exploring the legacy of OFWGKTA, 10 years on
The collective helped launch the careers of Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, Syd and Earl Sweatshirt.
Tyler, the Creator is extremely recognisable. The second you see his face, you recognise the trademark tooth gap and the now trademark multicoloured hair as belonging to him. The second you hear his deep raspy voice, you know it as the one you heard all over Yonkers. But earlier this month, despite all of these precursors, I almost missed him walk right by me at his annual Camp Flog Gnaw Festival. If it hadn’t been for the sea of eager white boys dressed like different incarnations of Tyler from across the past decade, I would have missed him and his burly security guards making their way towards me.
Recently, Tyler has become more subdued than when he first came to our attention 10 years ago on the inaugural The Odd Future Tape. Tyler and all 15 of the current and former members of Odd Future are now grown-ass adults. They’re no longer the loud, rambunctious teens trying to make waves in an industry that didn’t immediately see value in their trendsetting genre-bending group. Tyler is 27 now, Frank is 31, while Taco and Earl, the youngest members, are both 24.
Each are now trying to wield visibility for their own causes and entrepreneurial endeavours in and outside of music. Earl Sweatshirt performed at Camp Flog Gnaw, has his own Red Bull radio show and is releasing a much-hyped solo album this Friday. Left Brain, Domo and Mike G also performed at the festival — the former fresh from dropping a record with LNDN DRGS and Jay Worthy, and the latter reportedly working on new music. Taco DJs now and just collaborated with basketball player Kyrie Irving on a new colourway of his signature Nike shoe. Frank Ocean made his Instagram public the other day, sending the internet into overdrive. Tyler just put out his Christmas themed EP and together with lesser-known member Lionel Boyce, recently inked a first-look deal for Sony Picture TV via the duo’s Bald Fade Productions. Last year, Hodgy promised a 2018 MellowHype album but nothing has been released so far. Brandun DeShay dropped new music last month, while Syd and Matt Martian’s Grammy-nominated group The Internet released their Hive Mind album this summer and are currently on a worldwide tour. Casey Veggies is working on new music and runs his own clothing line, Lucas Vercetti is apparently a manager for Supreme in LA. Jasper is still being Jasper.
As they enter adulthood, it seems like each of them is dealing with what it means to have come from such a prolific and polarising group differently. Syd told The Guardian in 2017 that some of the backlash from the gay community in regards to controversial Odd Future lyrics hurt her feelings. Tyler is still banned from the UK and New Zealand. Hodgy went on to accuse him of being a fraud at 2015’s Camp Flog Gnaw festival. That same year, Tyler unofficially announced the group’s disbandment in a cryptic tweet and days later Earl Sweatshirt confirmed this across two tweets that read: “no sympathy for male virgins who're in their feelings about Tyler pointing out and solidifying the obvious” and “TO ALL ODD FUTURE RUNOFF: SAVE YOURSELF YEARS OF EMBARRASSMENT AND STOP DRESSING LIKE AN EASTER BASKET, GO TALK TO SOME BITCHES! TRUSMEDADY.”
The first Odd Future mixtape was a decent debut, but there was no real indication that in just in a few years time a then-unknown group of LA teens would be at the epicentre of youth culture in America. That suddenly, everyone surrounding the group would become famous purely by association. Even their manager’s young daughter, Chloe Clancy, became an online celebrity due to the group always posting pictures with her. Before a social media presence was a prerequisite and relatability was a saleable asset, Odd Future had created a universe and invited people in to it. Tumblr was their hub and the site was soon filled with blogs dedicated to each member.
Being a fan of Odd Future meant more than just being into the music, it was about being a part of a movement. It gave young kids something to believe in, a no-fucks-given attitude and a strict dress code. Tyler and the collective were able to create a distinct look that became synonymous with the group. They were able to elevate brands like Supreme as well as turn their merchandise into streetwear that they wore themselves, sold not just at shows but regular pop-up shops.
Back to 2018 and during the last few hours of the festival, I found myself standing in front of the Odd Future-inspired Brockhampton to watch Jaden Smith perform. Earlier this summer, Tyler had tweeted (and later deleted) that he wanted to sell the festival for $100 million one day. So it came as no shock that this year the festival was streamed on YouTube, had moved locations from Exposition Park to Dodger Stadium and boasted a more inclusive line-up than previous years, with artists like Billie Eilish and Post Malone gracing the stages.
During Jaden’s performance, he thanked Odd Future for inspiring him and (jokingly?) declared Tyler his boyfriend while he watched on from the pit. It hit me that Brockhampton, major fans of Odd Future, were watching someone their age who is also a major fan of Odd Future kill it on stage just hours before they would have the same opportunity to do so. An opportunity that perhaps wouldn’t have been possible without Odd Future first paving the way for artists like them to exist within hip-hop culture and beyond.
With the cultural atmosphere Odd Future was able to create, they notably helped to elevate gay musicians in hip-hop. Frank Ocean’s 2012 coming out letter dictated and allowed for the future we're in now. The homophobic lyrics that were so present during the early Odd Future years hit a little differently now that Tyler is openly rapping about kissing boys on I Aint Got Time and about how the gender doesn’t matter on Gelato. In a Billboard interview this summer, Syd reflected on being the only openly-gay member during the early years. "I didn't think anybody was paying attention," she said. "It’s hilarious. I went through all of these interviews, and everybody was gay the whole time." Earlier this year, Brockhampton's Kevin Abstract, who is gay, paid homage to Frank in a tweet that stated: "I'm nothing without Frank Ocean. I literally wouldn't exist."
Some musicians don’t end up impacting culture, societal trends or fashion. They just don’t. They sell out tours, win fan-voted awards every season and not a lot more than that. Contrary to what you’d assume, collectively, Odd Future don’t have any big awards or hit songs that charted in the Top 10 of the Hot 100 for weeks on end to mark their legacy. They don’t have the crazy stats that stans cling onto to proclaim that their fave is more relevant and important than yours. All they have is their clear, undeniable impact.
Right now, it seems like Brockhampton and the creative skate collective Illegal Civ are poised to take the baton from Odd Future and make the next 10 years their own. We’ll likely be talking about them at the 2028 edition of Camp Flog Gnaw the way we are right now with Tyler and Odd Future. They have something special and have been able to energise young people in a way that hasn’t been seen since Odd Future’s reign. It’s certainly no coincidence that Brockhampton is managed by the same people who managed Odd Future, or that Illegal Civ has previously worked with Tyler and Frank. Illegal Civ’s founder, Mikey Alfred, even co-produced Jonah Hill's directorial debut, Mid90s. At 23 years old, that would’ve once seemed an impossible feat. But, in a post-Odd Future universe where the collective’s legacy is recognising young talent and pushing subcultures into the internet trailblazing mainstream — anything is possible.