On Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. (Or: Believe The Seemingly Outlandish Hype.)

Oftentimes, the hype an act has built up heading into South by Southwest can be so overwhelming that it creates an insurmountable hurdle for an otherwise pleasing, if hardly life-changing, outfit (see: Vampire Weekend, circa 2008). And no doubt this was the theoretical case heading into this year's festival for the collective of Los Angeles hip-hop acts known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, none of whom, far as I'm aware, are old enough to even drink.

But, rest assured, this collective is every bit worth the heavy hype it's carrying around its shoulders this week.

And, man, is it an enviable hype.

The group's been around for a few years now, but with mastermind Tyler, The Creator prepping a new release called Goblin, which has set the Internet ablaze thanks to killer lead single "Yonkers" (see above), the hype has crested at a complete fever pitch. It certainly doesn't hurt matters that Tyler and fellow OFWGKTA member Hodgy Beats further earned the hip-hop world's backing thanks to a Mos Def-approved Late Night with Jimmy Fallon performance (see below).

So, sure, one could argue that the backlash for the act would have been an inevitability at this year's SXSW. Quite the opposite, though: Not only are these kids the talk of the town, but they're fully living up to their billing.

The group's performance at yesterday's Brooklyn Vegan day party on the outdoor Barbarella stage only served as proof: Billed as a performance from MellowHype, the collaborative project between Hodgy Beats and fellow OFWGKTA member Left Brain, fans showed up in droves, simply hoping that the entire outfit would show.

They got their wish: Five or so of the group's members (it was tough to keep count, honestly, given the overall anarchy that ensued once the group started its performance, which bounced on and off of the stage) graced the crowd with their presence (Tyler included), much to the audience's delight.

Such reaction was merited, too: The group, which let MellowHype carry much of the heavy lifting as billed, hardly disappointed, bum-rushing the stage, stage-diving into the crowd and causing a complete ruckus in general. Even in the face of sub-par sound -- various members' microphones were terribly low in the mix, and their beats, the group was quick to point out, were hardly being played at the volume they'd hoped -- the OFWGKTA collective angrily barked their lyrics into their microphones, led fully crowd-backed chants of "Swag! Swag! Swag!" and "Fuck The Police!" and sprayed their beers (illegal?) onto their adoring crowd, who fist-pumped, jumped and body-slammed into one another along with their newfound heroes, right on command.

It was truly a sight to be seen.

But, perhaps most surprising of all, was the sheer joy the band took in their audience's reactions. Tyler in particular seemed to get an ungodly kick out of the whole thing, smiling ear-to-ear as crowd members noticed him before the set. Hodgy Beats, meanwhile, was a somewhat different case study pre-performance, as he stalked the grounds, skateboard in hand, screaming that he was in search of his friends; no matter, because, once on stage, he too had difficulty holding back smiles between his angry deliveries.

And make no mistake: OFWGKTA's lyrics, as a whole, are angry -- they're misogynistic, violent and anti-establishment, to say the least -- and they're presented over gritty, inventive beats that are created to highlight as much. Most of all, though, these offerings are refreshing: These aren't the cliched drug-slinging rhymes the hip-hop world has been subjected to for countless years, but rather heavily lyrical offerings that force their listeners to think -- even if that means that thinking of rather dark subject matters. And the visceral live performances very much appropriately match that lyrical content.

The most obvious comparison here? Wu-Tang Clan, of course -- and not just because of the size of the collective but because of its inventiveness and inherent, unquestioned credibility. Yet, whereas Wu-Tang can hardly get its members to show up these days in promised numbers, this outfit is actually greedy, happy to arrive in unannounced droves and give the crowds exactly what they'd hoped they'd see. Which is to say the whole collective.

And the crowds at this year's SXSW, as previously noted, have responded in kind: It's tough to turn a corner in Austin this week without hearing someone say, or spying a tag that reads, "Swag!" or "Free Earl!" (the latter a reference to favorite, shipped-off-to-boarding-school member Earl Sweatshirt). Surely, as the weekend goes on, the OFWGKTA crowds are only expected to increase.

Rightfully so: We may be facing an Odd Future, but it's also one hell of an interesting one -- and one that, very much, lest any dissenters try to tell you otherwise, completely lives up to its hype.

Love live it.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman