Amid the graffiti’d freeway overpasses, lofty palm trees and downbeat liquor stores of central Los Angeles, eight of the ten members of hip hop family Odd Future are huddled together in their studio. They’re sticking close, staying alert as the countdown begins. Tick. Tock. There’s a tidal wave coming – and they’re it.
Odd Future is Tyler The Creator, Jasper Dolphin, Domo Genesis, Matt Martians of the Super 3, Left Brain, Mike G, Hodgy Beats, Taco, Syd and Earl Sweatshirt. They often go by the acronym OFWGKTA – Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. Aged between 16 and 19 years of age, they hang out at stores on the streetwear mecca that is Fairfax Avenue, where it intersects with Melrose. There, Tyler and his buddies are faces – kids who skate around, hang out at stores like Supreme and Diamond Supply Co, and make weird beats and videos. Their sound is a stripped-down, dark and heavy synth drone, and their rhymes reflect a comedic obsession with ass-rape, Jermaine Dupri, scat, dead bodies, weed, brain tissue, swastikas, the morning chat show host Steve Harvey, bacon, and pretty much anything else that sounds funny at the time.
Odd Future was too weird for the rap underground to get its head around, and certain key blogs flat out refused to support their music. Beyond a few online “fuck you’s” the kids in Odd Future didn’t sweat the rejection too much – they carried on skating Fairfax and making beats and videos for themselves and their friends, and self-releasing solo albums, EPs, and mixtapes on their Tumblr blog… all of it available for free.
Then, in September, something happened. Writers from outside the underground hip hop and streetwear worlds started stumbling upon Odd Future. Independently, and all around the same time, they caught the bug – Fader, LA Weekly, and Rolling Stone among them. Pitchfork, the last word in American music snobbery, declared Odd Future “at the vanguard of modern hip hop”. It was a publicist’s wet dream, the media attention coming seemingly from out of nowhere. By October, the hype snowball had evolved into a fully-fledged viral avalanche, with Wu-Tang comparisons flying in from all angles.
Dazed met up with Odd Future just as the avalanche was beginning to hit, and we sat down for their first ever in-person interview. Eight of the ten members were there (Earl and Domo Genesis were missing). While Odd Future is very much an equal opportunity tribe, Tyler is without doubt its chief visionary and
“So Tyler – what did you do today?”
Silence falls over the room. Tyler considers the question for a few moments.
“What did I do today? Yo, I don’t know what the fuck I did today. Shall I keep it real?
Seriously… I woke up this morning, I jacked off,
I took a shower, I went to get some soul food and now I am here.”
His voice is as deep, and confident as his wit. Aged 19, he is one of the oldest members of
Odd Future. You’re studying film at
“I actually dropped out. I am not bullshitting. I am taking a semester off to focus on this music shit. If that doesn’t work, I might go back to school.” We tell him we think that’s a
“Yeah, things are going pretty well. It’s going pretty swagged-out.”
“Swagged-out” is the adjective of choice for anything that is, in Odd Future’s opinion, awesome. Like Quentin Tarantino, for instance. Tarantino is swag (Tyler has a song called “Nosebleed” and his goal is to have Tarantino shoot the video for it). And Stanley Kubrick is swag, too. “Clockwork Orange is pretty swagged-out,” says Tyler. He watched the film for the first time two months ago because people kept telling him that Odd Future’s words and visuals reminded them of the film: “So, I said, ‘Fuck it, I’ll watch it!’” Unsurprisingly, the film resonated with Tyler – nihilistic ultra-violence and Nadsat-esque teenage slang are the defining characteristics of Odd Future’s creative output. He’s considering dressing up as the sociopathic Alex DeLarge – the film’s twisted anti-hero – for Halloween. “I wanna find a diaper with a hard cup in the front and swag it out,” he says.
“They sell those at CVS (American pharmacy),” chimes in Syd, the only female member of Odd Future “They sell man panties. Man diapers, for you.” Syd engineers all of Odd Future’s beats, and she holds her own in this room, heavy with teenaged testosterone. We ask her how she hooked up with Odd Future.
“I literally walked out of my house and there were 13 random niggas on my back porch. So
I was like, ‘Everybody, hey!’”
So, you make beats? “Yeah. I am just the engineer, pretty much.”
“Not ‘pretty much’,” Tyler interjects. “She’s a fucking excellent engineer!”
Your name is Syd, I say, like Sid Vicious?
“Yes… I guess. I’ve heard of who that is.”
Tyler bursts back into the conversation. “Oh my God! He’s like my fucking idol. His music was whatever, but as a person he was so fucking gnarly. He stabbed his girl… he stabbed that bitch. Then he died.”
Yes, he was young, he was 21 when he died, we tell him. He OD’d. Taco, Syd’s younger brother and the most boisterous of the group, bursts in to the conversation. “No, he died of
“Ian Curtis,” says Tyler, ignoring Taco. “He was young too, when he died…”
19-year-old Fairfax skater sneakerheads don’t ordinarily reference Joy Division, Sid Vicious and Stanley Kubrick in the same breath. Tyler’s rich set of cultural influences, which extend way beyond the worlds of rap and skate, are reflected in Odd Future’s lyrical content and retro visual aesthetic. Perhaps that’s part of the reason they’ve captured the broader imagination. They’re significantly more sophisticated than they should be.
We ask Taco, the court jester, to tell us a little about himself. Before he can, Matt Martians of the Super 3 – a rapper and talented visual artist – interjects. “He doesn’t do shit.”
Adds Syd: “He literally doesn’t.”
“I am a gymnastic superstar!” Taco counters, and everyone cheers and claps. The energy and humour are infectious.
How did they all come together? Hodgy Beats, all brooding good looks, doesn’t skip
a beat. “You asking us if we really come together?” he purrs.
“Dayum!” squeals Tyler.
“If we did, I would be the happiest nigga ever,” says Taco.
“We were destined to be together,” says Tyler, finally addressing the question. “It’s like nature. I really don’t know how we met. We just do what we do.”
Tyler describes his role in Odd Future thus: he makes instrumentals and then he makes lyrics and then he records them to each other. He repeats that over and over until he has many tracks to choose from. Then he picks one track out of the bunch, and shoots a video for it. Then he makes cover art, if he wants that song released. And repeat.
“Also I am a chronic masturbator,” he adds.
Tyler’s not one for sampling. He usually says that’s because samples inhibit him, and that he doesn’t feel as creative when constrained by
a sample’s blueprint. “Actually, it’s more because
I really suck at fucking sampling, so I just leave it alone,” he says. “Anyway, I like coming up with new shit. I like seeing how far my fucking mind can go.”
Tyler’s scrolling through his phone and looking at a photo of a pretty young lady. He shows it to me.
“I want to fuck her in her eyes,” he says.
Why would you want to fuck her in her eyes? That might ruin her look. Hodgy interjects: “No he said in her ass, not her eyes.” Asses come up a lot in Odd Future conversation. Asses, and in the mix, deep shit.
“What about your folks and stuff,” I ask. “Are they artistically inclined?”
Tyler shakes his head. “I don’t have a father.” Tyler’s much-acclaimed album Bastard is pretty much all about his father, whom he never met. He goes to dangerous places, emotionally and spiritually. (When he was younger his grandmother told him he was from hell… and he decided to roll with that.)
Syd picks up on the “artistically-inclined” part of our question. “Autistically inclined!” she chuckles. It’s true – people say Tyler is a little austistically-inclined, because he has an uncanny ability to remember the exact dates that albums came out. We test that out.
In Search Of… (by NERD)
“The UK version came out September 2001. The US version came out in 2002.”
Maybe Tyler is a little bit autistic, we concede.
“I might be a little R Kelly,” he nods.
We ask him where Earl is. Earl, along with Tyler, was the most visible member of OFWGKTA – until June 6 when he disappeared off-radar. Earl Sweatshirts’ video, “EARL” has been dong the rounds, viewers repulsed and fascinated in equal measure by its fucked-up Larry Clark teen skater zombie drug aesthetic. But word is that Earl, despite being well on his way to becoming a superstar rapper, has been grounded by his mom until further notice. Tyler is tightlipped about the truth, stating over and over that Earl is “on vacation”.
We ask them how they feel about all the Wu-Tang comparisons floating around. It’s a sensitive issue, one that Hodgy ends up answering. “It’s petty cool because there are not many groups that have actually been compared to Wu-Tang. At least, there aren’t many people our age that will actually be compared to Wu-Tang. Wu Tang is a big-ass dynasty, and a lot of people look up to them, so if we are being compared to them, then that is pretty great.”
Syd agrees – she likes the comparison.
“I think it’s accurate, structure-wise, if you think about the way we make songs. Like those two guys might make a song together, or those two might make as song, or we all might get on a song together, or everyone puts out their own album. We keep it all in the family.”
Keeping it in the family – keeping things simple; keeping it tight. If they have a plan, that seems to be the main one for now. They’re not recruiting any new members, and the doors are closed. “I like keeping shit in house,” says Tyler. “When it’s not, shit gets fucked up.” The kids nod their heads and you get the sense they’ve all found the family they were looking for. Regardless of whether Odd Future rises to the ranks of the Wu-Tang or not, a new dynasty has been born.
“Oh, and by the way – I did not fuck OJ Simpson,” announces Tyler solemnly, totally out of the blue. “I did not fuck OJ Simpson.”
Additional blog pictures by Vyron Turner, Wolf Haley and Taco from Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All - see the whole feature in the December issue of Dazed & Confused
Video stills from the music video for Earl, from the album Earl, directed by AG Rojas
Text by Caroline Ryder
Photography by RJ Shaughnessy