No one in the last 18 months has garnered as much attention, controversy, buzz and hype as the Odd Future collective. At the same time, few acts in music history have been as challenging to get a grip on. Odd Future is not its biggest voice, Tyler, the Creator. The presence of out lesbian Syd Tha Kid does not automatically dismiss accusations of sexism and homophobia. Earl Sweatshirt's disappearance is not a conspiracy any more than Frank Ocean's unwillingness to do press is. Odd Future is youth, it's enthusiasm, it's a new paradigm and an old story. It's a moving target, for which we can only capture a moment in time. We look who the players are, how they got here, and spend time with one of the collective's key creators.
Odd Future Timeline
Thirty Minutes with Hodgy Beats
Odd Future Bios
Odd Future Timeline
It makes sense that most of the press referencing Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (better known by the acronym, OFWGKTA) is from 2011; this was the year the group moved from niche sneakerhead message boards and rap blogs to the offline world. But the 11-member, L.A.-based rap collective has been in formal existence since 2007. We track Odd Future's rise from their origins as a loose collective of high school friends to rap's biggest meme.
November 2008: The Odd Future Tape shows up online, featuring current members Tyler, the Creator, Left Brain and Hodgy Beats, and former affiliate Casey Veggies. The songs were recorded on a webcam microphone between 2007 and 2008 and two of them, "Odd Toddlers" and "Slow It Down," would go on to be featured on Tyler's attention-grabbing debut Bastard.
December 25, 2009: Tyler releases the self-produced Bastard for free on oddfuture.tumblr.com. It would wind up on Pitchfork's "Top 50 Albums of 2010" list.
March 2010: Earl Sweatshirt, the 16-year-old runt of the crew, drops the terrifyingly proficient Earl as a free digital download on Odd Future's chaotic Tumblr page. Only 25 minutes long, it cements Earl as Odd Future's young, lyrical savant.
May 2010: Earl-fueled curiosity results in even more attention just in time for Radical, the group's second collaborative album.
July 26, 2010: A fish-eye perspective music video for Earl's title track appears online. Earl sits in a barber chair, rapping between gross-out shots of the crew skating, loitering, and bleeding in public: rap fans of all stripes, from 13 year-old fanboys to old head bloggers, freak out.
September 2010: One such blogger, Noz of CocaineBlunts.com, gets Odd Future a cover line (and accompanying story) in avant-garde UK music mag The Wire.
Halloween, 2010: BlackenedWhite hits the internet and introduces rapper-producer duo Hodgy Beats and Left Brain to a rapidly rabid fan base. Less than a week later, OFWGKTA play sell-out shows in London, England and New York City – their first outside the L.A. area. Crowds in both cities wild the fuck out, garnering the group comparisons to traditionally angsty genres like punk and horrorcore. "I don't really think people take me seriously," Tyler tells the New York Times, "but Middle America probably would." The band is still unsigned.
February 2011: The offline world gets exposure to the Odd Future circus. A few days after the stark, slick video for Tyler's "Yonkers" drops – and Kanye West dubs it the video of 2011 – taste-making British label XL Recordings announces it's signed him to a one-album deal. One week later, Tyler and Hodgy cause TV mayhem with a Late Night With Jimmy Fallon performance backed by house band the Roots and a stage-crashing Mos Def. R&B affiliate Frank Ocean ditches the label route and self-releases Nostalgia/U.L.T.R.A. to immediate praise. Tyler meets Bieber in a TwitPic seen around the world.
March 2011: Odd Future land their first cover: Billboard Magazine. The photo includes Syd Tha Kyd, the group's engineer and sole female member. SXSW proves to be a publicist's dream: Diddy introduces a showcase, Erykah Badu joins them on stage, Nardwuar executes the best interview with the group thus far, Tyler stage dives onto a fan's gleeful face.
April 2011: In a feat of incredible Facebook stalking and lyrically tipped off by a new Hodgy and Domo Genesis collaboration, "TANG GOLF," hip-hop magazine Complex finds the conspicuously absent Earl at a military school in Samoa. His presence is confirmed via a recent photo taken by a visiting U.S. ambassador. Tyler's reaction is predictable: "Fuck Complex." Odd Future play Coachella and one of the group's biggest stated influences, Pharrell Williams, accompanies them on stage. Afterward Tyler tweets, "I've Waited For That Moment For 9 Years. Still Can't Believe It."
May 2011: Tyler makes his label debut with Goblin, which sells 45,000 copies in its first week. Kelefa Sanneh dedicates 8,000 words to Odd Future and the mystery surrounding Earl in the New Yorker. In emailed quotes, Earl says he is not in Samoa against his will and calls for an end to the "Free Earl" movement, which he feels wrongly villainizes his mother. He also adds, "You'll hear from me when I'm ready." There is some speculation as to whether the quotes came from Earl himself, or if therapists at the school influenced his writing. Two days before Odd Future play their first Toronto show – which sells out so fast kids are hawking Xboxes for tickets – Tegan and Sara pen an open letter slamming Tyler's misogynist, homophobic lyrical content. Tyler's response, via Twitter, was to offer the sisters "some hard dick."
June 2011: Frank Ocean becomes less of a mystery – he appears in videos for Tyler's "She" and his own, trippy "Novocane." Rumours of working with Beyonce are solidified; he nabs a writing credit for "I Miss You" on the singer's latest release 4. Chris Brown, attempting to stay relevant, starts Twitter beef with Ocean and Tyler. Rapper the Game inexplicably intervenes to calm things down, tweeting, "@fucktyler the homie & @frankocean just starting what can be a long successful career. Don't f--k it up by beefin!"
July 2011: Fame begets re-mastered re-issues for MellowHype and Frank Ocean. Mississippi garage punk label Fat Possum drops BlackenedWhite, and Def Jam (which Ocean has been long signed to) reworks Ocean's free EP into Nostalgia, Lite. Tyler's first outside collaboration takes place with the Clipse's Pusha T for "Trouble on My Mind." The video features Pusha and Tyler in matching outfits – including Tyler's trademarked pulled-up tube socks and Vans – wreaking childish havoc around Los Angeles. LGBT, domestic violence and rape victim advocacy groups set to protest Odd Future's presence at Chicago's Pitchfork Festival are invited to bring booths into the fest instead – effectively diffusing tension. Odd Future goes a step further and hands out cupcakes to the volunteer organizers.
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