The Lost Boys of Neverland occupy their days by living in the woods, harassing washed-up pirates, hanging out with mermaids, and occasionally scrapping with the natives before reconciling over a peace pipe. They generally did and said the things that a mob of unsupervised boys would do and say while living in a fantasy world.
It’s the same escapism in the music industry that created the “rock-star lifestyle,” the result when apathy meets sensational talent and quick fame. Rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) has a surplus of all three, and like the Lost Boys, the boys (and girl) of the group are finding real-life pirates and peace pipes that turn their mischief into a sustainable world of their own.
They are a mob of blog-era L.A. teens that individually contribute rhymes, beats, videos, skateboarding and collective middle fingers to the world under the OFWGKTA banner. The collective has released more than a dozen albums on their respective Tumblr accounts, all free downloads decorated with sloppy Photoshop album art and driven by deft lyricism over dark, anxious beats.
To chronicle their adventures in Neverland, Odd Future recently announced news of their own sketch comedy show on Adult Swim, which will air in 2012. The group snared Dickhouse Entertainment, the production team behind MTV man-child TV series such as Jackass, Rob & Big and Nitro Circus, to produce the 15-minute live-action segment.
However, the world of Odd Future isn’t nearly as inviting as Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory. Even though they are still kids (including 17-year-old Earl Sweatshirt), they are best at being frightening and unpredictable. Their general vibe often summons the same ominous feeling that something bad is about to happen, like a certain but looming punch in the face.
“It’s abrupt, in-your-face, and straight forward,” said Domo Genesis, one of OFWGKTA’s many MCs.
“There’s no sugar coating. It’s just like, fuck that, fuck you and fuck whatever you think.”
Twenty-year-old Tyler The Creator is by far the most visible and prolific rapper in Odd Future. He won “Best New Artist” at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, and his self-directed video for his track “Yonkers” earned a nomination for Video of the Year.
The black-and-white video shows Tyler in a plain white room, rhymes flowing in a controlled burn, while he appears to eat a cockroach, vomit and hang himself.
Blogs are calling their lyrics intelligent and their videos compelling; critics are calling them homophobic and senselessly aggressive. Tyler’s material is the center for both:
His lyrics are as absurdly violent as horror-core rappers Insane Clown Posse and as homophobic as tough-guy acts like Jedi Mind Tricks.
Of course, this is nothing new in the rap game. A decade after Eminem faced the exact same criticism, questions resurface around Tyler’s VMA win, about why a champion was made out of a loudmouth bigot. Rap is unfortunately one of the few cultural products that continues to normalize homophobia, and Tyler refuses to give up words that are so emotionally loaded.
However, Domo Genesis is quick to point out that there is much more to the group than Tyler finding rhymes for “bag it.”
“I never rap about that,” says Domo to a question about homophobic lyrics. “Never was my style, never has been. That’s how they want to express themselves, and y’know, I’m not against my team, and I have to be 100 percent behind it. But for me, I don’t take that approach. I’m about different things, different topics.”
Domo grudgingly admits his laid-back stoner anthems have labeled him the “accessible” member.
“I don’t like that statement. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not a wrong statement, but,” he laughs, “I don’t want to be just that. … I’d say ‘close to the norm,’ but even then it can mean the same thing as accessible. I don’t want to be the norm because the norm is shitty to me.”
He brings up a good point: Tyler’s psycho-violence method has attracted far more attention than Domo’s stony mixtape, Under The Influence. Domo provides necessary balance to the group that is increasingly known for being under fire from critics, but fans and opponents alike never seem to talk about Under The Influence.
“People are into dark shit, but people are afraid to talk about it,” Domo says. “So someone talks about it, and it drives people crazy.”
“There was never a point where we were like, we’re all based on this point of view, or we’re all gonna rap like this — no, we’re all different,” Domo says. “We came together, and whatever we can do together to get every single person in the group heard, we’re gonna do it.”
On the Bill
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All plays the Fox Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 8. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are sold out. 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.