Before we begin here, I’d like to note that I love Odd Future. They’re the most daring thing to happen to hip-hop in the last few years, and I think they may constitute hip-hop’s first true DIY success story, as they seem poised to only sign with labels for distribution, as opposed to other Internet dudes–say Wiz Khalifa–who end up at the beck and call of a label’s whims.
What I’ve come here to do is to puncture a hole in the entire Odd Future think piece industry, a thing that has cropped up on the Internet in the last few days in which supposedly smart music critics try–and always, always fail, my above thing included–to encourage the uninitiated to listen to the group. These pieces then talk about how they rap about rape like that is something that has mattered in hip-hop since, oh, 1993. The progenitor of this kind of piece is Zach Baron in the Village Voice, who might as well be the O.G. of this industry.
It seemed like the lengthy profile of the group in Spin this month (so far, the best story about the group) was going to be the end of the Odd Future think piece industry, but no, it’s flourished after the group played Fallon. My esteemed colleague, Craig Jenkins (who I should note turned me onto Odd Future last year), was the one who hipped me to the new wave of Odd Future pieces, calling, sorta rationally, for a moratorium on Odd Future pieces until April (which is when Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin is due for release).
And he has a point. Just in the last 24 hours, we’ve seen a piece from the perspective of the group’s ride out of New York on MTV.com (which has an astoundingly stupid headline), another one of those “You should listen to Odd Future, even if you find lyrics like “punches to the stomach where that bastard kid is supposed to be” deplorable” pieces on NPR, and a story at Village Voice about the return of Tyler the Creator’s FUCKING SHOE.
And that’s only the three pieces I didn’t have to look hard for. I’m sure there are a dozen more floating around the edges of the blogosphere (this one included…I’m part of the machine!!!!!), but seriously, Internet, this is why people hate us. Odd Future are great, but often all these pieces just read like someone being forced to engage with Odd Future (probably by an SEO-minded editor), and then deciding that they need to convince people to listen to them, and then adding caveats by the gallon.
Ironically, the NPR piece I reference above sort of makes these same points, but at the same time, the writer writes off the lyrics wholesale (he says that they’re the least interesting part about the group, which isn’t true, at all), and then uses a Wire writer to make the point that Odd Future are better rappers than everyone right now. Which is extreme, and stupid. And proves none of those dudes got deep enough into Odd Future to listen to Frank Ocean.
All of which leads to this: The most interesting part of Odd Future’s music, so far, is how chronicled it’s been. Can you name another group that has had 1,000 word brain busters in Wire magazine, NPR, Spin, Pitchfork, Village Voice, New York Times, the New Yorker before any of them have even put an album on a store’s shelves? This is, I guess, the new development in buzz bands. Someday, someone will be able to write a 33 1/3 book about Bastard, and be able to consult a billion think pieces about the music on it. And is that bad? I’m not sure, really.
I guess the concern, for Odd Future’s handlers especially, is what happens when the blogosphere moves on? It’ll probably happen when someone finally writes the defining PopMatters piece about the feminist perspective towards Odd Future. And what happens when Hodgy Beats releases a proper debut album, and it has a swastika smoking a blunt on the cover?
It’s a shame that we’re going to box these cats in with our ponderously dumb pieces about how we can “overlook” rape lyrics and lo-fi beats, about how they’re a “fuck you” moment for a hip-hop, about how they’re “revolutionary” before they even make a proper launch into the mainstream consciousness. We’re at the very real point where we’ll have more writing about what the group MEANS than actual music. And that’s pretty crazy. So let’s do it guys: No new, giant pieces where we consider the meaning of Odd Future until they put an album out again. Enjoy the fuck out of the records until then.