When the first Odd Future Tape was leaked in late 2008, it showcased a very different Wolf Gang—children, essentially, who’d never played a show before, never been judged by the critical establishment, never had a business meeting, never met their heroes, started their own clothing line, created a TV show, or turned the music industry on its head. But all of that’s happened since, and not without incident or controversy, so The OF Tape Vol. 2 has a lot to prove—mainly, are these guys here to stay?
The answer is yes. Feet to the fire, Odd Future delivers. The first sign is the intro track, “Hi.,” where the group’s buddy L-Boy (co-star of OF’s Adult Swim show Loiter Squad) roasts each “dusty ass motherfucker” in the pack. From there it’s onto “Bitches,” a scorcher built of New Age synths and hammering snares (courtesy of Left Brain, whose beats are all over the record) showcasing the raps of this set’s true stars, Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis. The two trade witty, off-kilter boasts in ever-shifting rhyme schemes that wind circles around their former selves. The other members of the gang notch similar feats. Matt Martians and Syd Tha Kyd, as psych-soul act The Internet, overcome the aimless drift of their recent debut to realize a hazy purple dream with “Ya Know.” The oft-forgotten Mike G is a viable contender for the first time, full of fire over the lurching banger “Forest Green.” Even Taco and Jasper Dolphin—the rodeo clowns of Odd Future, non-rapping goofballs kept around for comedic relief—sound like a Brick Squad B-team on the clanging crunk spoof “We Got Bitches.”
Perhaps most impressive is that Tyler, The Creator takes a noticeable step back so that his friends can enjoy the spotlight. When he does show up—standouts include the hulking G-funk mutation “Hcapd” and the grungy, bass-addled “P”—both his beats and raps thrill: All of the twisted jokes, tough introspection, and rabble-rousing that fans have come to expect, with none of the unfortunate rape references his detractors rightly called him on. Frank Ocean also has a minimal presence, but his cameos are folded perfectly into the mix—he actually sounds like he belongs here, a calming R&B influence amidst the chaos. And best of all, the nearly mythologized Earl Sweatshirt, fresh from Samoan reform school, makes a triumphant return at the tail end of the 10-minute posse cipher “Oldie.” For all the ways in which this crew has grown, it still sounds like a bunch of punk kids having the time of their lives. And as long as they have that, the future is still odd for us all.