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How Odd Future's Break Up is Birthing Solo Success

Tyler was the sun the rest of Odd Future circles, but in breaking out of his orbit the group is finding their individual places in music.
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Odd Future, a large group that appeared as a weird collective of misfits that didn’t fit the conventional idea of a rap group. They were more punks who knew a thing or two about rejection. They cursed their fathers for leaving them, they cursed the women who gave up on them, they cursed the bloggers for not posting their music, they cursed just to curse. It seemed the only acceptance they found was within their small circle. They moved like a ball of united angst, attracting other teenagers who didn’t fit in, looking for a machine to rage against.

When Earl was taken away, it was as if they lost a family member, a blood brother, not just some kid from the neighborhood. His homecoming two years after screaming Free Earl was like Simba returning to Pride Rock, the family was complete again, but it wouldn’t be all hakuna matata for long. Slowly but surely, the bigger Odd Future got, the more they were accepted, the more you noticed a drifting separation. Growing up means growing apart, and it became more and more apparent that the youthful creatives that shook up the internet wouldn’t be growing old together. When a collective with a cult following decides to split, it can divide the fans or leave the lesser known members completely discarded.

Tyler was the star, the face of OF, a front runner who became noticeably bigger than the friends he started with. When Hodgy called out Tyler during the 4th annual Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival last year, it was the first sighting of any animosity between the group members. For months it was hinted that OF was no longer a functioning collective, but Hodgy’s random outburst showed the separation wasn’t completely amicable. On the Carnival stage, the festival Tyler built, he aired out family business. “Tyler is a fraud. He turned his back on n****s that never crossed him,” he would later say on his Instagram before the two reconciled days later.

On a deeper level, it’s like he was cursing just another person in his life that rejected him. As a collective they were good together but they all couldn’t be the obnoxious, vulgar, creative visionary and expect to get out of Tyler’s shadow. You can’t follow the leader and expect to stand in front, a problem that many groups and collectives run into. You can’t be Gladys Knight and a Pip, Nelly and a St. Lunatic, Puffy and Da Band, there are always more losers than winners within big collectives. A big star will be born who will overshadow the rest and since the day "Yonkers" exploded Tyler became both an elevation and an obstacle for the others to overcome. Following in his footsteps and eating a roach wouldn’t make them superstars, it would take a much bigger change. Odd Future the collective may have died but the future of its members didn’t die with it. The most successful members of the group took a different path and have flourished in their own right.

Frank Ocean being in Odd Future never made much sense - he didn’t fit their image of bashful teenagers who loathed authority and enjoyed fart jokes. Frank was different in a crew full of oddities. He had the maturity of an old man in a group of immature boys, a singer in a group full of rappers, and later admitted to having romantic feelings for a man while being associated with a group that was constantly scrutinized for homophobic slurs in their lyrics. It was Frank, not Tyler, that was a walking paradox. The distant affiliation allowed him to move with and without them, he was a star in his own right, crafting a lane he could conquer all alone but still howling with the wolfpack. It's worth noting that even though he was the first member to separate himself from the Clancy's management Tyler still refers to him as a big brother. Possibly indicating that he still has close ties to OF.

Syd and The Internet followed a similar blueprint. Syd was the young woman who appeared to be quiet and shy compared to the rambunctious boys who surrounded her, only known as the DJ and not a vocal member of the group. What was recently revealed in The Internet’s New York Times story is that Syd quit Odd Future. When her brother Taco took her place as DJ it was due to her wanting to step away from the group as a whole. As far as I know, the split wasn’t known to the public until now. Her departure was the first scratch that would eventually become cracks in their foundation. Around this time, she began working on music as The Internet - Syd singing and Matt Martian, a longtime affiliate in the background, as her partner in crime.

Not long after, Bennett began training her little brother, Travis — who goes by Taco — to take her place as Odd Future’s D.J. Her musical experiments with Martin had begun to congeal into the core of their first album, “Purple Naked Ladies,” an amorphous but promising collection of experimental jam sessions and fuzzed-out, vibey tracks. One morning while Odd Future was on tour, when the group was watching the sun crest over a beach in Australia, Bennett broke the news that she was leaving. She says it was not well received. It felt like a divorce, like a family — however dysfunctional — falling apart. - NY Times 2016

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Their first project, Purple Naked Ladies, that came out on Odd Future Records was from a different galaxy, the most left-field OF release since Nostalgia, Ultra. A soft, sweet neo-soul ambiance that wasn’t completely refined but there was a glimmer of promise that shined through the rough patches. It took two years before the potential formed into greatness, their sophomore release was the leap forward that was needed to fully break them away from the Odd Future umbrella. No longer just Syd and Matt but a fully formed band that found their rhythm. Ego Death solidified that they were their own entity.  Syd went from the silent DJ that was behind the scenes to the lead singer with a voice soft as marshmallows that was sensual enough to make panties melt. OF’s best kept secret.

Earl got a lot of attention for his early material that matched Tyler’s lewd crudeness, but he was years younger and raised eyebrows by rapping better than artists twice his age. It was a fascinating juxtaposition. Being able to rap exceptionally well but the lyrics and language would make Slim Shady want to step up the bawdy bars. It was obvious his style was born from a lot of DOOM, Eminem’s Relapse, horror films and the same teenage dread that fueled Tyler’s music. The amount of skill that was displayed in his rough raps were enough to make him stand out and cause a ruckus online when he disappeared. It mistified his existence, he became an urban legend.

His return was huge, Earl was finally free but it soon became apparent he wasn’t the same rapper who disappeared two years ago. While I have a soft spot in my heart for Doris, I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside is Earl coming into his own. Music that’s more introspective, mature and far different than what he made at 16. Instead of sticking with the niche that made him famous, Earl adapted a new style and sound that’s more fitting for who he is today. The more recent releases, “Quest/Power” and “Wind In My Sails,” prove he’s only getting better. There was a moment he publicly toyed with the idea of changing his name, disgruntled fans filled his Twitter mentions with their displeasure, but it actually makes sense. He’s almost a new artist embarking on a path that’s not connected to his old life, his old name. Earl is no one’s little brother any longer.

Domo Genesis was the member of OF that got the most love from the rap community outside of his clique. He was the stoner rapper who actually had bars, his Rolling Papers was a strong enough release that showcased he was something like Odd Future’s Hot Spitta. He appeared on Freddie Gibb’s Pinata, Prodigy’s Albert Einstein, Step Brothers’ Lord Steppington, Dilated Peoples’ Directors Of Photography and had a mixtape completely produced by The Alchemist. Compared to all the other outcasts, he was the most embraced. Many thought he would be the next to breakout but the years went by without an album or big single. After falling into the background Genesis recently reemerged with the announcement of a new album and a new single, “Dapper,” that features Anderson .Paak. Weed is referenced but it doesn’t feel like the traditional weed song. It’s surprisingly soulful with an infectious beat that sinks in your skin making you snap and shimmy. Anderson laces him with a hook that will lift you higher than Wiz Khalifa's KK, and Domo sounds cooler than Shyne in 2000, floating across the soothing, jittering production like a Snowman skiing the alps. If I didn’t know of his history in Odd Future prior, I would never connect the dots. It might not be a big breakout single but it will break him out of in lingering shadows from his past. Domo Genesis has finally arrived.

Hodgy did a mixtape with Don Cannon last year and has been consistently releasing new music through his Soundcloud, and Mike G recently put out his mixtape Mike Check Volume II along with consistently DJing at events. Both have headlined their own tours. Producer Left Brain can still be heard on almost all OF’s projects but he hasn’t really branched out beyond the group. The verdict on how far they will get is yet to be seen but they’re doing better than most with less coverage.

Finding your own spotlight will allow it to shine longer than standing up under a light for someone else. That has been the gift that comes when groups separate, forcing every member to find their own, unique voice. It’s very rare to see a crew with such a size have so many members branch out and find their own success. Earl is raising the ranks as an underground king, The Internet is GRAMMY-nominated, Tyler has made a complete transformation and even close affiliates like Vince Staples, Kilo Kish and Casey Veggies have all done well in expanding from their humble beginnings.

Earl spoke briefly on the group in his 2015 Spin interview, "Like we came together for a job, and we disbanded as a job." He compared them to G.O.O.D Music and MMG, cliques that are more business partners than friends whose sole purpose was to create a foundation that would push each other further. OF wasn't just homies hanging out, they wanted to get on and they did, much bigger than anyone could imagine. As a group you can rely on each other but alone you only eat what you kill, no one is going to put food on your plate. Stepping away from each other has allowed them to work within new circles.

Tyler has found a kindred spirit in Rocky, Earl has close ties with beat mastermind Knxwledge​, The Internet is on their own planet, Domo Genesis has Wiz Khalfia, Juicy J, and JMSN on his album, these moves are giving them a chance to be solo artists. It’s unlikely that a star will one day overshadow Tyler, he is still the biggest artist to emerge from the collective, but they no longer have to rely on him to keep themselves relevant. Each member is in control of their destinies, the master of their universe, able to try and grasp success in a way that is rare to see in squads, an option that Murphy Lee never had.

By Yoh, aka Yohther Vandross, aka @Yoh31. Image via Instagram.



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