Get familiar with Odd Future's many members in this week's "Crew Love," where we break down a different crew every other week.
OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), more commonly referred to as Odd Future, made a huge splash in the rap world when they burst onto the scene in late 2009 with crew leader Tyler, the Creator's critically-acclaimed Bastard mixtape. Bringing dark, lo-fi sonics, even darker lyrics and off-kilter humor to the table, the rest of the crew would soon follow him into the limelight.
Over the past five years, Odd Future have given us wild late night TV performances, demented music videos, a sketch comedy show, a missing person case, a Grammy winner, boatloads of controversy, and of course, a ton of enjoyable music. The crew's members are involved in everything from space age R&B projects to designing clothing, making OF a very versatile group for their (generally) young ages.
Here are profiles of the Odd Future's 10 most prominent members. As always, if there's another crew you'd like to see covered, shout it out in the comments.
Aliases: Wolf Haley, Thurnis Haley, Young Nigga, Dr. TC, Ace The Creator
Occupations: Rapper, Producer, Video Director, Actor
Releases: The Odd Future Tape, collaborative mixtape, November 2008; Bastard, mixtape, December 2009; Radical, collaborative mixtape, May 2010; Goblin, debut album, May 2011; 12 Odd Future Songs, collaborative compilation, October 2011; The OF Tape Vol. 2, collaborative album, March 2012; Wolf, album, April 2013.
Career Highlights: Tyler first attracted a lot of attention for his unsettling, minimal "Yonkers" video, which later won him the Award for Best New Artist at the 2011 VMAs. After the release of the video, he announced that his upcoming album Goblin would be released on XL Records. An appearance with Hodgy Beats on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" to perform "Sandwitches" would land Tyler and his group even more recognition in February 2011. Later that year, Tyler inked a deal with Sony for an imprint called Odd Future Records, which has released most of the group's subsequent material, as well as an album by hardcore punk band Trash Talk. In September 2011, Tyler announced that he and several other OF members had reached a deal with Adult Swim to air a sketch comedy show called "Loiter Squad."
Sound: As a producer, Tyler's tough to pin down. Becoming initially noticed for his dark sonic templates, he began incorporating elements of jazz, R&B, dream pop and indie rock into his music, collaborating with Erykah Badu, Pharrell and Laetitia Sadier of the French group Stereolab on 2013's Wolf. He's done production work for nearly all of his OF companions, as well as Mac Miller, Pusha T, and most recently, Schoolboy Q. Even though he's no doubt gotten access to better studio equipment since his early days, most of his music still carries a distorted, lo-fi vibe. Tyler doesn't partake in drugs, but that doesn't stop his music from retaining very trippy elements.
Strengths: While he's often faced criticism for his violent and controversial lyrics, Tyler's rapping is at its best when he's discussing his life in honest, unadulterated terms. In particular, his relationship with his father fueled most of his debut mixtape, Bastard. Otherwise, many of his lyrics are nonsensical and strange, reflecting a very unique sense of humor that involves (among many, many other things) cats, vampires, references to children's TV shows and some questionable treatment of women. Overall, his self-awareness is what makes his work stand out, seeming much more conscious of its influences, effects and ability to piss people off. He's fiercely defensive of everyone in Odd Future, very sarcastic, and incredibly intelligent. Tyler is anything but your typical rapper.
Career Highlights: After writing songs for other artists, Ocean joined Odd Future and signed to Def Jam Records in 2009. After releasing his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra to critical acclaim, Ocean was featured on Jay Z and Kanye West's track "No Church in the Wild" on the album Watch The Throne. Channel Orange debuted at Number Two on the Billboard 200, was nominated for six Grammys (winning one), and appeared near the top of most music critics' "Best Of" lists in 2012.
Sound: Ocean developed his sound on Nostalgia, Ultra, sampling songs by Coldplay, The Eagles and MGMT, and focusing mostly on songwriting. Channel Orange saw some extreme leaps forward in sound, drawing influence from electro-funk, jazz, soul and psychedelic music, and showcasing a diverse array of songs. On that album, Ocean's sound ranged from modern, radio-ready R&B on "Thinkin Bout You" to the EDM-influenced "Pyramids" and even Stevie Wonder-style funk on "Fertilizer."
Strengths: Lyrics about interpersonal relationships pepper Ocean's songwriting, which often focuses on telling stories about other people. His uncanny observations, about himself, society and others give his music an added strength that most R&B singers lack. Couple that with Ocean's willingness to go out on a limb and try new things musically, and it's no wonder that after just one album, many call him the best thing to happen to R&B in years.
Releases: Earl, mixtape, March 2010; Radical, collaborative mixtape, May 2010; The OF Tape Vol. 2, collaborative album, March 2012; Doris, debut album, August 2013.
Career Highlights: In 2009, Earl (rapping under the name Sly Tendencies) was discovered by Tyler, who recruited him for Odd Future. After releasing his debut mixtape, Earl, to positive reception, Sweatshirt went off the grid for nearly two years, prompting a "Free Earl campaign. It was later discovered that the rapper's mother had sent him to a school for at-risk boys in Samoa, from which he was released in early 2012. In 2013, Earl produced the bulk of his debut album Doris under the name "randomblackdude," and saw it debut at Number One on the Top Rap Albums chart.
Sound: As most of his debut tape was produced by Tyler, Earl's initial sound was very similar to that of his OF crew leader's. Since returning from Samoa, it's seemed as if Earl's set out to distance himself ever so slightly from his OF comrades, branching out for collaborations with Flying Lotus, RZA, The Alchemist, The Neptunes and others. After Domo Genesis, Earl is probably the second biggest fan of weed in OF, often rapping about it and letting a druggy sound slip into much of his music. Overall, Doris was an album that benefitted from a variety of production styles, great guests, and Earl's consistent rapping.
Strengths: When Earl first showed up at age 16, he became most well-known for his rapping ability and violent lyrics. Though the latter has mostly disappeared from his music since returning from Samoa, Earl's flow and lyrics still remain his strong points. Known for internal rhymes, assonance and great punchlines, Earl has cited DOOM as a major influence on his rapping and sound. Earl may not have been the career-defining opus that many were hoping for, but it was a strong step forward for the young MC, showing his commitment to lyricism and stepping outside of his comfort zone.
Given Name: Gerard Damien Long
Occupations: Rapper, producer
Releases: The Odd Future Tape, collaborative mixtape, November 2008; The Dena Tape, mixtape, 2009; YelloWhite, Mellowhype mixtape, February 2010; Radical, collaborative mixtape, May 2010; BlackenedWhite, Mellowhype mixtape, October 2010; 12 Odd Future Songs, collaborative compilation, October 2011; Untitled, EP, February 2012; The OF Tape Vol. 2, collaborative album, March 2012; Numbers, Mellowhype album, October 2012; Untitled 2, EP, June 2013; Mellowhigh, Mellowhigh album, October 2013.
Career Highlights: Along with Tyler, Left Brain and Syd, Hodgy was a founding member of OF, and the first of the group to release a solo mixtape with 2009's The Dena Tape. Continuing this trend, Hodgy has been the most prolific member of OF, releasing mixtapes and albums with Left Brain as Mellowhype, EPs as a solo artist and an album with LB and Domo as Mellowhigh, in addition to the other OF releases. In October 2013, Mellowhigh debuted at Number 89 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Sound: Mostly defined by his work with producer Left Brain, Hodgy began working with an aggressive style highlighted by tracks like "Gun Sounds and "Fuck the Police." As a solo artist, he's worked with producers such as Flying Lotus, Juicy J and Thelonius Martin who have helped expand his sound, incorporating trippier and trappier elements in his work.
Strengths: Hodgy's high-pitched voice has always been a nice antidote to the deeper ones of his OF comrades, providing punchlines and quotable lyrics in the majority of his early verses. His work with Left Brain has shown the pair's great chemistry, with each release building on the previous. As a solo artist, Hodgy has struggled to find a distinctive sound, but his rapping ability is usually enough to carry his tunes. It would be nice to hear him on a solo album with some big-name producers and guests outside the OF sphere.
Given Name: Dominique Marquis Cole
Releases: Radical, collaborative mixtape, May 2010; Rolling Papers, mixtape, August 2010; 12 Odd Future Songs, collaborative compilation, October 2011; UnderTheInfluence, mixtape, September 2011; The OF Tape Vol. 2, collaborative album, March 2012; No Idols, mixtape with The Alchemist, August 2012; Mellowhigh, Mellowhigh album, October 2013.
Career Highlights: After briefly attending Arizona State University, Domo joined OF in in mid-2009, thanks to his friendship with Tyler. In 2012, he became friends with legendary producer The Alchemist and released the mixtape No Idols with him. According to Domo, there's sequel to No Idols in the works, as well as his debut studio album.
Sound: Often calling himself "Mr. Smoke A Lotta Pot," Domo is OF's resident stoner. His debut mixtape, Rolling Papers, blended blunted, hazy sounds with Tyler's already existing production style, resulting in unique take on stoner rap. Domo's later work with The Alchemist operates in a more old-school-style setting, with boom bap beats, sample-based instrumentals, and still plenty of pot-inspired wooziness.
Strengths: After Earl, Domo might be the most technically impressive rapper in the OF roster. His rhymes are intricate and funny, providing comic relief from Tyler and Earl's often violent and serious lyrics and giving his own music a healthy dose of his own personality. Especially after teaming with The Alchemist, Domo's had access to some great beats, and seems adept at picking out the winners for his projects. Like Hodgy, he really needs a legitimate solo album to come out so we can judge him on the same level as Tyler and Earl.
Given Name: Vyron Dalyan Turner
Occupations: Producer, Rapper
Releases: The Odd Future Tape, collaborative mixtape, November 2008; YelloWhite, Mellowhype mixtape, February 2010; Radical, collaborative mixtape, May 2010; BlackenedWhite, Mellowhype mixtape, October 2010; 12 Odd Future Songs, collaborative compilation, October 2011; The OF Tape Vol. 2, collaborative album, March 2012; Numbers, Mellowhype album, October 2012; Mellowhigh, Mellowhigh album, October 2013.
Career Highlights: A founding member of Odd Future, Left Brain has produced tracks on nearly all of the group's work (save for Frank Ocean's material), making him the group's second most prolific producer after Tyler. In 2011, he contributed some production work to "Trouble On My Mind," Tyler's collaboration with Pusha T.
Sound: While his compositions generally don't exist in the same murky sonic realm as Tyler's early stuff, Left Brain can be viewed as a companion producer of Tyler's. With Mellowhype, he mixed tracks made with 808s and synths with ones based on samples, creating varied backdrops for Hodgy's rapping. Though he doesn't really have a distinctive sound at this point, Left Brain's an accomplished enough producer to make almost any genre of hip-hop.
Strengths: Though he's rapped on a number of OF tracks, LB's strong suit is definitely his production. As a rapper, he fills a similar role to Pro Era's Chuck Strangers, whose verses are as humorous and enjoyable as they are admittedly rough and uncomplicated. He's at his best when he's producing for Hodgy, as their Mellowhype chemistry is undeniable, but seems perfectly comfortable working with Tyler, Domo and even Syd's R&B project The Internet.
Given Name: Michael Griffin II
Occupations: Rapper, DJ
Releases: Mike Check, mixtape, 2009; Ali, mixtape, April 2010; Radical, collaborative mixtape, May 2010; 12 Odd Future Songs, collaborative compilation, October 2011; Award Tour EP, November 2011; The OF Tape Vol. 2, collaborative album, March 2012; Verses, mixtape, April 2013.
Career Highlights: Mike was asked to join Odd Future by Tyler in mid-2009, after being a fan of the group for a while. After releasing several solo mixtapes, legendary Houston DJ OG Ron C announced that Mike G would be the newest member of his ChopStar DJ crew.
Sound: Whereas the rest of Odd Future attracted the world with brash lyrics, bright personalities and unique production, Mike seemed perfectly content with a laid back, traditional sound that contrasted with his crew mates' music. He offers a nice flipside to the rest of OF on relaxed tracks like "Everything That's Yours" from Radical, which prove that he's a skilled enough lyricist to not require flashy beats or buzz-worthy punchlines. Generally, his music sounds more influenced by Southern rap than everyone else in OF, which lends itself to his slower rapping and affiliation with OG Ron C.
Strengths: In a sea full of rappers that seem to all try exceeding hard to make a name for themselves by stirring up controversy or flipping the rap game on its head, Mike G is the guy that's coasting on skills alone, letting his work speak for itself. He may not have the most consistent track record, with some tracks on his mixtapes always seeming a bit unmotivated and boring, but Mike seems perfectly content doing his own thing, which has always been the mantra of Odd Future.
Syd Tha Kyd
Given Name: Sydney Loren Bennett
Occupations: Singer, Producer, DJ
Releases: Radical, collaborative mixtape, May 2010; 12 Odd Future Songs, collaborative compilation, October 2011; Purple Naked Ladies, The Internet album, December 2011, Raunchboots EP, 2011; The OF Tape Vol. 2, collaborative album, March 2012; Feel Good, The Internet album, September 2013.
Career Highlights: Syd began producing at age 14, setting up a makeshift studio in her home where much of the early Odd Future material was recorded. She produced and served as a tour DJ for OF early on, before founding trip-hop/R&B group The Internet with Matt Martians in late 2011.
Sound: Removed from the rough-hewn sonic confines of her home studio, Syd began making beautiful, jazz-influenced music with The Internet. In that group, her music has reflected characteristics of '90s trip-hop, neo-soul, nu-jazz and traditonal R&B with a psychedelic edge.
Strengths: Though she began as a DJ and beatmaker, Syd has really come into her own as a vocalist with The Internet. She has a knack for crafting subtle compositions that match her voice well, and has steadily improved with each new Internet album. Though many critics initially faulted the group for its somewhat scattered sound, Syd and Martians have since seemed to settle into a nice niche, with Feel Good receiving much better reviews than Purple Naked Ladies.
Given Name: Davon Wilson
Occupations: Actor, "Rapper"
Releases: Radical, collaborative mixtape, May 2010; The OF Tape Vol. 2, collaborative album, March 2012.
Career Highlights: Jasper is one of Tyler's best friends, and has contributed humorous guest verses to a number of Odd Future tracks, including 9 bars on posse cut "Oldie." He's more well-known as one of the mainstays on "Loiter Squad," a show that proves just how funny he is.
Strengths: Though his rap verses are meant to be rough and juvenile (often including burps, "uhhhh"s and other strange sounds), Jasper's a valuable member of Odd Future. He restores some of the ridiculous humor that the group was founded on, and truly shines on "Loiter Squad." Don't expect a solo mixtape from him anytime soon, but do expect him to keep popping up on future OF releases, and perhaps have a comedy career of his own someday.
Given Name: Travis Bennett
Occupations: Actor, "Rapper"
Releases: Radical, collaborative mixtape, May 2010; The OF Tape Vol. 2, collaborative album, March 2012.
Career Highlights: The youngest member of Odd Future, Taco is Syd's little brother. Similarly to Jasper, he's only appeared as a rapper a few times, and doesn't seem like he cares about what people think of his lyrics. He's also a regular on "Loiter Squad."
Strengths: It's difficult to separate Taco from Jasper, as they often both appear on tracks together and are both very funny. Together, they're the antidote to OF's darker side, and a Jackass-style comedic duo on "Loiter Squad."