Okay, now let’s wrap up this review and talk about cupcakes and controversy. In my Pitchfork Festival preview, I listed the controversial hip-hop crew Odd Future as a top pick because they’ve been causing a raucous on the touring circuit, garnering praise in the minds of the young folks, and receiving a host of mixed reviews from haters, doubters and championing critics. But for me, the jury was still out on whether or not these guys were worthy of all the attention they’ve been getting in the New York Times and in Pitchfork themselves.
Before their set, Odd Future brought cupcakes to the booth of the anti-violence group who was protesting their Pitchfork appearance. But that was the end of the Southern Cali hip-hop collective’s niceness.
Led by frontman and rapper Tyler, The Creator, who was in crutches nursing a broken leg, Odd Future swaggered on stage, flashing mischievous grins as Bob Marley’s “One Love” blasted from the speakers (another playful poke at the negative press they’ve been getting).
But the love ended quickly and a current of nasty and ridiculous rhymes seething with stories of misogyny, rape, violence and juvenile deviance poured forth. Fans moshed and crowd-surfed, while others mouthed every lyric and bobbed their heads to every beat. And then there was another section of fans that just looked at the whole scene in complete confusion and utter disgust.
After experiencing Odd Future live for myself and talking with both supporting and skeptical fans, two things became very clear: 1) Odd Future is really nothing new, and 2) It really has nothing new to say. Eminem, D12 and other shock-rap and horror-rock groups have done this thing before, and they did it a whole lot better and more creatively for many years.
And when I look back at it, Odd Future’s live show amounted to nothing more than a mix of aimless punk rock stage-diving, pointless mic-stand-crushing antics and cliche call-and-response gimmicks.
In the end, the set left me empty and a bit sad too because judging by the electric and emotive response from several crowd-surfing and engaged fans during the show, Odd Future has clearly struck an emotional chord on some level with fans who identify with their music and goofy-meets-nihilistic message.
But Tyler and company don’t appear to have any plans to truly deliver a real message to their fans besides the lame anthem “Kill People, Burn Sh#t and F#ck School.” And worst of all, there’s little, if any, originality or relevancy to what they’re doing.
Believe me, I don’t like writing bad reviews about any band, especially hip-hop groups, because I love hip-hop. And I believe, as a genre and an revolutionary art form, hip-hop has so much power and possibility to change lives and the world. And when I listen to Tyler, The Creator’s debut album Goblin, I hear a lot of promise and possibility trying to come out. I hear a voice that could say something. I hear a voice that could tell a very important story to an emerging generation that wants their story told. But right now all I hear for the most part is just a mish-mosh of repetitive, trite, predictable and misogynistic lyrics.