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POP MUSIC: COACHELLA 2011 : COACHELLA 2011

Howling Wolves

An up-and-coming rap crew blends Web savvy, skate culture and hard-core attitude.

April 10, 2011|Jeff Weiss

She was headed to In-N-Out Burger but told them if they were still there when she returned they could work. "Hodgy, Left Brain, Tyler and their friends were still there when I returned," she said. "We recorded seven songs that night, and they never stopped coming."

Before that, the group existed largely as subversive-minded skateboarders lingering around the Supreme store on Fairfax Avenue, rebels uninterested in mixing in with the city's main three rap circles: gangsta rap traditionalists, skinny-jeaned jerkin' rappers and what Tyler called "post-Drake cliched Slauson rappers."

Tyler is at the center of Odd Future, a 20-year-old who declared last year on his Formspring account that his goal was to "make great music ... be the leader for the kids who were picked on and called weird, and show the world that being yourself and doing what you want without caring what other people think, is the key to being happy." That's as close as you'll find to a mission statement for Odd Future.

Tyler says he attended 12 schools in 12 years, including Westchester High, Hawthorne's Media Arts Academy (also known as Hip Hop High), and a stint in Sacramento. The Times, in fact, ran a story on Media Arts that featured a 16-year-old Tyler. In it, he described his interests as music, fashion design and skateboarding.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, April 10, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 2 inches; 93 words Type of Material: Correction
Odd Future: A profile of the rap collective Odd Future in the Arts & Books section elsewhere in this edition omits the names of two albums released by members of the group since its London and New York shows in the fall. In addition to the three albums mentioned, the collective released Mellowhype's "Blackendwhite" and the Jet Age of Tomorrow's "The Journey to the 5th Echelon." Since the group's beginning, it has also produced a variety of other albums, singles and mix tapes. The error was detected after the section went to press.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, April 17, 2011 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part D Page 3 Calendar Desk 2 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Odd Future: An April 10 profile of the rap collective Odd omitted the names of two albums released by members of the group since its London and New York shows in the fall. In addition to the three albums mentioned, the collective released Mellowhype's "Blackendwhite" and the Jet Age of Tomorrow's "The Journey to the 5th Echelon." Since the group's beginning, it has also produced a variety of other albums, singles and mix tapes.

The charismatic leader possesses an enigmatic streak that includes refusing to divulge his last name (Okonma) and neglecting to tell his mom about Odd Future (a cousin ratted him out). He repeatedly describes his dad as dead and the only evidence that he isn't is a song lyric about how Tyler wants his email to tell him "how much I hate him in detail."

Initially obsessed with Dr. Dre's "Chronic 2001" and N.E.R.D's "In Search of," Tyler taught himself how to make beats and play the piano, spending most of his high school years doing Photoshop, making music and watching cartoons. Reflexively creative, he started a clothing line as a freshman. Starting at the Hawthorne Skate Park ("The Dirty") and expanding outward, Tyler recruited a flock, 40 to 45 members deep, numbering skateboarders, photographers, musicians and longtime friends.

Originally conceived in 2005 as a magazine, OFWGKTA evolved into something part art collective and part unarmed menaces. One of the first members was producer Left Brain, a Crenshaw High student who bonded with Tyler over their love of left-field hip-hop and R&B-funk fusion. Pasadena rapper Hodgy Beats joined shortly thereafter.

Though the rappers owe an obvious creative debt to Eminem, they fit few previous rap archetypes. A self-described "walking talking paradox," Tyler can evangelize on post-crunk rap, celestial indie rock (Grizzly Bear, Toro y Moi) or jazz (Roy Ayers, John Coltrane). He doesn't drink or do drugs, he says, but raps that "all he wants to do is snort blow" nonetheless -- with a bullfrog wheeze usually reserved for smoke-ravaged octogenarians.

Musically, the group's sound is almost entirely sample-free and can be as varied as tie-dye psychedelic and noirish zebra print. Part of the enthusiasm for the group's sound is due to its contrast with the rest of the contemporary rap world. Although most of their peers have been forced into making watered-down pop concessions, Odd Future remain defiantly averse to sanitizing their sound or lyrics.

Tyler doesn't profess authenticity ("no one's authentic"), but his lyrics have both a wounded honesty and deranged imagination (including sex fantasies with Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and Goldilocks).

His talent lies in his ability to fuse a strain of post-adolescent angst found in Holden Caulfield, Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis, and lyrics rife with esoteric references and double-meaning: In one of the only rhyming couplets suitable for a family newspaper, he raps on "Yonkers," "They say success is the best revenge/So I beat DeShay up with the stack of magazines I'm in/Oh, not again, another critic writin' report/I'm stabbin' any bloggin' ... hipster with a Pitchfork."

"People aren't making the music they want to make anymore," said the gangly and green-hatted Tyler, who describes himself as dark-skinned, big-eared and depressed. "The radio plays nothing but techno rap, and most artists are desperate to make everything sound pop to sell records."

"We're not aiming for shock value. There are just certain things that we find entertaining, so we rap about them," said Domo Genesis, OFWGKTA marijuana connoisseur, who released last year's well-received "Rolling Papers." Domo joined Odd Future toward the end of 2008. A year later Left Brain's Crenshaw High friend Mike G (a cousin of Warren G) joined.

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