If you’ve been awake lately and even spent a moment flipping through the bigger news in indie music, you’ve heard of Odd Future and you’ve heard that the world of liberal, equal-rights championing educated are coming out in some force to protest their very existence. In short Odd Future is a group of skate kid/hooligans turned crass mouthed rappers who’ve seemingly taken on the quest to become the hip-hop equivalent of the Jackass crew. And their ascension to fame can only be described as meteoric. From shopping free albums on the internet to having an entire feature written on them in The New Yorker, the Odd Future fan-base is growing and it’s major descriptor is, well, rabid. Problem is Odd Future, talented bastards that they are, can’t seem to spit a rhyme without discussing the joys of raping a woman or the need to kill a “faggot.” Thus, talent aside, GLAAD and some of the more prominent gay musicians have come out to throw a written smack down on the boys and girls of Odd Future. All the while their fanbase, their antics, their general aura just keeps growing bigger and uglier and to some, better.
So, just how evil is Odd Future?
On one hand, pretty evil. The group gleefully expounds in great description some of the baser tendencies of human nature without remorse or warning. Call it a publicist’s wet dream, call it a surefire way to draw the media to your front door, but Odd Future’s subject matter is high on the vile scale and with their group of sycophants growing bigger and bigger, their message of oft times disturbing hate is getting spread to a shocking number of people. We as a listening audience, myself included (I’ve Daily Choiced the collective not once, but twice) are so won over by OF’s stunning abilities that we can pump our fists and recite the lyrics without even thinking about the effect it might be having. Pitchfork dry humps anything the group produces and I’ve yet to read a single opinion (for or against) the group from any of the major bloggers. Odd Future is subversive in the worst way, the well-supported kind. And that makes them evil on a grand scale.
Yet, rappers have, since the birth of the genre, been spitting anti-gay and anti-female lyrics. Big Daddy Kane, A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian – the biggest names in the game have been spitting slander and we as a culture have been lapping it up. Eminem, as talented a rhyme-dropper as anyone, built his success on lyrics about killing and raping and drugging. And of course the good people of the world came out in force against him, and what happened? He went on to sell millions and millions of records time and time again, regardless of the degrading quality of his music. Odd Future’s “avant-garde” hip-hop isn’t anything new, it’s just the same staid messages with a new beat behind it. Same animal, new hat.
What’s evil here isn’t the singular entity of Odd Future, what’s become evil is how accepted homophobia/the degradation of women has become in our culture. I live in the gayest city in America and the minute amounts of homophobia I see on a daily basis (in the way we talk, the we understand, the way we contextualize ideas) still stuns me. We can bitch and moan about the terrible nature of Odd Future all we want (and implore all of us to continue) but my worry is that churning wheels of the mainstream music machine will continue on, regardless. Not only pumping out more and more look-alikes, but pushing them further and further up the Billboard Charts. How many number one singles has Eminem had? How many albums a year does the Insane Clown Posse sell? How much hype, good and bad, has Odd Future already garnered?
Again, Odd Future, flagbearers of modern hip-hop, you guys are pretty fucking talented and pretty fucking awful. Are you doing anything new? Anything different? No, you’re peddling the same shit rappers have been hocking for generations. Does this make it okay? No. Can we do anything besides voice our opinions at the idea that shocking homophobia helps propel musicians further up the ladder of success? Sadly, I think less and less. What we can do as a community of educated, forward-thinkers instead of wasting our time lashing out against the bubbles of entertainment, in truth creating a greater sense of anticipation for the noxious stuff, is just keep doing what we’re doing – writing, creating, and supporting fantastic music that will help to create a baseline of acceptance in shallow trough of mainstream thought.