Review Summary: Polarizing hip-hop force Odd Future do what they do best to mixed results. Haters remain unmoved.
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (shortened to the convenient but awkward abbreviation OFWGKTA) over the last few years alone have earned themselves a substantial fanbase who adores them with the feverish devotion one would have for their firstborn child. Conversely, they’ve also garnered quite a bit of flak from critics and fans alike who knock them for their lack of street cred, uninspired lyrics on behalf of some members, and lack of perceived quality, and the criticism has indeed been harsh. While Odd Future certainly isn’t the best that hip-hop has to offer in today’s musical landscape, one cannot deny their honesty and passion for what they do. Especially if one lands within the late-teens/early-twenties age bracket that the group’s members also find themselves in, you can’t help but want to support them, be in the room with them recording, and be part of what they’re doing. Odd Future may not feature the best rappers alive by any means, but they’re seriously reminiscent of the guys that some of you probably hung out with in high school, and with that comes the group’s charm. Their realness comes with that as well, not by the collective amount of people that they’ve capped.
The OF Tape Vol. 2 maintains the palpable youthful spirit of previous Odd Future efforts, but to an even higher degree than before. The fun that Tyler, Hodgy, Domo, Mike G, Left Brain, the returning Earl Sweatshirt and everyone else had in recording this album stuck to tape and it comes through during the listening experience. Everyone sounds comfortable and carefree, but maybe a little TOO carefree. While there is plenty of strong material to be found among this album’s eighteen tracks, there still remains many moments, even within the good stuff, where you’ll feel like you’re listening to a bunch of young guys goofing off over some beats. The album features many spots that exhibit some seriously clumsy flows and somewhat lackluster production, like the ridiculously basic synth line that drives Mike G’s “Forest Green”. After a hilarious introduction by L Boy, the first song on here (the creatively titled “Bitches”) is just as underwhelming as “Forest Green” with its minimalistic (to the point of sounding dull) instrumental underlying some awkward cadence on behalf of Domo and Hodgy, and the track overall just sounds like a throwaway making me wonder why it was chosen to open the album to begin with. Later on, the track “Real Bitch” is just as useless with its banal narrative about finding a female pleaser with nothing interesting thrown in to save the song from the fact that Hodgy just sounds bored rapping over it. Near the album’s end, “We Got Bitches” (notice the “bitch” theme here?) while it is supposed to be fun and humorous, just doesn’t deliver the laughs even when Jasper hits us with the line “Six hundred sixty six bitches on my dick”, and Tyler’s beat on this track sounds like it was hastily thrown together at the last minute as if he was running out of studio time.
While the album does falter in a handful of places, when Tyler and Co. hit you with a great track, they hit hard. After the lackluster “Bitches”, Tyler and Hodgy’s “NY (Ned Flanders)” sounds like something that could’ve been culled from Tyler’s Goblin sessions; the instrumental is ominous and eerie with Tyler’s signature keyboard textures, and its lyrics reference mental illness which is an aspect of Tyler’s personality that was dealt with on Goblin as well. “Analog 2” features fantastic vocals by singers Frank Ocean and Syd tha Kyd, and Syd’s hip-hop/soul track “Ya Know” offers a nice stylistic change of pace and an appreciated bit of variety. “Rella”, despite some lazy rapping by Domo, is a bangin’ track that’s sure to cause many to get out of their seats and throw up ridiculous arm gestures with impunity, wigging out to its distorted, heavily modulated beat that may even get some of the group’s haters bobbing their heads. While “P” and “Hcapd” are decent songs, they only lead up to “Sam (Is Dead)” which shines through some of the muck on this album. It’s apparent that Tyler took great care in producing this milti-layered track, and the results greatly impress, and even Domo sounds fantastic here. But if there’s one track that truly blasts through all the mediocrity throughout this installment of the OF Tape series, it would have to be the closer “Oldie.” In its ten and a half minute duration it features almost every Odd Future member, one MC after another, with an aggressive Wu-Tang style beat to back them up. It redeems the album, and if that weren’t enough, Earl Sweatshirt triumphantly returns to the group with a verse that can best be described as “monstrously epic.” After Tyler’s concluding verse, you’ve just experienced everything that Odd Future is about in one song, and if there’s one solitary bit of material that anyone should hear from them, this would be it.
In all, The OF Tape Vol. 2 is a mixed bag with some seriously unsatisfying moments sprinkled throughout, but the parts that shine are truly bright, even radiant. This album, however, will certainly do nothing to silence the group’s haters, in all actuality, it will probably do the opposite and provoke more dissent than ever. Hate these kids if you must, but at least respect their unique style, honesty, and the buoyant spirit that drives everything that they set their minds to.