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9 May 2011

When there’s so many people on stage you can’t tell who’s the star

There’s culture happening ^^^
And then there’s culture hopping.

It’s weird when a media outlet tries to become part of the story. It’s weirder still when all of them due, and when media coverage seems like it is the story.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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4 April 2011

A short attention span essay about electric outfits, SXSW, odd futures & punk rock boys

Last week !!! played a semi-private show at New York University where they debuted this LED jacket, created by the creative and technically minded folks at Van Adams Technologies.

It was electric — as documented in these photos by David Andrako.

Hopefully there is more to come.

These last few months I’ve had the exciting opportunity to help the band re-imagine what their live show might be and to spark, perhaps, a renassiance for the group — 15 years into their career, and a few years after their closest thing to a “hit,” a song called “Heart of Hearts.” (A fan favorite in the US, it was something considerably bigger in Japan, the United Kingdom, and various other overseas territories.)

This re-imagining included !!!’s first ever appearance at SXSW. It was there that I couldn’t help but notice something…odd. The three !!! performances I attended down in Austin were painfully packed. Someone told me there were 7,000 audience members at a free-to-the-public-festival called Mess with Texas; at the band’s headlining set for Other Music’s lawn party, they followed UK buzz act James Blake and, from what I observed, had a bigger draw. Yet most of the media buzz on the event failed to mention them. Our peers in this weird fan-to-media coverage ratio include The Strokes, who drew 22,000 people to a stage near Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin and, oddly, the Dead Milkmen whose set at Mess with Texas were completely packed with ardent fans, many of whom could sing along to every line of their decades-old novelty hits like “Bitchin’ Camaro” and “Punk Rock Girl.”

Directly across the way from the Dead Milkmen, another group with a completely inverted ratio of fan-interest-to-media-buzz played one of their half-dozen sets at the festival. This was the acknowledged buzz act of the festival, a not-as-different-as-one-might-imagine group called Odd Future. (Like !!!, the Strokes & the Dead Milkmen there is something deeply punk about what Odd Future are doing — but more about that later.)

Communicating to the world, at first, through a Tumblr blog; mentioned by Kanye West in a tweet to his two million plus followers; Odd Future are known as a group which defines the speed of hype in the social media era. Even I’ve blogged about them previously. They’re no doubt worthy of all this interest as proven by SXSW clips like this one.

But here’s the weird part: Most of the videography and writing I could find about the Strokes, !!! and Dead Milkmen was by…fans. An appropriate thing for this age of social media. But Odd Future, a group supposedly propelled by organic fan-to-fan social media comment, seemed to be the only thing the most mainstream of outlets like the New York Times found worth of coverage.

Viz this and this, the paper’s two main posts on the festival.

It’s probably stupid to opine in too much depth about Odd Future having missed all of their shows in Austin, but after watching a dozen more clips of the group online, I’m comfortable in observing they have two major assets going for them, neither of which is particular to hip-hop, the internet or even, for that matter, the 21st century:

(1) A great frontman and I mean fucking great — like Ian or Henry back in the hardcore days great. The longer they’re around in fact, the more this seems less like a hip-hop story than a rebirth of hardcore. (The clip above is from a Thrasher Magazine party, natch.)

(2) Way more connections to the music industry than is being let on in their back story. People started telling me about this group in September; I know some hip-hop heads were into them much earlier than that. But a gestation period under twelve months suggests a certain…connectedness. Knowing what I know of the music industry, P. Diddy and Mos Def wouldn’t have both shown up on stage with the band by SXSW without careful negotiations by whoever Odd Future’s handlers are. You also don’t sign simultaneous deals with XL and Fat Possum without a fair number of lawyers involved. And the rise of Frank Ocean — “a 23-year-old New Orleans-born, Beverly Hills-based singer” — as part of the “Odd Future crew” struck me as, well, odd. As did this Billboard cover story on the group which followed.

In other worse, this band’s “viral” rise just seems way too well stage managed. In other words, what I’m not sure Odd Future has yet is a real paying audience. At this point, they are way more of a media story than a story of fans liking the band.

Are Odd Future going to sell more copies of their next few records than Dead Milkmen? Yep. But please be aware that chatter does not equal long-term audience interest, or any of the things that actually make a band viable besides the booking of an occasional appearance on late night TV. Or, well, obscure Canadian webisodes like this one in which the group comes off looking less like the future, and more like…well…the next in a long line of overhyped lambs led to the media slaughter.

Above: Odd Future’s Tyler, the Creator baffled by Canadian celebrity interviewer Nardwuar the Human Serviette.

I, for one, wish them luck.

They’ll need it.

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17 February 2011

OFWGKTA OMG WTF LOL

I like how he climbs on Fallon’s back & the QR Code as record cover. The zombie/dead girl in hospital robes could cause them problems someday.

‘nuf said!

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18 October 2010

Odd Future from Los Angeles

Above is a YouTube blip by Tyler, the Creator, the one member of LA hip-hop posse Odd Future who is most hotly tipped to go all the way. And, well, now that LA Weekly has finally gotten around to it, I should probably publish my post about them too. Here’s a boiled down version of the Weekly‘s feature (written by an acquaintance, Caroline Ryder, to whom I’ll say, nice job).:

    Their visual language reflects influences they don’t even know they have yet — Aleister Crowley, ’80s porn, Amityville, A Clockwork Orange and Dogtown. Their lyrical matter is XXX-rated, containing references a little too weird (rape? scat? Jermaine DuPri?) and a little too learned for their young-adult minds. They are tough enough to be on The Wu-Tang’s radar (GZA is a fan), and their beats, dense enough to crush bone matter, are engineered by a girl — Syd, Odd Future’s only female, who is arrestingly beautiful in a no-makeup-and-hoodie kind of way…

    In addition to Tyler, the Creator, Odd Future is: Jasper Dolphin, Domo Genesis, Matt Martians of the Super 3, Left Brain, Mike G, Hodgy Beats, Taco, Syd and Earl Sweatshirt.

    Sweatshirt’s video, called “Earl,” is how I stumbled upon Odd Future. Directed by A.G. Rojas, it features Earl sitting under a hair-salon dryer rapping about ass sex, catfish and decomposing bodies while his Odd Future posse members drink a smoothie made of cough syrup, weed, pills and powders, with gory, deeply disconcerting consequences. “Let’s all fucking kill ourselves,” someone commented on YouTube, which pretty much summed up how the video made me feel, too.

    It was amazing…

    Tyler says he really loves to masturbate, collects books and was, until very recently, studying film at a community college in West L.A. He dropped out, aware that Odd Future was turning into something that might require all of his time and attention.

They’re dark to the point of being indefensible, perhaps…

…but I’ve learned better than to even attempt to police the hazy borders that govern morality in art. Say what you will, they’re at least self-aware enough to know what they rap about has fucked-up qualities. (The top post on their website right now debuts a new track, while noting that it marks a change of direction: “Some OF You Females Might Get Annoyed By Us Raping You, So, Left Brain And Hodgy Decided To Slow It Down And Show You That…You Are Special…Not On No Soft Shit.” Ok then!)

Where to start? You can download many of their mixtapes at their blog OFWGKTA (an acronym for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) or visit some of their MySpaces. I started with Tyler the Creator‘s album Bastard which he released free online on Christmas day in 2009. Check it out (though unfortunately the full album-length download link at Zshare.com seems to be gone now).

Not being the hip-hop head, I’ll admit I haven’t gotten very far past that album, but I like it. Reference points via an RIYL: Wu-Tang Clan, Dr. Octagon, Gravediggaz. And RE: that last RIYL, here’s a thought to anyone that thinks Odd Future is truly new. Everything old can and will become new again! (Evidence after the jump.)
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