Odd Future fans have had a few months now, to process what they probably already knew deep down – OFWGKTA is no more. The collective, which rose to prominence on Myspace and Tumblr in the late ’00s hasn’t been together in the same physical and musical sense since a few of the members, like Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt and the group’s leader Tyler the Creator blew up far bigger than anyone could have predicted.
Odd Future’s success in music signalled a change in the listenership of hip hop. They had an immediately offbeat vibe, kind of like those kids in high school who huffed paint in the washrooms and would get kicks out of pulling the fire alarm. Now those kids are running the music industry, branching out into their own lanes and making Grammy appearances. Odd Future made it cool to be weird.
No one was more forthcoming with their eccentricity than Tyler the Creator, who at 24, is commanding large audiences (and fees no doubt) as he embarks as a truly solo artist, for perhaps the first time since the gang started recording in South Central, LA. He just released Cherry Bomb, a thirteen track album with features from Pharrell Williams, and Kanye West – and none from Odd Future. The album is a follow up to 2013’s Wolf in which he narrated his life at the time through some characters at camp. Wolf is also where he may have figuratively killed off his Odd Future members.
Cherry Bomb is Tyler’s first go without his friends or any fictional characters to tell his story. The result at first feels chaotic, with jazz influences and thematic references that are so unlike anything he’s ever put out. Commercial success hasn’t changed Tyler’s creative style. His music contains substance but it’s interplayed with offensive lyrics and jokey rhymes (fuck your loud pack/ and fuck your Snapchat) on songs like Smuckers.
Watching him perform tracks from the album, it’s clear that he’s enjoying his solo moment. Backed by Taco on the turntables, Tyler launched into a 45 minute set at FVDED in the Park, taking the audience from Cherrybomb back to his Bastard beginnings. If you listen to Tyler without seeing him perform, you’re missing a big part of his persona. He’s dynamic on stage, and demanding of his audience. There’s no moment of rest from the first note to the the last song; he’s constantly running across the stage, an effervescent smile never leaving his face. He’s a prankster till the end, berating people in the audience, pretending to ejaculate on a woman’s face and constantly asking people to throw up their sunglasses for him to wear (and then making sure they were returned). He’s entertaining himself, if no one else, and that is an essential part of being an entertainer.
The crowning moment was when Yonkers, arguably his most “famous” song to date came on toward the end of his set. There’s always that one song you have to live with as a performer – the one song that appeals to all crowds beyond your fanbase, the one song that follows you around from show to show, the one song you’re probably sick of performing. When Yonker’s came on, Tyler led the crowd through a proper shit show, the entire open field swaying from side to side as Tyler jumped vigorously up and down on stage. It was refreshing to see someone who raps about being an asshole be completely and genuinely grateful for his time on stage.
Tyler’s got a busy few months planned, his entrepreneurial efforts with Golf Media a subscription for everything Tyler, and an accompanying magazine. He’s touring this fall, in a stadium tour alongside A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and Vince Staples. Wherever he decides to take the direction for his next album, he’ll be just fine without his friends.