Odd Future for the LA Weekly

The 10 teenage members of L.A. hip-hop skater family Odd Future are natural magicians, mini wizards in Nike dunks and Supreme hoodies who, at some point during the short, cold summer of 2010, cast a powerful spell on chin-rubbing Pitchforkers, hip-hop superheroes, Fairfax sneakerheads and U.K.-style cognoscenti alike, hypnotizing them until they were all chanting the same thing: "The future's odd."

Led by a 19-year-old visionary who goes by the name Tyler, the Creator, Odd Future (or OFWGKTA, an acronym for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) puts out tracks that un-self-consciously blend anarcho rap with retro post-hipster humor. Or sensitive, S.E. Hinton–style nihilism with sheer evil. Or a love of bacon with a hatred of talk-show host Steve Harvey. The Odd Future crew, all between 16 and 19 years old, is already way too cool for art school.

Their visual language reflects influences they don't even know they have yet — Aleister Crowley, '80s porn, Amityville, A Clockwork Orange and Dogtown. Their lyrical matter is XXX-rated, containing references a little too weird (rape? scat? Jermaine DuPri?) and a little too learned for their young-adult minds. They are tough enough to be on The Wu-Tang's radar (GZA is a fan), and their beats, dense enough to crush bone matter, are engineered by a girl — Syd, Odd Future's only female, who is arrestingly beautiful in a no-makeup-and-hoodie kind of way.

"Larry Clark just jizzed his pants," you're thinking, and you're right: Last month Clark filmed Odd Future as they re-created a scene from his skater movie Wassup Rockers for a short film that was screened during Marc Jacobs' New York Fashion Week show.

In addition to Tyler, the Creator, Odd Future is: Jasper Dolphin, Domo Genesis, Matt Martians of the Super 3, Left Brain, Mike G, Hodgy Beats, Taco, Syd and Earl Sweatshirt.

Sweatshirt's video, called "Earl," is how I stumbled upon Odd Future. Directed by A.G. Rojas, it features Earl sitting under a hair-salon dryer rapping about ass sex, catfish and decomposing bodies while his Odd Future posse members drink a smoothie made of cough syrup, weed, pills and powders, with gory, deeply disconcerting consequences. "Let's all fucking kill ourselves," someone commented on YouTube, which pretty much summed up how the video made me feel, too.

It was amazing.

I forwarded the link and Odd Future's blog to a few music editors to see what they thought. L.A. Weekly IM'd right back: "Get on it!" The U.K.'s Dazed & Confused wrote back, "Our music issue is full," followed a few hours later by: "We made space in our music issue." I sent the link to Jess Holzworth, the artist and music-video director: "You seen this?" Yes, she said. Her friend Heathcliff Berru had shown it to her. Berru had, like me, been trying to track down the kids. (There is no contact information on the Odd Future blog or website.) He asked GZA of The Wu-Tang Clan to tweet at Odd Future, and success: They tweeted back. Berru helped me set up a meeting with Odd Future at their studio in the Washington-Crenshaw district, not far from the street-wear boutiques on Fairfax they like to frequent.

A few nights later, I show up at the studio. It's in a guesthouse at the back of sister and brother Syd and Taco's house, a large, well-kept property on a quiet, tree-lined street. Syd and Taco's parents are well-off and supportive of their kids' art. As such, they have created the perfect environment for Odd Future to take seed and germinate. The kids, who call themselves a family, enjoy total privacy as they congregate at the studio, a home away from home for several of them.

"Hi, I'm Steve," says Tyler, Odd Future's lynchpin. He likes to lie about his name. He also likes to fall down, just for fun. Last week he went out of state for the first time, visiting New York City. He flung himself dramatically down onto the Manhattan sidewalk, and noted that no one seemed to pay much attention. "I prefer L.A.," says Tyler, who wears a pin on his cap that says, "Fuck Them."

Tyler says he really loves to masturbate, collects books and was, until very recently, studying film at a community college in West L.A. He dropped out, aware that Odd Future was turning into something that might require all of his time and attention.

A gigantic recycling box full of empty cans of Arizona Green Tea sits by the wall, alongside several skateboards. In the studio Syd mans the console and plays their latest track, "Sandwitches," and their eyes roll as they mouth the words and bang their heads, in some kind of trance. "I wouldn't work with anyone else," Tyler declares.

The kids' loyalty toward one another is palpable, and the love is thick in the air. Everyone high-fives and fist-bumps every few minutes. They're psyched to be alive. They try really hard to convince me that the word "dude" has a lost meaning: "ingrown ass hair." Anything they like, whether it's a person, a beat or a fact, earns the adjective "swag" — as in, "That's so swag!"As recently as July, Odd Future wasn't sure what the future held. They had sent their music out to some hip-hop blogs, but it wasn't getting much love. Their sound was too weird, too slow, too fucked up. Odd Future thought they probably would have to go back to school after summer. Then a writer for U.K. music magazine The Wire stumbled across them. He wrote a feature for the magazine's September issue and pimped Odd Future to everyone he knew.

Fader blogged about them at the end of August: "If the rappers in Odd Future were indicative of California's social climate, the West Coast would be currently experiencing a miniature apocalypse, complete with grocery store looting and armed survivalist militias, plus tons of drugs and skateboarding." Other bloggers started getting onboard, and buzz started to spread. Then MTV name-checked Odd Future in their list of 10 most anticipated albums. Even Snoop didn't make that cut.

It's surreal, what's happening, Tyler admits. Recently he was hanging out on Fairfax and people started crowding him. Tyler wasn't into it. Hodgy Beats, his brooding, doe-eyed co-conspirator, helped Tyler regain his perspective. Now Tyler's ready for whatever lies around the corner.

"Hey, where's Earl?" I ask, recalling the sweet kid who rapped about necrophilia in the video I had seen. The room silenced.

"Earl's on vacation," Tyler says.

Vacation? How long for?

"A while."

I'm not buying it. Is he in jail, I ask?

"He's on vacation." Tyler is steely.

Odd Future's sticking to their story, mourning Earl's absence with a solemn "Free Earl" graphic on their blog, and not much more explanation than that. Whether 16-year-old Earl is in jail, juvie, Jesus camp or a Swiss finishing school is yet to be established, but his mysterious absence, unfortunate as it may be, only serves to make him and Odd Future all the more intriguing.

The next day, when I tell 23-year-old hip-hop fan Deanna that I hung out with Odd Future the night before, she loses her shit. Why do you like them so much, I ask her?

"First of all, they are so young, and they are killing it," she says. "They are way ahead of their time. It's shocking, the words that come out of their mouths. They just don't give a fuck and they don't even realize that what they are doing is so amazing, which makes it even more awesome. They are writing all this shit that is in their head and they are not expecting anyone to listen — but everyone is listening and they are gonna fucking blow up!"

Yeah — that's what I thought, too.

(Published Oct 14 2010)

You can read this story on the LA Weekly's website here.

Odd Future for Dazed&Confused mag

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 
natural spokesperson.

“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 college, right?

“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.” 

I tell him I think that’s a good call.

“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 
ass cancer!”

“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.

More laughs.

“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.”

(Published 2010)

Read the story on Dazed& Confused's website here.