Album Review: OFWGKTA - 'The OF Tape Vol. 2'

2 April 2012 | 1:13 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Lazy, one-sided and bland, but with a few diamonds in the rough.

The past twelve months have been a chaotic ride for Odd Future. Their attention-grabbing penchant for lyrical insanity and provocative, confronting music videos has helped to unearth the hip-hop collective from the Californian underground scene, sending them on a journey of discovery that led to the acquisition of lucrative international tours, appearances on MTV and Jimmy Kimmel and even their own recording label. Their latest effort is ‘The OF Tape Vol. 2’, the third in a series of Odd Future posse albums that attempts to return the group to their collaborative, all-for-one roots, at least in theory. However, despite showcasing the talents (or lack thereof, we’ll get to this later) of each individual member, the album’s inconsistency and narrow focus fails to reposition the spotlight on the group as a whole.

I use the words “in theory” above, because first-time listeners could be forgiven for thinking that Odd Future encompasses a mere three rappers from most of the tracks on the album. As the de facto leader of the group, Tyler was the first to graduate from free online mixtapes to a proper physical release with 2011’s ‘Goblin’, his fame and talent far eclipsing that of the other members. Tyler’s desire to step back from the forefront and draw the focus towards everyone else on ‘Vol. 2’ is understandable, but the mistake he makes is that he still allows the album to remain a one-sided affair that strips itself of variety. Tracks like 'Analog 2' demonstrate his more reserved approach to lyricism on the album, taming down his exaggerated, slasher flick schlock imagery in favour of self-aware bragging and surreal, cartoony sexuality. Occasionally, Tyler validates his newfound confidence with moments of astounding brilliance as a rapper, such as the complex, pop culture-enthused wordplay on ‘NY (Ned Flander)’. However, these glimpses of impressive technical ability highlight the laziness of the more random, meaningless lines that are thrown in purely as a quirk: “A rubber ducky that I got on tour in Kentucky with some groupies.”

Tyler not bringing his A-game to the table is mistake number one, and this album makes plenty more. Hodgy Beats has always played straight man to Tyler’s violent, unstable persona, evoking a youthful and occasionally naïve perception of well-worn genre clichés like greed, ambition, misogyny and vanity. His gift as an orator is propelled by a dynamic flow and varying line structures, but at times, his work on the album is uncharacteristically clumsy, tainted by lazy slippages of rhythm on ‘Bitches’ or absurd, drug lord boasting on P’. The former track is a call-and-response duet between Hodgy and resident stoner Domo Genesis, who’s phased out, chilled-to-the-max persona was often considered generic and dime-a-dozen on past releases from the group. Although he still irritatingly avoids any opportunity to address his trademark addiction with three-dimensional depth, the self-proclaimed “Mr Smoke-A-Lot-Of-Pot” is remarkably more eloquent on this album, utilising wordplay and flow complexities that come commendably close to the level of his more prominent peers. These three form the crux of the album’s content, with the remaining members relegated to scattered, half-cocked appearances like the ludicrously out of place soul hook from Frank Ocean on ‘Snow White’ or the embarrassingly sloppy verses from backbenchers like Taco and Jasper Dolphin: “Hi, my name is Jasper, not even a rapper.”

One of the biggest missteps on the album is the lack of quality control within the beats themselves. Beatmaking duties are relegated equally between Tyler The Creator and older member Left Brain, who have demonstrated their ability to make interesting, left-field productions in the past. On ‘Vol. 2’, Left Brain relies far too heavily on simplistic, looped phrases, such as the annoying, arpeggiated jingle on ‘Bitches’. ‘Forest Green is anchored by a fat, voluminous saw-wave synth, but it’s potential is crippled by the bland, three-note riff that it endlessly repeats. However, there are some standout moments in his production, like the crunching, industrial groove of ‘Snow White’ or the charming 8-bit sounds on Lean’. Tyler’s biggest influence on his production has always been The Neptunes, and tracks like NY (Ned Flander)’ attempt to put an unsettling, horror-themed spin on their signature sound. Though his ability to master his tracks correctly has greatly improved on recent Odd Future releases, his beats all too often speak of a kid utilising the most basic default settings on his production VSTs, revealed by the aforementioned track’s paper-thin piano line and the hollow, unsubstantiated bass and snare hits that accompany it. However, it is not all doom and gloom. ‘Oldie’ is one of the best beats he has produced, an exceptional, minimalistic track that paces itself perfectly with punctuating glimpses of a catchy synth line. The tragedy is that Tyler knows he can make amazing beats, but rarely works to maintain the standard.

It’s hard to know what to make of this album. On ‘The OF Tape Vol. 2’, California hip-hop collective Odd Future have neglected the wide spectrum and unpredictable stylistic changes that made previous posse album ‘Radical’ such an entertaining mixtape. The result is an 18-track effort that is much less than the sum of the group’s parts, hampered by sub-standard, lazily produced beats and samey verses laced with shamelessly transparent gimmicks. Several amazing tracks may lift the mood, but it is not enough to redeem the droll mess surrounding them.

1. Hi.
2. Bitches (feat. Domo Genesis & Hodgy Beats)
3. NY (Ned Flander) [feat. Hodgy Beats & Tyler, The Creator]
4. Ya Know (feat. The Internet)
5. Forest Green (feat. Mike G)
6. Lean (feat. Hodgy Beats & Domo Genesis)
7. Analog 2 (feat. Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean & Syd)
8. 50 (feat. MellowHype)
9. Snow White (feat. Hodgy Beats & Frank Ocean)
10. Rella (feat. Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis & Tyler, The Creator)
11. Real Bitch (feat. MellowHype & Taco)
12. P (feat. Hodgy Beats & Tyler, The Creator)
13. White (feat. Frank Ocean)
14. Hcapd (feat. Domo Genesis, Hodgy Beats & Tyler, The Creator)
15. Sam (Is Dead) [feat. Domo Genesis & Tyler, The Creator]
16. Doms (feat. Domo Genesis)
17. We Got Bitches (feat. Tyler, The Creator, Taco & Jasper Dolphin)
18. Oldie (feat. Odd Future)