Don’t Mourn the End of Odd Future, It’s a Waste of Time
Shit changes and people grow. But Odd Future's stamp on cultural history can never be erased.
UPDATE, 2:00 PM EST: Tyler, the Creator commented on the speculation surrounding Odd Future breaking up via Twitter this morning, saying "ALL I WAS DOING WAS LOOKING AT OLD PHOTOS WITH FRIENDS AND THINKING ABOUT HOW TIME FLIES, CRAZY HOW ONE TWEET CAN STIR SO MUCH." So now you definitely shouldn't mourn Odd Future. Let's all think about how great they are, though:
The grand necropolis of musical history holds few perpetual groups. Once a band calls it quits, they’re usually crammed deep in the chamber of the past and forgotten. A few survive in the public conciousness. Bands like Nirvana and the Ramones; rap outfits ranging from NWA to the Wu-Tang Clan; and pop acts like the Spice Girls and N Sync. These acts outlive the necrosis of their careers, passing of members, and decline of botanically immaculate skin to exist immortally, bound by their intrinsic ties to the culture of their time. And while it often seems like the mortuary of eternally popular music is at capacity, reeking with the gluttony of the music presses infinite retrospectives, there’s space yet for a few more acts who encompass today’s millennia.
Groups like Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All Don’t Give A Fuck Litter Life Bacon Boys Loiter Squad Butt Fuck Bitch Niggas: the 14-member-plus group headed up by Tyler the Creator and featuring Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt, who exploded back in 2011 and have since grown into a multi-million dollar empire: responsible for music festivals, at least 30 official full-length releases, a TV network show, expletive-laden tweets in all caps, the rise and demise of snapback caps, and a tenacious grip on youth culture in their four-year run. Last night the collective appeared to have officially terminated their relationship—and it’s not worth crying about because their imprint on history is as irremovable as Michael Jackson’s handprints outside Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre.
As plenty of news outlets have reported in the last 24 hours, Tyler suggested via a bunch of tweets last night that Odd Future is over. As a result, people are mourning that fact. However, this is not the first time he’s alluded to the group being over. Almost a year ago, he tweeted “I AM NOT FROM OF ANYMORE” and a Fader cover story from earlier this year featured quotes ranging from “Shit changes, people get older, people's goals change” to “everyone’s on their own island” and the writer’s inclusion that “[he] hasn't made any Odd Future merch since 2012”.
The group rarely interact online anymore, haven’t appeared on releases together since 2013, and essentially became a name to shoehorn a group of vaguely similar artists together, so it shouldn’t be surprising they’ve ‘broken up’. OFWGKTA has been dead for years and mourning them is like mourning a long deceased puppy. Instead, like every good death, it should be about remembering the good times, the stamp made on cultural history. And because none of them have, y’know, actually died, what the group’s demise means for the future.
Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt’s recent releases are their best yet, free from the constraints of the Odd Future brand, both crafted records that felt like full, honest portraits, rather than caricature. The rest of the artists within the group—acts like The Internet, Mike G, Hodgy Beats—are increasingly making very diverse music, and it doesn’t make sense for them to bind together as a collective. In order for each artist to grow, Odd Future ending is the best case scenario. Now we might finally see a Mike G album, get another seductive record from The Internet. Or maybe some will go back to hitting bongs with newfound vigor. Whatever happens, it’s a new beginning.
Odd Future may be gone but their memory is already immortalised in the following highlights: the group’s debut performance of “Sandwitches” on Jimmy Fallon; a scare-mongering Newsnight report, Kanye West changing his website to feature just the video for “Yonkers” and later “IFHY”; Earl Sweatshirt going missing and being “found” by Complex in Samoa; Frank Ocean releasing Channel Orange; the video for “Earl”; every live show where it felt like music was exciting again and artists gave a shit about performing; the hype that ended in riots at shows; Tyler’s infamous Twitter account; and the group’s final farewell, “Oldie”, released in 2013, the last artifact to show the group together.
It’s the video for “Oldie” which seems representative of the group. Watching it is like peering into a gang hang-out at the nether region of high-school. Everyone’s friends but it’s a bittersweet snapshot of a particular time. It reminds me of the people I used to hang out with; friends who became people I no longer wanted to be around. And it’s the same for Odd Future. As Tyler said, “people get older” and “shit changes.” You can’t expect the group to keep banding together. So if you care that Odd Future "broke up" today—don’t. It’s not worth it. You’ve got your video archives and albums. You’ve got the memories. You’ve got a group that, when you’re old, you can look back and say “I was there” while showing a video of Earl Sweatshirt pulling off his toenail to your grandkids. Now it’s worth looking forward to the future.
You can find Ryan Bassil on Twitter: @RyanBassil