“They say we ain’t acting right…Radical’s my fucking anthem, turn my fucking amps, so instead of critiquing, bitching, and being mad as fuck, just admit not only are we talented, we rad as fuck”.
If OF Tape Vol.2 starts with a display of juvenile petulance (“Hi.”) then Tyler, The Creator, who is clearly sensitive to the mounting critical backlash, makes sure Odd Future’s biggest and most important release to date ends with a shot directed squarely at his critics. Despite dedicating his first substantial verse to throwaway jokes about Kloe Kardashian (“NY (Ned Flander)”), Tyler slowly reveals a growing insecurity as he asserts his realness at “Hcapd’s” conclusion by slamming “industry niggas”. It feels desperate and disingenuous considering the stage-managed promotional drive Odd Future’s handlers have orchestrated for this record’s release.
Still, if Tyler flits between tired jokes and predictable outbursts the rest of Odd Future have brought something resembling their A-game. When teamed together Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats deliver the first third of a thrilling, if trope laden, stoner rap LP. “Lean” sees the duo boasting, and slyly firing back at Jay-Z for “Niggas In Paris”, over a gorgeously subdued beat that melts seductively into the Ocean led “Analog 2”. Not to be outdone The Internet offer one of their best stoned soul/funk hybrids in the form of “Ya Know”. The track may scream pastiche, but it fits snuggly into album’s delightfully chilled opening onslaught.
The biggest and most immediate tune on display is an oldie but a goodie from Mike G. Familiarity hasn’t taken the edge off “Forest Green”, let alone its deep leaning beat and killer chorus. The seeping horns of “Sam (Is Dead)” prove equally undeniable as Domo and Tyler deliver pared down verses that prove effortlessly more arresting than their up tempo equivalents on “Rella”.
Hodgy Beats finds consistency hard to come by when he’s separated from fellow stoner Domo Genesis. The Frank Ocean collaboration “Snow White” doesn’t quite come off falling somewhere between awkward cobbled together filler and the Tape’s most poignant offering. Mellowhype’s “50” is equally frustrating. It rocks a fantastically rebellious chorus but the verses aren’t as hot or focused as Hodgy and Left Brian clearly think they are. The painfully misogynistic “Real Bitch” on the other hand, plays like a stoned stream of consciousness and fails to offer anything more than childish boasts.
Thankfully, before the OF Tape can be lost to wild inconsistency, Frank Ocean’s “White” provides a moment of cooling reflection and stasis that sets the table for a staggering finale. “Hcapd” is immediate, arresting, and puts the LP back on track before the aforementioned “Sam (Is Dead)” hits new heights. Domo Genesis signs off by dropping a smooth unbroken verse over “Doms’ ” sublime minimalistic clapping beat. “We Got Bitches” is less impressive however, as Tyler, Taco and Jasper make hard work of a hoarse Waka Flocka style snatched verse.
Ultimately, OF Tape Vol 2 does more to expose Odd Future than it does to refocus their once ferocious onslaught. Familiarity is the collective’s enemy. Now that the characters of Tyler, The Internet, Mellowhype, Mike G, and Domo are firmly established, they lack the their once inherent ability to overawe the listener with the sheer force of their conflicting personas. What were once wild contrasts are now jagged inconsistencies, while the shocking outbursts and taboo subject matter of old have become little more than second rate punchlines and purposeless filler (see “Real Bitch”).
Odd Future may not be able to paper over their cracks anymore than Tyler can silence the critics, but the group is still fiercely talented. The production is thoroughly top notch, and while the OF Tape Vol. 2 isn’t overflowing with hits, it does offer a selection of quality cuts culminating in the frustrating album closer “Oldie”. A ten minute second golden age tribute that will leave you contemplating just how much Odd Future could achieve if they could be this focused and thematically consistent more often. Sadly, if this album tells us anything, it’s that the group are only growing more diverse and more divergent as the years pass, diluting their formerly formidably assault.