The OF Tape Vol. 2, by Odd Future

97-theoftapevol2

Released March 20, 2012

1 hr, 3 min, 23 sec

I don’t know if any group in music today exemplifies the arc of internet fame more than Odd Future.

A bunch of kids hanging out, doing dumb shit, and putting out mixtapes individually and as a unit. In an era where the Internet was becoming one of the most important promotional tools for any musician, where dropping tracks on Myspace was still something people could do to get noticed, Odd Future took advantage of these tools and used them to create a rabid, fiercely loyal fanbase.

Teenagers – mostly white skater kids – loved Odd Future. The central subject matter of most of the group’s songs catered exactly to what most teenagers thought about – violence, getting high, and doing stupid shit with your friends just because you could. They could tap into these feelings and fantasies because they were teenagers. In 2010, right at the start of Odd Future’s ascent to fame, Earl Sweatshirt was 16 years old. Tyler, the Creator was 19. Hodgy Beats was 20. Odd Future was a bunch of kids making music that they wanted to hear, and it turned out to be the kind of subversive, self-aware rap that kids all over the country wanted to hear. It wasn’t mainstream, it wasn’t what you would hear on the radio – but it was great stuff. Through all the uncomfortable subject matter that they would often resort to, there was real talent bubbling underneath the surface for every member of Odd Future. It was talent and promise that many of them would capitalize on in some way or another as the group ascended at a meteoric rate.

One of the biggest catalysts of Odd Future’s rise to fame came with the disappearance of Earl Sweatshirt, which we’ve discussed on the blog before. Though he was sent to Samoa in order to straighten out his increasingly worrying attitude problems, no one knew that when news first hit that he was gone. Odd Future used Earl’s absence as a rallying cry for their fans, making “Free Earl” the group’s mantra for the entire year that he was gone. That, combined with the commercial release of Tyler’s first proper album Goblin, catapulted Odd Future into the mainstream view. Hodgy Beats’s duo with fellow member Left Brain, called MellowHype, began releasing albums of their own.

But 2012 was the big year, possibly the biggest of the group’s collective career. And that brings us to the pinnacle of Odd Future as a unit – The OF Tape Vol. 2.

The album is a sequel to one of the group’s oldest mixtapes, and is made in the same vein – tracks from every member of Odd Future, many of them featuring multiple members on one track. Everyone gets their time to shine on one or more tracks, from Tyler all the way down to Jasper Dolphin and Taco Bennett, which is probably more leeway than those two should be given. It’s a mixtape in its purest form – a bunch of friends having the time of their lives, all with professional production and recording tools.

But we’re not really here to talk about the music. A lot of it is great, to be sure – highlights like “NY (Ned Flander),” “Analog 2,” “Snow White,” “P,” and, of course, “Oldie” anchor the album and float it through some of the less powerful tracks, the ones that focus more on humor and less on substance.

“Oldie” is the ultimate Odd Future track, featuring every core member of the group dropping a verse, even the elusive Frank Ocean. If you wanted to know exactly what Odd Future was about, this was the track to play – each member gets to focus on their own material for a verse, distinct but cohesive at the same time. And the track’s highlight is clearly Earl Sweatshirt’s verse, his first in two years, after returning from “exile.” It’s something that he would explore in more melancholy detail when he returned to making his own music, but here he’s just enjoying being around his boys. The music video is the purest expression of Odd Future – shot on the spot, during a group photo shoot, where the track is played over the speakers. Tyler starts rapping along with his first verse, and eventually gets the entire group to mouth their own verses into the camera, creating a classic music video impromptu. Just like the group itself.

What The OF Tape Vol. 2 signified more than anything was that Odd Future could be themselves and still hit mainstream, commercially successful gold. Tyler blew up. MellowHype landed a stronger record deal. Domo Genesis emerged into his own more and more. And, of course, the crown jewel of The OF Tape Vol. 2, Earl Sweatshirt’s extended comeback verse on “Oldie,” signifying his permanent return to the music industry and Odd Future. And Frank Ocean, already gaining a significant amount of momentum from his 2011 mixtape nostalgia,ULTRA., continued to show his loyalty to Odd Future while priming himself for his own breakout album in channel ORANGE, released later that year.  Essentially, the tape launched the careers of nearly everyone in the group, and gave Odd Future Records the clout it needed to support the group’s work without the need to partner with any major labels.

That marked a turning point in the dynamic of Odd Future.  The group hasn’t released a collaborative album since The OF Tape Vol. 2. They still collaborated on each other’s albums – Tyler’s Wolf, Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris – and performed live together on a regular basis. But they were growing up, and growing up meant growing apart.

Tyler’s third album Cherry Bomb features just Syd tha Kid in terms of Odd Future members (more on that in a bit). Earl Sweatshirt’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside features none of the main members. Frank Ocean has not appeared on any Odd Future-related albums since 2013. MellowHype broke up in 2015, though Hodgy Beats and Left Brain stated that they would continue to work together under a different title.

Teenagers grow up and become adults, and careers can lead people in different, sometimes separate, directions. In 2015, Tyler posted a tweet reminiscing about Odd Future, in a manner that made it seem as if the group was no more. He backtracked fairly quickly, clarifying that he was just looking back and letting nostalgia take the wheel, but the signs that Odd Future had permanently changed are everywhere. Earl seems to have walked away from Odd Future completely, and Syd and Matt Martians – collectively known as the Internet – have both explicitly stated that they were no longer part of the group, though they remain tied to the record label. The days of Odd Future as a collective are long gone – all that remains now is a legacy, and the divergent strands of the careers that it birthed.

All except for Mike G, of course. Stop getting high and release a real album for once.

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