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On only his second solo track since returning from Samoa, Earl Sweatshirt takes us back to his formative years over a simple piano loop. Sincere as ever, Earl spits about awkward growing pains, meeting Tyler, going “from honor roll to cracking locks up off those bicycle racks” and his crew “feeling as hard as Vince Carter’s knee cartilage is”. Honestly, I could listen to Earl spit over pretty piano loops like this for hours and not get bored. The backing vocals sure do sound a lot like “Captain Murphy” (or Lord Quas I suppose) and there’s little doubt that Earl has some role in the character. Stream below.

Last month, we reviewed the new album from Odd Future, OF Tape Vol. 2., and discussed how OF members Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis, who used to ramble somewhat incoherently through clouds of smoke and unfocused bad attitudes, seem to be evolving their respective styles. Thus far, we have seen a certain resistance to production from outside the collective. Last year, in fact, in an interview with Pitchfork, Hodgy explicitly said:

I honestly don’t like working with people outside of Odd Future because I don’t want our sound to change. I want it to evolve, and that happens with people within the camp, not people outside the camp. When you make music, it should be fun. I’m not hating or anything, but I don’t want to be rapping over a Lex Luger beat. Why would I do that? I have my own beats.

This week, though, we saw two new releases from Hodgy and Domo, under their new moniker MellowHigh, and one of the tracks is produced by Lex Luger himself. “Timbs” isn’t particularly lengthy, but it’s enjoyable, and certainly far more focused than previous work from Hodgy and Domo.

Today, we have another new MellowHigh track, “Go,” this time produced by Thelonious Martin. This one’s a little longer and a little spacier, but it definitely exemplifies how well Hodgy and Domo complement each other musically. Maybe we’ll continue to see more material from these two, produced by talent from outside the collective.

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.

OF Tapes Vol. 2 isn’t set to be released until Tuesday, but this morning we bring you two cuts off the album. One is a track by Frank Ocean, who features on several other songs on the album, but limits his solo presence to this song. The track (called “White“) is extremely minimal and rather brief, but Ocean’s crooning carries it through enjoyably. Listen over at Prefix.

The second leaked track, on the other hand, is over ten minutes long, so brevity is not an issue. It is notably less official, as well, having been pulled from unknown Tumblr blogs around the web. But this song, “Oldie,”  features an excellent appearance from recently-returned Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt, whose lengthy verse is certainly a welcome addition to the track. Stream the track (via one of the aforementioned random Tumblrs) right here. 

We know you’ve been waiting in eager anticipation for new material from OFWGKTA. Take that with as heavy a dose of sarcasm as you’d like, but the last 24 hours have brought several new items of interest from Odd Future including the tracklist (see below) to the collective’s upcoming album, OF Tape Vol. 2due out March 20th on Odd Future Records. Additionally, it now seems that the album will be released with four different album covers, as seen above. The image of the four album covers flashes at the tail end of the collective’s most recent music video, which was unveiled yesterday. The video is for Hodgy, Domo and Tyler’s track called “Rella,” produced by Left Brain, and it follows in the perplexing but comical footsteps of most of Odd Future’s recent music videos. Check it out right here, and keep in mind that Odd Future’s only harm comes when they are taken too seriously.

After you’ve recovered from that experience, here’s the tracklist for the upcoming album. As of now, there are no allusions to guest appearances from outside the collective, and Earl Sweatshirt seems to be absent as well, but Syd and Matt Martians’ new duo The Internet will make an appearance.

OF Tape Vol. 2:

01 Hi.
02 Bitches [ft. Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats]
03 NY (Ned Flander) [ft. Hodgy Beats, and Tyler, the Creator]
04 Ya Know [ft. the Internet]
05 Forest Green [ft. Mike G]
06 Lean [ft. Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis]
07 Analog 2 [ft. Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, and Syd tha Kyd]
08 50 [ft. MellowHype]
09 Snow White [ft. Hodgy Beats and Frank Ocean]
10 Rella [ft. Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis, and Tyler, the Creator]
11 Real Bitch [ft. MellowHype and Taco]
12 P [ft. Hodgy Beats and Tyler, the Creator]
13 White [ft. Frank Ocean]
14 Hcapd [ft. Domo Genesis, Hodgy Beats, and Tyler, the Creator]
15 Sam (Is Dead) [ft. Domo Genesis and Tyler, the Creator]
16 Doms [ft. Domo Genesis]
17 We Got Bitches [ft. Tyler, the Creator, Taco, and Jasper Dolphin]
18 Oldie [ft. Odd Future]

 

Via.

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems long-absent OFWGKTA member Earl Sweatshirt has returned. The youngest (but possibly the most promising) member of Odd Future, who has been away from the music scene for quite some time, is reportedly free from his stint at reform school/rehab at Coral Reef Academy in Samoa.

Yesterday afternoon, new Twitter and Tumblr pages surfaced, seemingly linked to Earl. His first tweet upon return? “Home.” Then, a YouTube video popped up, featuring Earl’s face backed by a snippet of a new song. “You want the whole shit, give me 50,000 twitter followers,” the description demanded.

Just a few hours later, his Twitter account had reached 50k followers, and he Tweeted the link to a new website, which was barren except for a music player containing a new song, “Home.” The track, which does indeed seem to be new material from Earl, is backed by a noisy, cymbal-heavy beat and contains the dark, nonchalant flow we’ve been missing from the young rapper. The last line states, “and I’m…..back. Bye.Download the full song here.

However, before you throw out your Free Earl hoodie, it’s only fair to let you know that Tyler, The Creator‘s tweets from yesterday expressed far more frustration and anger than the celebration we might have expected from him. One tweet, which has since been deleted, read, “Ive Never Been Excited And Angry At The Same Time Until Today. Thats A Fucked Feeling.” So for now, only time will tell whether Earl is back in LA for good. We’ll keep you posted.