By now you've heard about how post-this, uber-that, and pre-apocalyptically radical the Los Angeles collective Odd Future is. Or maybe your little sis came home with ringleader Tyler the Creator's tag tatted on her teenage ta-ta's. Critics adore them: despite having only inked a distribution deal last week (with RED/Sony), Odd Future — or, formally, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) — has been the object of writerly erections for about eight months now. Meanwhile, female fans cry at the sight of them, and not just because of Tyler's promise to shove them down a flight of stairs.
Even heads who deplore gratuitous rape rap and hyperbole-hop have been captive audiences for their belligerence. Odd Future is damn near impossible to avoid — even NPR and the New Yorker are on the case. Pitchfork gushes despite the gang's surreptitious stabs at the site. New York magazine, it seems, has writers covering Odd Future around the clock. And the Boston Phoenix is running this, an entertainment article, in the news section.
How did it all happen? Who foresaw this Odd Future? And how did they end up with an Adult Swim series in the works?
The rap personas of this diverse 10-person posse are well-known — gruff, insane Tyler, bong jockey Domo Genesis, sleeper talents Left Brain and Hodgy Beats, and the rest. For the most part, though, the crew conceals its backstory. Since their prodigious young gun — Tyler's 16-year-old brother, Earl Sweatshirt — was reportedly shipped off to reform school, they've refused to address the subject with reporters. In fact, it's unclear whether Earl and Tyler really are brothers. The details change with every interview.
But in speaking with the PR guru who helped fuel their buzz — and with Odd Future MC Mike G — it's possible to understand how this rowdy bunch of SoCal skate villains got the world to swallow on a first date.
HUNTING DOWN THE FUTURE
Heathcliff Berru was searching for Odd Future.
Ever since a buddy shot him the YouTube link, Berru had been obsessed with their video, "Earl," which features incredibly degenerate rhymes, a series of bloody skate bloopers, and Tyler having what appears to be a real seizure, foaming mouth and all. Berru, an ambitious LA publicist who handles media relations for acts including Little Dragon, Wu-Tang Clan, and Hooray For Earth, had never seen anything so deliciously depraved. He became determined to hunt down the wolf gang.
This was back in August. Odd Future had been rapping together in some form for nearly three years. In that time, they had peddled nearly a dozen free mixtapes on their Tumblr blog, and recruited more than 100 peripheral members — artists, skateboarders, and other dangerous personalities — to join their legions. The group also landed a manager — Interscope marketing wiz Chris Clancy, who helped crank the popularity of a 16-year-old Soulja Boy back in 2007. They'd enjoyed some YouTube buzz, a write-up in the UK magazine The Wire, and a Fader blog post.
Despite all this, the group remained mostly still under the radar. Berru believed that with the right exposure, they could make tremendous waves. He decided to make a play at becoming their publicist by introducing them to LA Weekly writer Caroline Ryder, who was hoping to pen the definitive Odd feature.