[Odd Future; 2012]

Hodgy, Domo Genesis And Tyler, The Creator – “Rella”

I am constantly in awe of just how big the blogosphere actually is. Our attention is perpetually divided among a myriad of varying interests, so much so that it’s only during major musical events that we all zero in on the same subject, our trillions of voices shouting all at once. The din is terrifying. I was present for one such moment in the fall of 2010, when California shock-rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All performed their first show in New York City to a hot, crowded room very nearly full of music writer types. Sure enough, by the end of the week, all of the usual suspects published think pieces about Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt’s foul-mouthed paeans to mutilating, murdering, and otherwise defiling women. Thing is, after the first wave hit, they never stopped coming.

The six month stretch between the first Odd Future live shows and the spring 2011 release of Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin album was a nonstop free-for-all of long, outraged misrepresentations of what the group appeared to be about. By the time the an Odd Future album made it to retail, everyone but devout fans and the somehow uninitiated was sorely burnt out. After a couple of not-that-well-received releases, incidences of violence at shows, and a spattering of petulant Twitter beef, Odd Future backlash was fully underway. Tyler and company rolled into 2012 beset by naysayers, and the just-released OF Tape Vol. 2, a sequel to their 2008 debut mixtape, is at once a retrenchment into their world of misunderstood teen ennui served over post-Neptunes-ian synth haze and a deliberate move toward less thorny subject matter.

OF Tape Vol. 2 finds a collective more interested in flexing its radically improved lyrical interplay than reprising the shock tactics that threatened to supplant the music in 2011. The gutterbucket material isn’t gone by any stretch; see videos for “Rella” and “NY (Ned Flander),” with its “I sucked five of your friends’ dicks!” coda, posse cut “Oldie,” which finds the newly liberated Earl Sweatshirt stuffing carrots down crushed larynxes, and any appearance by Taco or Jasper. But the album’s scant flashes of mindless violence and misogyny are offset by a grip of tracks showcasing the collective’s heretofore neglected sunny side.

Thank Frank Ocean, Syd tha Kid, and Matt Martians for scattering some roses around the slaughterhouse. The decision to roll Odd Future’s R&B wing into the fray gives OF Tape Vol. 2 a welcome breadth of musicality and a sweetness previously relegated to Syd and Matt’s Internet project and Frank’s solo output. The Internet’s “Ya Know” is a hard left into New Jack Swing territory, but it breaks up the gruff streak that dominates the album’s first half. Similarly, Frank’s stargazing, diminutive “White” adds some color to the back nine. Syd and Frank even get Tyler singing on the sequel to Goblin’s “Analog,” which jettisons Tyler’s serial killer shtick to reveal the straight edge music geek behind the madness.

The Syd and Frank dominated “Analog 2” is fairly indicative of Tyler’s presence on the album. He seems to be hanging back, deliberately letting other group members shine as penance for accidentally hijacking the dialogue with Bastard and Goblin. Tyler only raps on half the album’s eighteen tracks. By comparison, Hodgy Beats gets ten tracks, and the severely underrated Domo Genesis gets seven. Domo and Hodgy run with the opportunity, trading fierce bars on opener “Bitches” and damn near stealing the show from Tyler on single “Rella.” Tyler gives up half the production duties as well, leaving MellowHype maestro Left Brain and The Super 3 (AKA The Jet Age of Tomorrow) to match his grimy, muted vamps. OF Tape Vol. 2 is a group effort from stem to stern, and the only real disappointment is the relative absence of stoner impresario Mike G, who only shows up for “Oldie” and “Forest Green,” a track that’s been kicking around the internet for a year.

As a quick summation of Odd Future’s many musical strengths, OF Tape Vol. 2 wins. It ditches the expansive ooze that made stretches of Tyler’s Goblin a chore, the nihilistic agitprop of MellowHype’s BlackenedWhite, and the lackadaisical drugginess of Mike G’s Ali and Domo’s Rolling Papers in favor of the kind of restless, jerky energy that skyrocketed Bastard into the dialogue months prior. A lot of the misanthropic rage remains, but OF Tape Vol. 2 mainly sounds like a bunch of dudes in a dank basement cooking up the wildest smack talk possible, with one-upping each other being the primary objective. It sounds like fun; precisely what the Odd Future discography has been lacking lately.