Odd Future Put a New Spin on ‘Scary’ Hip-Hop, Experts Chime In
Call Odd Future "horrorcore" and frontman Tyler, the Creator might stab you in your "goddamn esophagus" like he fantasizes about doing to singer Bruno Mars on his dark single 'Yonkers.' The "horrific" title in question references a short-lived subgenre in hip-hop known for injecting dark and shocking imagery into rhymes.
Groups like the Gravediggaz and Flatlinerz paved the way for the horrorcore movement in the '90s. Truth be told, many rap artists throughout history have crafted graphic lyrics for shock value. Many have determined that Odd Future continues that progression -- much to the chagrin of OFWGKTA (short for Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All) who feels what they're doing is entirely different ... and brand new.
"There is totally nothing new even though nobody was eating roaches in their videos," Jerry Barrow, Senior Editor of the Urban Daily, tells the Boombox. He's referencing, of course, Tyler, the Creator's video for 'Yonkers.' In the video -- which has over 10.5 million views on YouTube -- Tyler eats a cockroach and then regurgitates it. He ends the video with lacing a noose and hanging himself.
The video was tweeted by Kanye West and assisted in boosting Odd Future's steady rise to fame with Tyler at the forefront. The shocking images in the video have since echoed throughout Tyler's career thus far. His second album, 'Goblin,' is currently topping the Billboard charts laden with lyrics like "rape a pregnant b---- and tell my friends I had a threesome" on 'Tron Cat.'
Lines like those inspired Sara Quin of indie rock outfit Tegan and Sara to pen an entire "Call for Change" against the Odd Future movement. "Folks who are shocked by Odd Future haven't been paying attention to hip-hop over the last 15 years or so," Barrow continues. "I think our eyes have been so glazed over by the two-headed monster of club riots and emo rapping that we forget there are other lanes."
In the past, rappers like Eminem have penned rhymes about murder and rape, leaving jaws dropped and videos banned. "There's a four-year-old boy lyin' dead with a slit throat in your living room/ Ha Ha what you think I'm kiddin' you?/ You loved him didn't you?" Eminem snarls in the song 'Kim,' where he plots to murder his ex-wife, who in real life is actually named Kim.
His music creates scary images in the mind, but according to Odell Hall of PlanetIll.com, there's a fundamental difference in Odd Future's approach: believability. "In the wake of Columbine and other acts of childhood defiance -- and framed within the context of the youth attempting to supplant the old or the existing powers that be -- Odd Future feels like an authentic rebellion," he explains. "So perhaps that's where the fear comes from, because it sounds like the fantasies of a depressed child."
Still, hip-hop artists have previously conjured up scared emotions in listeners for a long time. Barrow references the Cam'ron track 'Confessions,' where Cam details his sins to a priest. "Til he cried, and he cried, and he cried/ I had to scold him and yell/ Ya know one thing led to another/ I said oh what the hell/ Then I threw him against the wall/ His parents, I told them he fell/ That's why I'm going to hell," he rhymes about his two-year-old nephew on the track. "When you look at Bushwick Bill's 'Chuckie,' he's talking about 900 missiles blew a little girl's back off," Hall says, "and eating bags of BBQ broken legs. None of what Tyler is saying is particularly horrifying when compared to some early rap."
"To me, Odd Future is a refreshing breath of 'I just don't give a f---' to the conventions of hip-hop and entertainment," says Jake Paine, editor-in-chief of HipHopDX.com. "And while the striped socks, Steve Harvey hate and lawn gnomes are definitively 2011, this is a similar counter-punch that we've seen in Eminem, Wu-Tang Clan and Ice-T." Jerry Barrow adds to those sentiments. "Eminem used to be a one man Odd Future," he states. "Then he sobered up."
Rapper Necro -- short for Necrophiliac -- has a long-standing relationship with gore. On his track 'Morbid,' he threatens, "My practical solution to shmucks beefin'/ Is sinkin' my teeth in the flesh of ya neck like Dracula seducin' sluts/ And bite a piece of flesh off, but now you could have AIDS/ I'd rather make you a cadaver with blades." "Necro ... He was a sick mofo," Barrow says.
While the aforementioned are solo artists, on a crew level, Wu-Tang Clan brought a "shocking" front to hip-hop. With moans on tracks -- thanks to the late Ol' Dirty Bastard -- along with aesthetically creepy attire -- such as Ghostface Killah's early decision to keep his face covered -- Wu-Tang Clan were their own versions of "scary." Producer and MC RZA was even a part of horrorcore as a member of the Gravediggaz alongside Prince Paul.
So why is Odd Future so special? "Timing," Barrow thinks. "Rap music has been disgustingly safe the past few years. Waka Flocka, Rick Ross, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Weezy are safe. We don't even hear as much 'gangsta' rap ... Definitely not on the radio." Per Odell Hall, though, "Odd Future's music isn't new, but their approach is."
While rappers in the past have equally "scared" the masses with either lyrics or images, it's clear that Odd Future is offering a new, youthful face to an old form of expression. "Odd Future caught us napping and woke us up with a golden shower," Barrow concludes. "When someone as hood as Jim Jones is singing about his 'Perfect Day,' the door is wide open for some miscreants to raise hell."
Watch Tyler, the Creator's 'Yonkers'