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Wolf Haley and Hodgy Beats


[XL; 2011]

By ; March 4, 2011 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

South By Southwest is about two weeks away, and the most anticipated performance isn’t from The Strokes, or Kanye West, or even Hansel-hot James Blake. It is from the blogable rap group out of Los Angeles, OFWGKTA, aka Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, aka Odd Future, aka Tyler, The Creator and Hodgy Beats and co. Yes, the act has as many aliases as a common criminal, or, actually, as a notorious criminal. If you have heard any of their music, this analogy is oh-so apt.

What has caused all this commotion? Tyler’s “Yonkers” video has helped. Internet obsession/curiosity/disgust has also helped. But nothing in recent memory has quite launched a career from “I’ve heard of them” to “OMG, have you heard of them?” like their performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon of their single, “Sandwitches.” But even that moment seems to be most memorable for the black-people-with-punk-attitudes factor than the actual song, though it must be said that many have (rightfully) noted the profound accomplishment that the two young MCs made by translating the obscenity-filled original to a TV-appropriate version.

Though not technically our introduction to Tyler (using the name Wolf Haley) and Hodgy Beats, the stand-alone single “Sandwitches” is an arrival song. I hate to think in terms of mission statements, but if the line “we’re showing you and yours that breaking rules is fucking cool again” doesn’t stick out, you are probably among the folks that Tyler complains about in the song’s last line: “we don’t make horror core you fucking idiot, listen deeper to the music before you put it in a box.”

Because if you did take the music at face value, it would be pretty damn disturbing. Over the course of four minutes the duo takes on the paradigm of upstanding American life, telling kids to “fuck that class and hit that bong.” In Hodgy Beats’ killer second verse, he goes even further and challenges god himself, saying, “You told me god was the answer, but when I ask her for shit I get no answer, so god is the cancer.” Yeah, listening to this stuff feels uncomfortable. I look around for lightning bolts every so often. It feels dangerous. But… isn’t that why we listen to music? To feel… something?

Musically the track is spare, reminiscent of 36 Chambers-era Wu-Tang with its reliance on a singular beat and a singular synth melody to carry the song. Never does the listener wish for the tune to fall into the over-production love affair that populates most popular rap. This places the spotlight on the vocalists and once the live version is experienced, drawing comparisons feels natural. The chorus disappoints slightly compared to the enthusiastic live chant of “wolf gang,” but the distorted voice provides it’s own charms, throwing in the occasional “golf wang” and “666.” And maybe something feels lost by seeing little interplay between the two vocalists, but neither of them need help. They are more than capable; they ooze confidence and have produced the kind of track that would incite Mos Def to screech “swag” into a television camera.

From NPR to the Village Voice, there are many an interpretations as to how to listen to Odd Future and why we like it. I recently had a dinner and was privy to some horrific stories about what the school system does to 12-year olds who try to rape other 12-year olds (answer: suspension, not expulsion or juve), and this music doesn’t seem to be helping anyone. But neither are video games or Charlie Sheen’s sitcom or Mountain Dew. “Sandwitches” is provocative and powerful no matter how you slice it and it’s not Tyler, The Creator or Hodgy Beats’ job to make the world a better place. If art tried to change the world, we wouldn’t get an accurate representation on what happens in the world. These guys have something to say and they now have our attention. Let’s see how it plays out.


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