Believe it or not, ‘OF Tape Vol. 2’ - released today (March 19) is billed as the LA hip-hop collective’s debut album, a first official physical release with the whole Wolf Gang mucking in. Chief mouthpiece Tyler, The Creator has been in the shops before with last year’s warily received ‘Goblin’ – and the sweetly named ‘Bastard’ in 2009 – and The Internet (Odd Future’s Syd Tha Kid and Matt Martians) became the first release on Odd Future Records with ‘Purple Naked Ladies’ in January, but now it’s time for the big push.
Of course, Odd Future have put out entire servers full of material in their five short years of chaos so we know what to expect: reprehensible language, sharp rhymes and gruesome beats, occasionally tempered by Frank Ocean’s honey-washed tones. Can all the gleeful sparring and mismatched contributions hang together as a proper album? Or is the ‘Tape’ just a – well – tape in fancy threads?
We start with a friendly welcome. Your afternoon’s entertainment will apparently be provided by “dusty ass motherfuckers” led by that “ugly ass nigga Tyler”, and there’ll be an opportunity to “see a gay ass putting a clit on bitches’ nipples”. Not to be missed. Snubs are spat at Frank Ocean and Hodgy Beats too as everyone settles down to business, all to the genius accompaniment of a silk-smooth R&B slow jam.
Domo Genesis and Hodgy take the mic for a smart bit of electro, beats as thin as clingfilm, synths programmed to Kraftwerk and “rhymes ambidextrous”. Just to prove it Hodgy claims, “I’m the best thing yet/I’m the next thing best”. Parse that one, grammarians.
The video for this one was trailed on Twitter a couple of weeks ago by Tyler: “Moday. Another video. Awesome.” cLOUDDEAD beats meet Exorcist piano as Hodgy lists his breakfast habits and Tyler makes plans for a bright future – “Get rich and marry fat bitch”. Truly a charm offensive. With the wrong emphasis.
Time for this year’s flavour The Internet to take over with an electronic rare groove that shifts from supper club jazz to underwater bubbly soul. To flip from the previous track’s “I sucked five of your friends’ dicks” to “Ya know that I wanna babe… I wanna dance with you” is a jarring move but no harm in some relief now and then.
This parade ground drill from Mike G turned up online a year ago but still has zip. There’s something Soulja Boy-like about its skanking, chanted, simple-but-honest chorus – “People talking down on me/I don’t really think they should/They say they could do it better/I don’t really think they could” – and its clicking, flicking pimp roll is pure pop.
“If I was a dinosaur I would be a flexosaurus” – Hodgy and Domo are back with their much vaunted wordplay, a “punchlines deathmatch” in fact. Like Morecambe and Wise. ‘Lean’ is just that, stripped back to fighting weight and juddering along to top-pitch metronome and eerie synths.
Tyler, The Creator would like you to know that while “bitches think I’m crazy/I just come off like a psycho maniac when I perform”. We’re slow-jamming again but on the uneasy side of the velvet rope, random clatter upsetting the smooth drift. Frank Ocean finally arrives, beseeching his paramour to “meet me by the lake” as we sink into a sleazy soul wallow punctuated by grossly synthetic horns. “We’ll be fucking on the rooftops”. Well, that’s ruined the moment, Frank.
Eight tracks in, this is the first sign of real aggression, MellowHype (Hodgy Beats and producer Left Brain) bringing some Wu Tang snarl and shouty Beastie-style interjections. For such a confrontational outfit it’s strange it’s taken so long, but Odd Future are more insidious than that. Over operatic strings, Hodgy “can’t wait ‘til I fucking buy me a jet/There’ll be some hoes on it”. You just don’t get the comic timing on ‘paper’.
A throbbing migraine of a track. The relentless low bounce of the bass underpins growls and wolf howls as Hodgy compares himself to Nas and threatens to make you “shit all in your pants”, and Frank Ocean moans there’s “nowhere for my kids to go” because “the wolves are rowdy”. Comes to a welcome end in a rush of white noise.
“I’m a beast like the gorilla head that is on my chest”, which is life imitating art. Or the other way round. ‘Rella’ is ghostly sci-fi witch house (remember that?) and features the grand statement, “Look at me I’m fucking beautiful”. Which of us hasn’t bellowed that after a quiet pint?
An insistent chime of doom – getting a bit wearing by this stage – is ‘livened up’ by a masterclass in Odd Future trolling. Hodgy Beats and Taco are in the chair for a frank exchange of views on what constitutes a “real bitch”. In a nutshell, she’ll buy her own accessories, “give a nigga a massage when he comes home after a long day at work”, roll the joints and “help out and pay the bills”. The guest verse from Emmeline Pankhurst didn’t make the cut.
On the other hand, all this childish spatter can raise a laugh. “Let’s see, what’s wrong with me,” muses Tyler, “Might be my FUCKING TOURETTES, see?” ‘P’ is minimal in the Antipop Consortium vein, squealing and snapping, skulking and creeping, and cranks up the killer lines. “I’m a golden curse/Call me treacherous treasure chest”. There.
A Frank Ocean intermission, pretty sparse with that lovelorn vocal over a Rhodes piano. Some cheap-as-chips synth horns keep everything in budget while Frank weeps, “I forget my first love like you forget a daydream”.
"Cop show synths", it says here, and “runaway beats” (technical terms). ‘Hcad’ goes absolutely nowhere but with a vague sense of menace and proves that there’s no corner of the internet free from oblique references to SXSW: “I’m still trying to find it/But I lost it somewhere in Austin”. Brilliantly the track appears to end with, “Fuck Steve Harley”. Cockney Rebel – so much to answer for.
There’s a bit more of a lick to this, a Cypress Hill groove, if you will. Unremarkable otherwise but Tyler and Domo Genesis trade rhymes and shrieks of “Niggas!” with something approaching aplomb. Bplomb maybe.
“Sounds like some Al Green shit” then doesn’t. “This beat is perfect,” is Domo’s verdict on some fairly ordinary handclaps, “Everything is perfect”. It’s not but the track has the feel of one of M.I.A.’s tribal adventures, down to the bare bones and buzzing. Another relentless slow-step hepped up by “Bruce Wayne flow”.
Starts off like Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ put through a Satanic blender (you won’t find them online) before settling into a march of the damned, with Tyler rasping like the big man he is. Classic chorus though: “We got bitches… we got diamonds… we got cars… we got jacuzzis and your bitch be on my dick”. Sing along!
Sent to Samoa by his mum – bless him – to deal with drug dependency and other occupational hazards, Earl Sweatshirt wasn’t meant to be on this album but he turns up here to add a verse to a collective pastiche of Snoop/Dre-style G-Funk. It’s ten minutes of laidback beats and oily synth chords, signing off with “Not only are we talented, we’re rad as fuck. Bitch.” That’s the business cards taken care of.
An hour and a bit is more than enough time to spend in Odd Future’s company unless you’re still in touch with the 14-year-old moron within, in which case the gags are good. With so much supposed talent in the collective though, there could be more variation in the beats (stuck on ‘lope’) and the synths (stuck on ‘slightly sinister’). And as ever, you either take the misogyny, homophobia and general dickishness with a pinch of salt like they claim you should or hand them a public pummeling. The alternative is giving ‘The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2’ the swerve altogether and missing out on 10 tracks’ worth of decent official opening salvo (and some mixtape throwaways). Your call. Swag.
Don't miss the definitive 'The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2' album review in the next issue of NME, on sale Wednesday March 21