Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All almost need to be critiqued in two separate ways. The first is to critique them as a cultural phenomenon, and the second is to review them from the perspective of a live performance. In the first regard, you couldn’t get much more of a phenomenon than OFWKTA are now. A hip hop collective who haven’t officially released any albums or singles, who release work individually, who have the media hyperventilating at their every move and a record company salivating over what they hope might be as big an act as Nirvana. Following in the wake of the Sex Pistols and Guns n’ Roses with their media baiting and propensity for chaos, OFWKTA are being posited as saviours of music, Alas, to paraphrase Monty Python, they’re not the messiah, they’re just a bunch of naughty boys (and girl).
There’s no denying the massive buzz in the queue of people lining up to get in to the sold out show and the crowd is dotted with music and media identities. As the band’s advertised starting time of 10pm comes and goes, the anticipation levels start rising and by the time 11pm arrives the crowd are chanting “Wolfgang, Wolfgang’ and are rammed up against the barrier in front of the stage, with security guards pouring water in to punter’s mouths.
Running on to the stage in his signature green ski mask, Tyler, The Creator is as hyperactive as ever, although later he does admit that the rigours of three shows in the previous three nights in Sydney have seen him partially lose his voice. As the group’s members (looking suspiciously stoned) all enter the stage at intervals, save for Syd Tha Kid behind the decks, the effect is that the crowd seem more raucous than Odd Future. They go nuts for every move made or thing said by Tyler, but from a rhyming and delivery perspective it’s probably Hodgy Beats who is the better performer. There’s no doubting that Tyler is the ringleader, however, as Left Brain, Domo and Mike G all defer to him. Refreshingly, they don’t need to resort to the lame hip hop tropes of having a hype man and playing two sides off the crowd off against each other, but they’re also not that compelling aurally. Their rapping appears under-rehearsed, with Tyler occasionally forgetting his lyrics and various members missing cues or rapping over each other which reduces the impact of the lyrics. Sadly, they also think it’s somehow clever to constantly cuss off between songs, saying ‘bitch’ and ‘faggot’ over and over so much it’s not even offensive, just lame.
Tyler introduces Goblin’s ‘Transylvania’ as his favourite track off the album, while ‘Yonkers’ gets a predictably wild crowd response, with the group attempting to stage dive and climb around the venue, but it feels like the band is trapped on the small stage – it is so rammed that there is really nowhere for them to move off the stage. You get the impression, however, that Odd Future are making hip hop for white middle class kids with just enough naughtiness in it to get them all hyped up. If anything, the gig and OFWKTA could be summed up by the night’s high point, which was Tyler addressing the crowd and asking ‘Is anyone here black?’ It was a very knowing question as a room full of white middle class kids shuffled uncomfortably before the show went on. If anything that comment might have just been a straight out question, but it also hints that beneath the smut and the homophobic and misogynist belligerence of the lyrics, there might just be a sense of knowing cleverness behind the façade. It’s also being clever that is going to ensure the group’s longevity, because based on tonight’s performance, once the hype dies down you’re left with an, at best, average hip hop act. However, the Beastie Boys found themselves in a similar position 25 years ago and they got smart quick, which has given them a critically acclaimed career. This is something that OFWKTA and their paymasters are going to have to realise, and realise it fast.
– Jim Murray