Like the poetry it so sought to be, conscious rap is dying. And like poetry — what was once an art of preserving a knowing of the power of language for those who retain it (be they monarchs, CEOs, etc.), and of writing for the future as did Harlem Renaissance and South African apartheid poets (cough Earl’s father cough) in penning the seeing-past-race lexicon of the New Negro — rap has devolved into a fetish for craft and given piece’s font downloaded for the feeling it looks, for well-metered lines not really saying anything about anything more than, well, just kinda how the rapper feels. Insular, with all energies bound inward. It’s self-wrought, too, in rap that’s been concerned with the same portraiting of the same project stairwell hells, the drive-by, the booty, the corner, crack, defness, even and especially rap, in case-in-point browbeating tour de lyrical forces of enjambment of stresses, alternated between standard feet and trochee wild with iamb within and in showoff-y contrast to simple end-rhyme’s cincture, lamenting rap and all other rap’s concern only with those few said themes for a long quarter-century now. It’s wearied of reporting what’s been covered thrice over, stuck in the what-ifs of what’s past and unchanging, and, in doing so, forgot that they’ve had their time and it was beautiful and will Nostalgia Ultra, doubtless. But then was then, and now it’s time for him to create with what was created for him. To be the parents.
Enter Odd Future. In chickensuits and ski masks in bedlam, blowing balloons just to pop with popguns’ corks and ‘BANG’ flags, one Sharpie’d over with ‘FUCK,’ and hee-hawing sentences of just that word à la the ‘buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo’ that one of them heard before ditching second period. The sun’s peaking through pastels low in the east, the host’s mouth’s hung dumb, and they’re still bucking to Waka Flocka. Some high, some not, all underage and shotgunning soda pops.
With them, hip-hop’s fun again. Another critic said it best: “Their insanity is infectious, the candor just a little too human, even relatable, to ever be fully mistaken for a twisted unconscious.” Theirs isn’t art forcing a reality it says we overlook or lack elsewhere. Although we do, it’s too easy to say ‘well I wouldn’t’ to talk of rape that we don’t. The Kool Keiths, some metal’s death growls, Immortal Techniques, Robert Coovers, and William Burroughses of the world have been offending and discomforting for generations, challenging the audience to, yes, confront the subject, but more to be aware enough to know that it is its own approach, rendering any articulation so trying that a novel or note can hardly do it justice.
And what do you get from that suspension of judgment? A moment’s freeing from the what-is you couldn’t choose to be born into but were and others think you responsible for at least having, what you didn’t define as the ‘decency’ to uphold its ways and workings. Offensive art doesn’t dress itself ‘good’ for the society it’s never bought pell-mell into, an artist naked with his fans, all getting it, knowing when no else does.
And like said forebears, Odd Future and their The OF Tape Vol. 2 aren’t out to kill anyone — not even lyrically (Earl aside). Hodgy’s grown with Earl’s absence’s burden, shoring the load with a little Domo Genesis and Mike G, showing an almost AH-HAH grasping of what wonders inflection and slant-rhyming (see “Rella,” a surprisingly quality cut with a prowling-to-Tyler feel) do for flow that he doesn’t over Left Brain-at-his-best’s “Snow White,” where he spits mouthfuls like “I don’t mean basketball when I say that they be ballin’ in the park a lot” and “I’m international, actual, but in fact I go from the US to the UK to Amsterdam in like two days.” They read loud on paper, but in song sound mis-stressed and too syllabic. Hodgy, though still learning and neither the wittiest nor most memorable, is a soldier, on the front imprinting OF’s lyric randomness-to-keep-ourselves-entertained aesthetic as Inspectah Deck did for Wu-Tang’s swordstyle.
And they have the same host know that they hate the comparison; that they skate to escape; that RZA’s a different gritty, that “Oldie’s” drums are Tyler’s; that Tyler’s idols are the Neptunes (see “P” and “Sam (Is Dead)”), with the same Left Brain here in his bucket hat and shades, serenading “Where.. my.. bitches.. at?/ Where.. my.. bitches.. at?/ Where.. my.. bitches.. at?” off-key and -song, while Syd and the boys buck at “50’s” bass and its verses, the same Hodgy here pinching LB’s nose. The Gang swears they’re here to clean house. Coming crooked through doorways, ollieing over chairs with an air like kids all me-first. Meowing. Meowing in unison and tagging crude cats and dicks and cats with dicks for ears on the wall like they don’t care for the graffiti elaborate and already there; it saying “Hip Hop” or “Fight the Power,” “RIP” by too many names, and a Wu ‘W’ or something. Not that they hate it. “My Poppa didn’t give one, that’s why I’m like this now,” Tyler grinning his gap-tooth, rattling the spray-can by names faded under drips from his fresh OF-donut tag: “They’re just old as FUCK.”