“Goblin,” the first official album from the group’s frontman, Tyler, the Creator, landed Tuesday and shot to No. 3 on the iTunes album chart. But perhaps the most interesting thing about Odd Future is that its rapid ascent was enabled by Tumblr, Twitter and millions of YouTube views — an attention-grabbing path that may define how today’s rebels become tomorrow’s pop-culture heroes.
It was just last summer that Odd Future’s motley 11-member crew, each of whom contribute in varying degrees, first created ripples in the blogosphere with a pair of stunning music videos they shot themselves. A clip for the song “Earl” portrayed the baby-faced coterie chugging smoothies purportedly made of prescription drugs and malt liquor, while “French” captured an afternoon of skateboarding, vandalism and other pranky mischief in cinematic black and white.
Questions multiplied like mosquitoes: Who were these kids? Why didn’t other rappers sound this intense? Where did those stark, hallucinogenic beats come from?
And they weren’t really serious about attacking Christians with chain saws, right?
The group’s music felt instantly thrilling and completely unfiltered. Its disturbing lyrics and mischievous videos spoke directly to a generation of teens raised on the “Saw” and “Jackass” franchises. And there didn’t seem to be anyone or anything guiding the group other than impish teenage id — a complete break from the highly groomed personas that dominate contemporary hip-hop and pop music writ large.
Soon, Odd Future — the group’s full name is Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, OFWGKTA for short — were standing at the epicenter of the greater pop discussion. Their faces began popping up in magazines. They gave a riotous performance on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” They dove off stages during high-profile appearances at the South by Southwest and Coachella music festivals. And they recently signed a major label deal with Sony’s RED that will allow them to release albums at their pace with complete creative control.
Much of the attention focused on Tyler, the Creator, Odd Future’s lead provocateur. The 20-year-old wannabe film student, born Tyler Okonma, reportedly bounced from school to school throughout his childhood, developing an outsize personality that might have been too big for higher education. It’s Tyler’s restless energy that defines the group. He is also responsible for Odd Future’s punky graphic design, directs its music videos and produces most of its music. His shrill, skeletal beats, often grafted to queasy, jazzy piano chords, sound worlds removed from standard hip-hop radio fare.