Hip hop’s favorite burgeoning supergroup of loudmouth Los Angeles late-teen, letter-linkers is back with a new release.
As a mixtape/studio album hybrid, the collection of songs forsakes cohesion for diversity, resulting in rough patches at times, like the obnoxious hop into the raocous “50.”
But for most of the album, the production — split between Left Brain and Tyler, the Creator — grants us a share of great moments, especially when the latter is at the helm.
“Analog 2″ stands with some of the best work the collective has produced musically, as Frank Ocean and Tyler’s vocal contributions turn it into a lost Pharcyde classic. Tyler gets dark and twisted on “Sam (Is Dead)”, evoking a cross between golden-age Cypress Hill and Lords of the Underground. But he never loses his penchant for creativity production-wise, injecting a creepy doorbell loop at just the right moment. And “P” ghosts along, not unlike Madvillain’s “Monkey Suite” from a few years back.
By no means is Left Brain a slouch, though. On the contrary, “Forest Green” and “Hcapd” are home runs complete with made-for-dancing synths and thumping basslines. Elsewhere, “Snow White,” with its rusty horn sample hits like Wu-Tang or early Mobb Deep.
The mixtape closes with a barnburner, as the ten-minute operation “Oldie” features the triumphant return of Earl Sweatshirt, who quite simply, kills it.
The problem here is that even though the production may be improving, Tyler’s posse is not. Left Brain and possibly, Earl Sweatshirt, provide hope, but even Odd Future’s weed carrying members like Domo Genesis, Hodgy Beats or Taco couldn’t hold a candle to Inspectah Deck or U-God. More disturbingly, The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 doesn’t possess nearly enough new ideas or musical inertia to get too excited about any future Odd Future releases.
Sure, lyrically, the tape doesn’t steer away from satirizing the shady circumstances surrounding Earl’s disappearance. And yeah, Tyler has to reconcile with his new found fame. “Still suicidal, but some assume that I’m cool now / ‘Cause I got a fucking award in my own room now,” he assures us. But he’s not communicating in a new or interesting way. It sounds tired.
Lyrics used to be Tyler’s firebrand. Now they’re a booster seat.
One could trip on the unnecessary and annoying-as-fuck inclusion of “We Got Bitches” with the worthless appearances of Jasper and Taco. But that’s a hair on an otherwise relatively appetizing piece of pie.
The real trouble can be epitomized by “NY (Ned Flander),” coincidentally one of the release’s standouts. The dark beat features the creeping piano Tyler is so fond of, with a sample reminiscent of the Roots’ “Clones.” But filling the air between verses with an overly jocular vocal interlude featuring a cheeky Hispanic woman utterly confused about what an “Odd Future” is, and later, a cock-hungry teenager, isn’t just a lame exercise we’ve heard before. It’s a cop out from someone who lacks many better ideas.
What’s interesting is that the isolationist collective that prided itself on staying true to the underground, not selling out to a major label or collaborating with outsiders has found themselves in a creative coma. With the lack of talent around him, Tyler must choose whether to rot or cut the clowns the loose. Odd Future will sell some more records into 2013, but without an influx of new juice in the form of outside musicians or producers, Wolf Haley can kiss any hope of long-term relevance goodbye.
That leaves a tape that will give diehard fans of the collective some quality production to hold them over until the release of Wolf sometime later this year. By contrast, the offerings for newbies are minor, especially when “Analog 2″ means nothing to them. More importantly, if this was Odd Future’s attempt to show us how far they’ve come in the last four years, it takes a silver at the Mediocrity Olympics. Although, I suppose it could be one cruel joke.