In the two years since the first Odd Future Tape volume was released, a lot has changed for the members of OFWGKTA. They have gone from being almost completely unknown to possessing a veritable cult following. They have received a spectrum of across-the-board reactions from fans and cynics, some eager to sing their praises and some wishing their antics could be put to a stop. Love them or hate them, I’m not going to attempt to convert you or convince you to jump on the Odd Future bandwagon, because if you haven’t caught the bug by now, chances are you never will. For those who care to read on, however, it should be noted that VMA’s and Pitchfork front-page news can only go so far toward changing the identity of a group of people, especially one as undeniably unique as that of Odd Future. Though the material put out but the collective over the past two years or so has certainly varied in quality and style, Odd Future itself is still the same. Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 is a reminder of that fact, and a testament to the endurance of the principles around which Odd Future began.
That being said, OF Tape Vol. 2 is different. You don’t hear it right away, because the lo-fi, noisy recording quality and the largely simple, repetitive beats are not much different from anything we’ve heard before. For all we know, this album could have been recorded in Syd’s bedroom studio like so much of their previous material. But although “maturity” is a term I hope never to have to use to describe Odd Future, there’s a sense within this album that at least a few members of the collective have a seasoned quality about them now, something that was simply absent in previous releases. For example, though Tyler has certainly carried the group on previous recordings, his presence on this tape is not overwhelming, and surprisingly, it does not detract from the quality of the album. The verses he does contribute are quite laudable, such as his appearance on “Analog 2, ” where he proves that he’s more adaptable than he’s seemed before; the seamless interchange between Tyler, Frank Ocean and Syd on this track is (bordering on) quite sophisticated. Tyler’s appearances on “P” and “NY (Ned Flander)” include some of the jarring internal dialogue and creepy morbidity from previous albums, but generally, his contributions are listenable rather than uncomfortable, which is certainly a departure from his previous work.
However, Tyler does not appear on every song. It’s almost as if he has chosen to give some of the younger or lesser-experienced members of the collective a chance to hone their skills and try out the spotlight. That, at first listen, is what makes this album different from previous Odd Future material. No one member appears more than a few times, and although this makes the album less cohesive, cohesion was never something Odd Future really seemed to aim for. Instead, they aim for loosely controlled chaos, and this album delivers on that front. It ends up being the variety within this album that carries it through from beginning to end. Some tracks, such as MellowHype’s “50,” are abrasive, but they are balanced out by tracks like Frank Ocean’s chilling “White” and The Internet’s smooth, soulful “Ya Know.” Domo Genesis appears on several songs, and his contributions are no longer uncomfortably half-assed. Hodgy, too, seems to have stepped up his game, or perhaps it is just the skill that comes with experience, because his verses on “Rella” and “Lean” prove that he has developed his tone over the past few years, moving from a nondescript, occasionally awkward ramble to a style that is all his own. Even Mike G’s “Forest Green” actually has the potential to get stuck in your head, a quality generally not associated with Odd Future. Even the less strong (and occasionally downright awful) appearances from members such as Taco and Jasper do not necessarily detract from the quality of the album; instead, they again demonstrate how the collective feels they have nothing to prove.
Though Odd Future has been through ups and downs over the past two years, and has made some questionable stylistic choices with regard to music videos and public appearances, one particular track on this album will reassure anyone who thinks OFWGKTA forgot who they were. The album’s closing song, “Oldie,” is a 10-minute dedication to everything that has gone into the collective’s work over the past two years. Nine rappers make appearances on the track, giving it the feeling of a true collaboration between most of the members of Odd Future, and even the elusive Earl Sweatshirt comes back in full force for a satisfying, high-quality verse, as if to remind us he’s still one of the more talented rappers in the collective. Tyler’s last appearance on “Oldie” is perhaps the most memorable verse on the album, and seems to sum up the feeling behind most of the material emerging from the collective over the past few years: “But they’ll never change ’em, never understand ’em, radical’s my anthem, turn my fucking amps up, so instead of critiquing and bitchin’, bein’ mad as fuck, just admit, not only are we talented, we’re rad as fuck, bitches.” The music video for “Oldie,” too, is a step back from the ridiculous, somewhat entertaining but often obnoxious videos that we have come to expect from the crew lately. It depicts the kind of joviality and togetherness reminiscent of older Odd Future material, reminding us that at their core, OFWGKTA is a bunch of kids with a lot of potential who make music together.
It all comes down to the fact that the collective is still able to create. This melting pot of maddeningly rebellious talent has not crafted something different, but they didn’t need to; instead, they have put together a collection of (debatably) carefully selected tracks that prove to their ever-widening audience that they are still kids, and they still do not give a flying fuck about anything besides doing what makes them happy. OF Tape Vol. 2 is not a departure, it is a reassurance of insanity, of misogyny, of camaraderie and youth, and although it may not bring these kids to the “next level,” that was not their intent. This album brings OFWGKTA full circle, amassing the experience the collective has garnered over the past two years to both good and bad effect, but ultimately it ends up back at its origin, restating that familiar-yet-unspoken Odd Future tagline yet again: Never take anything too seriously, including this album.