shenanigans.