Tyler, The Creator hosted the fourth edition of his annual Camp Flog Gnaw Festival this past weekend, which fans hoped would serve as an Odd Future Reunion.
What was supposed to be a joyous re-unification, however, quickly became yet another chapter in the L.A. collective’s fall from grace as Hodgy Beats took the stage to call out Tyler’s handling of the crew dynamic within OF. It’s a sad continuance of a collection of artists that did much to pace the early blog days and move contemporary music into interesting collaborative spaces, but lately it seems as though their once unified front is unraveling.
Earl, once a central figure among the group, has drifted away as his relationship with Tyler has sagged and it appears that while the latter has become a sort of household name, the rest of the collective has been left in limbo. At least that’s what we can take from Hodgy’s statements onstage Saturday night when he called out the Wolf Gang frontman, in turn seeming to accuse him of garnering the praise from the success of Odd Future for himself rather than the collective at large. Sadly, this conversation seems to begin anytime a clique or friend group gets on.
It’s easy to understand why Hodgy would be feeling some type of way after a seven year run that has seen side projects involving a TV show, merchandise and much more. The thing is, while Tyler’s star has risen exponentially throughout that time, the rest of the group has largely run in place. Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats, always referred to in the early days as the ‘rappers of OF’, are in a precarious position, rappers with nowhere really to go. Along with Left Brain, the trio hasn’t seemed sure of their next move for a minute. 2009 saw Domo drop Rolling Papers and Hodgy drop The Dena Tape, which served as their best work maybe to date. Since then though, it’s simply been a series of assorted mixtapes, no real albums on Odd Future Records and little in the way of any sort of MellowHigh project. While we don’t know the intricacies of the label’s release schedule, it appears either the rest of OF has been put on the shelf or hasn’t been working. Either situation can be frustrating.
There’s also something to be said for making things happen on your own. Syd, one of the original members of OF, has parlayed her relationship with the collective into something special all her own with The Internet, which at once carved her own lane and allowed her own personality to shine through. Two projects deep, that foray has turned into something fruitful for several members and should create pause when someone like Hodgy decides to air his frustrations in public. Being a part of a successful collective is a great part of any artist's career, but unless you're Wyclef Jean being a part of a group isn’t going to manifest itself into a real career unless other aspects of your artistry are developed to reach a wider audience. Tyler was able to do that. He’s as much a personality as he is a musician at this point and capitalized on the success of Odd Future.
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A perfect case study for getting out from under the OF shadow, though, is certainly Earl Sweatshirt. Once one of Tyler’s closest friends, the pair grew apart over the years leading to Earl’s exit from the collective last year. Since semi-divorcing from the group? Earl has released two albums since and has largely made himself a quantifiable artist with national recognition standing directly outside the group that brought him to prominence.
While Hodgy might be upset, I’m sure the door has always been open and it appears to have suited yet another former member well in the long run. While we certainly don’t know the ins and outs of contracts, business dealings and anything beyond what hits the public sphere, it appears that Hodgy may have missed his opportunity to do the same and is feeling more pressure these days. He’s right to be upset, but by doing so he’s also only undercutting the thing that has positioned his success thus far. For his part, Tyler played the kingmaker card, taking the stage later in the evening to address the earlier comments by questioning how many of his friends he’s put on. True, but at the same time zooming out reveals that the most successful also-rans in Odd Future found their wins by leaving.
“N*ggas got me f*cked up. I put too many n*ggas on. I helped too many of my motherf*cking friends out. And n*ggas gonna come foul? And you know who the f*ck I’m talking about n*gga. And yes, it’s getting real. I love you though.”
Odd Future appears to be headed for a final break up from its heyday and maybe it’s appropriate. As Yoh put it in a piece last year, maybe growing apart is a good thing. This latest lashing out from Hodgy just appears to be the catalyst for that to happen sooner than later.
We’ll have to stay tuned and see what happens next.
Update: The end is not as close as it first seemed.
[By Jake Krez, who wasn't at Camp Flog Gnaw. You can follow him on Twitter.]