Review Summary: Wolf certainly leaves fans wanting and wondering why an entire record of "Yonkers" or "Domo23" can't happen.
Very few hip-hop collectives since the Wu-Tang Clan have had a popular culture impact on such a massive scale as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. With a fan base comprised primarily of sexually starved teenagers, observationally, it still means something when a not-so-far-detached from puberty teen shouts "swag" at passers-by to impress his gang of hi-top clad, neon-colored sagged-pant wearing cohorts. Why does Odd Future appeal to this demographic though, and is this an ill-informed generality? Truthfully, yes - while some fans of the crew may not fall into these tropes, it holds true in a broad sense. Odd future appeals ideally to the latent narcissistic anarchist personae that many teenagers experience at least one time throughout their tenure. Maybe not so glorious as the Anarcho-Punk movement of times past, OF has still spawned a small collection of meaningful records, singles, and performances that have all only expanded this reputation.
Tyler, The Creator, assumed leader of the collective, typifies all these stereotypes. 2009's Bastard
started the hype with its dark beats and darker lyricism. Single "Yonkers" finally came to fruition in advance of his heavily anticipated follow-up, Goblin
, as a logical direction from Bastard
that exceeded its forebear in every way. "Yonkers" made waves online, its artistic video going viral and landing Odd Future cameos on popular late night shows. Performance-wise, Tyler and company became well known for their chaotic do-what-we-want behavior. This all came to a head on Goblin
where critical expectations were at a critical mass and completely dashed by wildly inconsistent songwriting in a huge step back from his debut. Tyler's third full-length, Wolf
, again had potential to re-rail the hype train after single "Domo23" dropped, an ode to hardcore rap bringing to the fore everything Odd Future stands for amidst near electro-trap production.
fails in the very same manner as Goblin
, albeit with slightly more class. While not completely gone, the misogynistic shock-rap laden lyricism is a lot less front and center here. This is an apparent trade off in favor of more insight and reflection (which makes sense, Tyler is older and much richer at this point). "Colossus" is particularly unbearable as a composition, but indicative of this change in behavior with a classic Eminem-esque dedication to his own "stan". His almost comedian modeled, nonchalant flow is refined as ever, showing marked improvement as a rapper. The real problem with Wolf
is undoubtedly the production - which is quite unfortunate, as excellent tracks like "Jamba" and "Domo23" go hard with some imaginative electro-influenced beats. Tyler puts in a real effort to shine a light on his improved lyricism by simplifying his production even more, to dubious results at best. "Cowboy" and "Awkward" form a 1-2 punch of snore-inducing elevator music (besides content reasons, one can already tell from the title of the latter). The Pharrell featured "IFHY" actually succeeds where most of the record fails by combining the target chilled-out vibe with some interesting production choices - ultimately begging the question why isn't this par for the record?
Tyler, The Creator is at his absolute best when tearing the mic to shreds, decrying people he hates as "faggots", "bitches", and liberally expanding the standard usage of "fu
ck". Inconsistencies aside, Wolf
is at least an improvement from Goblin
(albeit minor); although, it will certainly leave fans wanting and wondering why an entire record of "Yonkers" or "Domo23" can't happen. Of all the Odd Future talent, Tyler may be the most enigmatic, but it appears Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean will be the only true legacies from the movement as a whole. Let's hope not.