Article by Michael Morthland (@mmorthland)
As i sit here on l plane back from Florida listening to the new Odd Future album entitled The OF Tape Vol. 2, I wonder where the group that includes some of the most interesting nicknames since RZA, ODB, Q-Tip, and Raekwon, will land after the dust settles on the list of hip-hop's greatest groups. Granted, not to get too far ahead of myself since this list includes such classic names as Black Star, NWA, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, and the all time greatest Wu-Tang Clan. However, we are two albums, multiple mixtapes, and a psuedo-compilation album into OF's career that is less than 10 years old, and looks as if they have surpassed everything that has come before them. If you want speculation as to how OF made it to the top of the hip hop world, read KWT's article a few months ago, but whatever the reason may be, it seems as though OF is here to stay.
Recently, I was talking to a good friend and a fellow OF enthusiast about the group, and he said something that made me think and was the main influence behind the authoring of this article. He said, "OF is truly the Wu-Tang of our generation." Immediately, I responded with, "Absolutely the fuck not." Enter the "Wu-Tang was my first hip-hop album I ever really purchased at 13 and remember listening to it all of 5 times within 48 hours never stopping even to shower" argument. I was obsessed with this group that did not give a shit about what anyone said and were focused on doing exactly what they wanted to do whenever they felt the need to do so. It was also the first time that I ever wanted to chill with musicians, represent such groups, and be a part of the incredible music making process that was taking place. In light of all of this, I looked at my friend in disgust and awe as he tried to tell me that anyone could even compare, let alone surpass Wu-Tang's greatness. However, as I continue to listen to Tyler, Jasper, Mike G, Earl, Frank, Domo, and the various other members of OF, I continue to reevaluate my position in regards to my friend's statement and believe that this may not be so far-fetched as I once believed. Before you get all up in arms, allow me a brief time to explain how I arrived at such a belief.
ODB, Raekwon, Method Man, and RZA have forever altered hip-hop as we know it. These artists put a new spin on the genre, taking what they were given by groups preceding them and putting their own color in it and forever changing how we perceived hip-hop. However, their spot at the top together was short lived, ending essentially with the death of Ol' Dirty Bastard, even though there are rumors of a new album to be released this year. So to begin with, Wu-Tang has made 5 group albums with a 6th untitled album rumored to be released over almost 20 years, and, in that time, have sold over 40 million records. Essentially, that is 2 million records sold per year. Odd Future, on the other hand, has only released one full studio album, two mixtapes, and a compilation. Continuing, we must then focus on the solo careers of each of the members all while still maintaining the group as a whole. Let's start with just 4 of the main members of each group. For Wu-Tang: Method Man, RZA, Raekwon, and ODB. For OF, on the other hand, we will say Tyler, Frank, Mike G, and Hodgy Beats. So between the former 4, over 20 years Method Man made 4 solo LPs, plus a slew of appearances and collaborations, while RZA, the glue that held the group together for many years, has 4 studio albums. Raekwon has 5 studio albums that include 4 each at number 2 on the US Hip Hop list for the time, while ODB has 2 studio albums, a few mixtapes, and many compilations. Combined these members have sold millions of records individually over multiple decades. Currently, none of the Odd Future members can compare to that with Tyler, Frank, and Hodgy being the only members with individual solo albums. However, that cannot possibly be the only deciding factor. Look at Britney Spears, for example. She has racked up multi-millions in album sales and she is miserable. No disrespect Brit. Although OF has not been nominated for two Grammy's as Wu-Tang has, they have won an MTV VMA Award that is voted on by the listeners.
But no, it is something about how they handle themselves as a group that may make OF beat out the Wu-Tang Clan after all these years. If you look at Wu-Tang's group dynamic after their second studio album in 1997, we see a separation in the group, with each member forming their own cliques and barely holding on together as a collective. That was after just 5 short years. OF, on the contrary, is dynamic, eccentric, out of control, and altogether out of their minds, frankly. They are a bunch of teenagers who simply want to have a good time and talk about issues that are important to them. That is the dynamic that attracted me to Wu-Tang in the first place, but after many years that zeal began to diminish, and, although they still remain friends and partners, they are still missing that "it" factor that made them so interesting and incredible, at one point, to follow. On the other hand, we do not find that same decrescendo with OF. Instead of losing interest in the group, I find myself constantly overwhelmed with trying to keep up with everything they are doing. Frank Ocean just released a new studio album which is FANTASTIC, a new TV show, Loiter Squad, that I literally laughed my ass off watching, multiple mixtapes, and to top it all off, Earl Sweatshirt is finally back home and laying down fire on "Oldie."
Although all good things it must end, it does not look like Odd Future's end will be anytime in the near horizon. Instead, I believe that both as a group and subsequently individually, we will see these guys for many decades to come, releasing new and fresh music for all to enjoy. All the while, they will turn out to be the best hip hop group of all time.
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