Indie music has thrashed, shredded or completely obliterated traditional divisions of labor within the music industry. Fifty years ago, all the best singers and entertainers we’re strictly just that — performers. Elton writes the music, Bernie Taupin writes the lyrics. When there was plenty of cheddar flowing from the top-down music industry; these specializations not only made sense, but were the unquestioned modus operandi. Then hungry artists emerged from the sixties and realized the only way to amass true wealth or fame was to have your hands in every facet of that once divided operation. It don’t pay to be the monkey on the end of the string (just ask N-Sync).
Fast forward to the bleak industry present. Much less product shipping, not a whole lot of green to go around, way more problems (or is it the other way around Big Daddy Kane?). Regardless, you have two options out of this quagmire: 1) Have a voice like Lana Del Rey or more likely 2) Pool your resources as a collective and amplify the megaphone (not to mention sign more deals). Odd Future took this model by the throat and are wringing every last penny out of it. And with every provocative slur or rebel yell, that megaphone grows louder.
“It’s more of a social experiment. We make fun of society on a daily basis, and people take it so seriously. They’re proving us right,” says the only female member of the outfit, 19-year-old DJ Syd tha Kid, about their flare for the controversial in Interview Magazine . Up until she teamed up with comrade-in-arms Matt Martian to marshal her own musical troops on this debut, she was the soft-spoken androgynous chick mixing and engineering the Dimetapp-inducing minimalist beats for all the other boys.
Her only credited single prior was the aquatic android yearnings of “Flashlight.” OFWGKTA then premiered the macabre video for “Cocaine” on their YouTube channel late last year, giving us an eight-ball’s worth of the same bizarre story lines conquered by brethren Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean. It certainly “sounds like Stevie Wonder on acid.” A sound engineer with an ear for an eclectic mix, Syd tha Kid takes a complex network of rhythms and intonations and breaks them down to bite-sized nuggets of lush sonic chocolate. What’s really absent from this song, and indeed from all of Purple Naked Ladies, is anything resembling the trademark wit we’ve come to define her collective by. I’m all for offending those who take art way too seriously, just don’t be so pedantic about it. Surprise us for a change instead of murmuring synthesized insecurities repeatedly.
“Lincoln”, conflating the high-pitched soul of Mike G with the underground double entendres of Left Brain, is the one of the few tracks that shows the real potential of this spin off. Take a few parts electric chorus, fill the bars in between with atmospheric rhymes and mix it all together with Syd tha Kid’s quirky Herbie Hancock sonic backdrop. A formula for fun that is way more organic than cramming inflammatory lyrics into a lethargic hole that will never quite fit.
In an amorphous group like Odd Future, it pays to know your role. Sometimes we all want to step outside of what’s comfortable to us and experiment with new potentialities. More power to you, that’s how some of the best art ever came into existence. I despise the term “it” factor. I swore I would refrain from ever using it ever. But let’s just say Syd tha Kid has yet to find her own intangible path on the edge of producer and performer. But as I said earlier, it pays to find out if there’s any room in between — just not as much as it used to.