In some ways, the Odd Future that makes its Columbus debut Wednesday at Newport Music Hall is a far cry from the feral hip-hop collective that became an internet-born, parent-terrifying phenomenon in late 2010. What started as a bunch of talented, gleefully juvenile skater kids posting outrageous music and videos on their Tumblr accounts has snowballed into world tours and their very own Sony-affiliated record label. The group (full name: Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) has transitioned from its shock-value, media-blitz stage into an institution with diversified assets and long-term legs.
They haven’t lost their sense of humor, even if the intensity has been turned down a few notches. As ringleader Tyler, the Creator puts it on “Oldie,” the triumphant 10-minute posse cut that closes variety platter “O.F. Tape Vol. 2,” “I started an empire/ I ain’t even old enough to drink a f---in’ beer/ I’m tipsy off this soda pop.”
Tyler’s lyric nods to Odd Future’s awkward station in life. They’re still kids in a sense — they’re throwing a carnival in L.A. to celebrate their homecoming. But the group’s current Camp Flog Gnaw Tour reflects something like maturity, even considering the absence of next-level R&B talent Frank Ocean and only sporadic appearances by Earl Sweatshirt, newly enlightened upon his return from boarding school in Samoa. (No word yet on whether Earl will be in Columbus Wednesday.)
“We know what we’re doing now,” oft-agitated Odd Future rapper Hodgy Beats said. “It’s not just a bunch of n----s jumping around on stage. So I guess there is some type of formula to it. We don’t have a setlist or anything, so we kind of just go off on whatever we feel like.”
Hodgy made quite a splash as Tyler’s enraged sidekick in Odd Future’s head-turning performance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” last year, but he was utterly chill on the phone from upstate New York.
“That’s what’s actually kind of weird,” Hodgy said. “This tour’s been stupid mellow. Everybody’s just been chilling.”
On-stage they still rage, but otherwise the group has been keeping a low profile as they prepare a bumper crop of fall releases. Among that stack of new records is “Numbers,” the new LP from MellowHype, Hodgy’s duo with rapper-producer Left Brain, due out Oct. 2.
Other than a repackaged version of sophomore album “BlackenedWhite” that featured a handful of new tracks, “Numbers” is the first new MellowHype album since Odd Future crossed over from grassroots sensation to a pop music household name. The duo hopes this release will go a long way towards raising MellowHype’s profile at large.
“It’s just a step forward,” Hodgy said. “I don’t really see too much of a difference except that we worked on clarity beat-wise. We’ve got an engineer now that raised our sounds, both vocally and, like, Left likes the bass drum to hit hard and all that s---. On this one we’re aiming towards grabbing more MellowHype fans, not just Odd Future fans.”
Hodgy promised a different sound for every song, and early leaks “La Bonita” and “Fakouy” bear that out.
“Just wait to hear it,” he said. “I don’t even want to talk too much about it. But I know for a fact that my s--- is hot.”