A year ago, Odd Future were the hottest shit in the rap game. They were crude, smart, and original. Fans and critics caught on, excited by the obnoxious rhymes and lyrical violence. But now that Tyler the Creator's album Goblin has dropped to lackluster sales, critics are re-evaluating. Maybe Odd Future's shit isn't so sticky? Were our eyes just glued to a trainwreck during a slow news week?
Since the beginning of the group's rise, the question has always been whether their offensive sensibilities could survive once the band crawled up out of the underground. But that's the wrong question to ask. Odd Future will continue to make occasional mainstream splashes with viral videos or radio hits, but it won't be because they need to.
Odd Future's, um, future, has a lot in common with the career model of Insane Clown Posse. This isn't about grease paint or Faygo; it's about the fan base and, by proxy, that fan base's coin. With a few more albums like Goblin, Earl, and Bastard, Odd Future could end up with a fan base as fanatical and dedicated as ICP's Juggalos.
Odd Future are scheduled to perform Tuesday, November 3, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
And while Juggalos have "The Gathering," Odd Future fans have the group's live shows. Calling it high-energy doesn't quite cut it when you consider the moshing, the ski masks, and the pervading lack of giving a fuck. These punk rock performances will curb the group's appeal with mainstream rap fans who don't want to smudge their Jordans in the club, let alone catch an elbow in an angst-fueled, mini-London riot. Turning off the masses isn't a problem — and it leads to an even tighter connection between the group and their gang.
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Odd Future doesn't represent the future of mainstream hip-hop — those looking for the next Jay-Z or Kanye will have to look elsewhere. The Wolf gang simply gets it — money comes from shows and merch. Odd Future manager Christian Clancy gets it, too. He left his job as a marketing executive at Interscope Records to manage Odd Future. The writing is on the wall, and it says that now is the time to swap radio money for "swag money."
ICP, Tech N9ne, and Rhymesayers have been cultivating this model for years: independence required by their alternative aesthetic. ICP shows sell out, and they move so much merchandise that they have to have it shipped to every city on their tour. ICP may be rap's village idiot ("Fucking magnets / How do they work?"), but they are savvy idiots.
Considering the fractured state of the industry, you can't fault Odd Future for not maintaining the buzz. We're talking Internet, after all, and there will always be something new to stare at. Odd Future's latest tour isn't the dying gasp of curiosity-driven hype. It's a filter to sift out the gawkers and fleeting trendsetters only to reveal an army of hardcore fans for life.