If you haven’t heard of Odd Future, then you’ve probably been hiding under a rock this past year. The Los Angeles hip-hop collective are followed by controversy as closely as smugness follows Piers Morgan. Nothing is off limits for Odd Future, with their already extensive back catalogue of mixtapes regularly featuring taboos such as physical and sexual assault, drugs, murder, homophobia and… well you get the picture.
The hip-hop genre hasn’t seen anyone courting controversy quite so openly since early Eminem, and the collective’s startling rise to fame only proved there was a gap in the market for their no-holds-barred twisted lyricism. So what do Tyler, The Creator and his gang have in store for their new record? Well, considering the video for Rella – the first to be released from the album – features a stormtrooper masturbating and Tyler as a centaur firing cocaine from his nose, it’s fair to say Odd Future haven’t exactly turned into shy, retiring types.
As the title suggests, The OF Tape Vol 2 is the sequel to their debut mixtape, although it’s being billed as the collective’s debut studio album. Odd Future have released other material – including 2009’s Bastard and last year’s Goblin from Tyler – but this is the first physical release to feature all members of OFWGKTA. As such, there’s a lot riding on this release from the collective. Something shown by Tyler’s concerns about the album’s reception. “We made an album we wanted to make. If everybody hates it, OK. We have an album we like,” said the group’s leader.
Tyler’s worries fail to materialise during the album, though. After the obligatory intro-skit – which comically rips into the members of the gang – Bitches sees Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats’ boastful lyrics exuding with confidence over an electro, synth beat. NY (Ned Flander) is hot on its heels, as an unnerving piano provides the platform for Hodgy Beats and Tyler to spit their menacing lyrics. While Ya Know is a surprisingly addictive, jazz-infused affair featuring The Internet – Odd Future’s Syd Tha Kid and producer Matt Martians.
The album certainly starts strongly, yet the collective only really demonstrate the aggression that has so often defined them on 50. It’s confrontational and epic in equal measure – one that will make you sit up and take notice. Snow White is centered around a tension-ridden beat, while Rella sees a song-stealing rap from Tyler (“Knock, knock, Who’s there? It’s me, your girlfriend had a really nice meeting with my dick”) over a stodgy electro-beat.
However, as with Eminem, Odd Future’s shock tactics have become familiar – and by nature less shocking – which inevitably leads to a more thorough examination of the music. For the most part, it stands up. The beats are sometimes too lurching for their own good – with P and We Got Bitches the main culprits – but there are also many infectious hooks. The atmospheric, slow-jams of songs such as Real Bitch and Analogue 2 tend to work best, though. In fact, the strength in Odd Future’s latest release lies in the combination of the raw, rap vocals of Tyler and co. with the soulful elements of Frank Ocean and The Internet.
If anything, Frank Ocean is criminally underused – with his beautiful White a much needed and warranted intermission from the rest of the album. Overall, Odd Future have dealt with the massive expectation well on their debut studio release. It’s an eclectic and solid – if unspectacular – return, which should see their already dedicated fanbase increase. The OF Tape Vol 2 won’t stir up as much animosity as the collective’s earlier material, but with razor sharp, expletive-ridden lyrics and tight beats aplenty, it’s undoubtedly Odd Future’s most accomplished album to date.