Stranger Than Fiction

OFWGKTA Emerge as Trailblazing Modern Hip-Hop Collective

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Chat with Syd of OFWGKTA

Bryan Gerhart interviews Syd of OFWGKTA via online chat.

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At midnight on February 11, Tyler, The Creator, captain of the hip-hop ship OFWGKTA, released the self-directed video for "Yonkers," a song the 19-year-old single-handedly wrote and produced. At 12:03 a.m. the YouTube clip had been watched 300 times. 12 hours later there were 25,000 views, and before the calendar had time to say it was February 12, the video had already passed the 100,000 mark. The Future is nigh. And it's Odd.

Tyler, also known as Ace Creator, or Wolf Haley when he's feeling particularly sinister, makes up only one-eleventh of the LA collective OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, if you're acronymphobic). Since late 2009, the group has released 10 full-length albums, played shows on the East Coast and London, and flipped comparisons from "OF sounds like..." to "...sounds like OF," all without selling a single song.

OFWGKTA represent the future of music, and not just because their songs push boundaries. Their music videos and relentless appropriation of 666 and the inverted cross cement a visual connection, and following their blog and Twitter accounts are near-necessary elements of the full Odd Future experience. It'd be easy to say that the band is a product of the Internet, but that's not exactly it. The Internet has been a musical hype machine for 10 years now, but bands that desire web-blessings haven't been able to do much more than make music and hope for the best. OFWGKTA have figured out how to make the Internet work for them, rather than the other way around. That being said, it's entirely appropriate that interviewing Syd, OF's 18-year-old engineer, DJ and sometimes-producer, took place over AIM.

"I wish people knew what we really stand for," Syd said, "But I don't care enough to explain it to them." Being the sole female in a group that's garnered as much press for its seemingly misogynistic themes as for the music itself, she understands in a way the media can't. "They're not sexist, obviously, if I'm here. People have a tendency to take things more personally than they need to. If they'd all calm down they could enjoy the music."

This is where I'm supposed to print the most shocking soundbite I can find in the Odd Future canon and then emphasize how it's even more perverse than it seems because it's being rapped by someone who can't yet buy himself a beer. Some gruesome line about rape and murder or a proverbial pissing on organized religion. There's no shortage of these salacious gems, but trying to stuff OFWGKTA into a box of vulgarity defeats their purpose. Critics have been quick to try and explain away Odd Future's harsh exterior by slapping on a "horrorcore" tag (a hip-hop sub-genre that Tyler has repeatedly dismissed) but that's missing the point entirely. Horrorcore relies on shock for shock's sake; it lacks the emotional substance that makes Wolf Gang so interesting.

Tyler's 2009 release Bastard and his "younger brother" Earl's self-titled 2010 download are two of the more personal albums in hip-hop's recent history, and showcase the group's ability to develop authenticity through fantasy. They pull from the darker recesses of the mind to display honest emotion that can't be conveyed with blatancy. Syd, who will DJ tonight's show at Slim's both for the group and for her own opening set, has a simpler explanation: "We say what we want."

It's hard to say where exactly Odd Future came from. Tyler's made a habit of falsifying facts for the fun of it, so establishing an accurate origin story is difficult. What we do know is that the group likes skateboarding, that anything they consider cool is "swag," and that member Earl Sweatshirt is "missing," however no one outside of OFWGKTA knows where he actually is. According to Syd, the group doesn't have any particular agenda. "All we're doing is making music we like. We're glad everyone else likes it too."

So then, if she did care enough to explain what OFWGKTA really stands for? "It's not (about) hate. It's doing what makes you happy and saying 'Fuck you' to the people who say you can't. Simple as that."


Make Bryan an overnight YouTube phenomenon at [email protected]

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