In 2010, there was nothing like Odd Future. Rising up from seemingly nowhere, the rabble-rousing troupe of skate-punk, streetwear-obsessed teenagers brought their brash, radioactive rebellion music from the streets of Fairfax to the ears of young, impressionable, angry, depressed, disgruntled, and bored teenagers everywhere. In the process, they bypassed the establishment — radio, labels, and then-nascent, tastemaking music blogs — with their reckless, unhinged, but probably tongue-in-cheek mantra: “Kill People, Burn Shit, Fuck School.” Their no-rules approach brought them immense success, including a constellation of television shows and businesses that have collectively spread the group’s brand into widespread awareness. Since then, the group’s members have largely mellowed out and lost some members along the way, but they still maintain the same, near-religious level of influence.
They’ve gone from skateboards to McClarens, from streetwear to designer, from Sharpie-tagged canvas backpacks to luxury handbags. The Internet is holding the torch for modern day smooth funk, while Earl Sweatshirt recently released a well-received, experimental rumination on legacy on Some Rap Songs. The Internet‘s frontwoman, Syd, had become a new model for presenting an alternative identity in urban music, inspiring fans with her unapologetic self-assurance. And their leader, mastermind, and mischievous creative director, Tyler The Creator, has reached the point where his co-sign confers legitimacy and his fans’ excitement on artists who would ordinarily have to struggle to attain it, such as Jaden Smith or Brockhampton, who recently headlined his 2018 Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival.
Odd Future bore not only the brunt of the intense criticism of their initial, lawless onslaught on the sensibilities of “real hip-hop” and polite society, they also siphoned the worst aspects of the intensified relationship between fans and performers that was created by social media. In the wild west early days of Twitter, before hashtags denoted thousands-strong political campaigns and Russia-sympathizing, Neo-Nazi bots were defending Kanye West, fans mounted a massive investigation into the whereabouts of missing member Earl Sweatshirt, eventually finding him at a boarding school in Samoa where he’d been sent by his concerned mother. Completely forgetting the fact that Earl was at the time 16 years old and therefore entirely under the stewardship of his parental guardian, fans harassed Earl’s mother, driving by the family home and calling at all hours to cajole her for his freedom. Is it any wonder his tendency since returning has been to vanish as often as he drops new music?