On 10th February 2011 the world discovered with fright and delight the black and white clip of a young unknown rapper in short trousers, sitting on a stool, cradling and then swallowing a giant cockroach whilst talking about stabbing Bruno Mars ‘in his goddamn esophagus’.
With his single “Yonkers”, taken from the album Goblin, Tyler, The Creator would plunge the prudish America of the 2010’s into a world of vulgarity, fashion, mosh-pits and anti-Christian videos, half-Lynchian, half-cartoon. An entire generation went along for the ride. Tyler hit gold and then platinum disc sales, and his albums Wolf (2013) and Cherry Bomb (2015) smashed the charts, accompanied by epic tours – which also provided an excuse for a rather outrageous web-series.
The cult of Tyler is all the more powerful because it’s backed up by a colourful source: the Californian collective Odd Future, short for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, a hub for wildly creative rappers and musicians. Led by Tyler, the mastermind-skater Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, Jasper, Taco, Mike G, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean (the band's ‘singer’) Domo Genesis, Syd tha Kyd – who operated as the supergroup’s DJ – and the satellite Vince Staples are just some of the names that figure in OFWGKTA’s cast. All of them would become famous simply by association with the crew. For many American kids, skaters, White Thrashers, backpackers and thrill-seeking students, Odd Future was a cult that saved them, an attitude towards the world, a calling.
Together, members of the collective created bands (The Internet, Mellowhype, EarlWolf), tons of merchandising, a radio show, two now cult mixtapes, and even their own festival in the heart of L.A. – the illustrious Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival, which has hosted Lauryn Hill, Kid Cudi, Lana Del Rey, Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg.
Odd Future’s music is more refined than the simple horrorcore label that’s often applied to them, and in this sense the collective is much more than just their on-stage appearance, and their expensive brand of clothing for card-carrying hipsters (Golf Wang).
From Tyler to Syd to The Internet via Earl, Odd Future is hours of free jazz samples, an unconditional love and respect for groove, the diligent practice of nu-soul – The Internet being exemplary – as well as great collaborations, such as with Mac Miller, Doom, Anderson .Paak, and The Alchemist. Whilst for Billy Eilish ‘Tyler is god’, how can one imagine the rise of trap rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, Post Malone or the late Juice WRLD without the foundations that were laid by the dozens of off-centre OFWGKTA kids?
Though now dispersed, the best training centre for U.S. rap still has a heavy influence on the music industry.