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To set things straight: The reasons for Odd Future’s breakthrough success are obviously deeper than their oft-discussed shock value. Sure, they took the willfully offensive rudeness of a young Eminem to a level befitting a generation whose sex-ed classes had been outsourced to Limewire. But the reason music listeners are still checking for Odd Future 2 1/2 years after Tyler’s Bastard mixtape made the first widely-recognized splash for the camp is that the crew hosts a remarkable amount of musical talent beyond the unholy trinity of Tyler, Earl and Frank. Having reached a head-count of 11–all of whom are featured on The OF Tape Vol. 2, the Wolf Gang’s problem is not one of lack but of overload.

Many of the individual members have gradually been developing their distinct artistic personas, shedding some of the immaturity that made their early group efforts both memorable and assailable. This maturiation is reflected on The OF Tape Vol. 2: Left Brain handles just as much of the production as Tyler and demonstrates an enhanced palette of sounds. Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats both flow with unprecedented focus, most notably on “Bitches” and “Hcapd.”  Tyler dependably delivers like a superstar. Mike G goes from being a fifth wheel to contributing a standout track. Frank Ocean needs only one 2-minute solo-cut to underline his status as today’s most naturally gifted R&B artist – but it feels as though there are just too many aspiring chefs in the kitchen.

Cohesion was never a staple of OF group efforts. But here the stylistic plurality advances beyond likable ADHD-antics to the point where it no longer leaves the listening value unscathed. While  “White” works in its singularity, ushering in the most sharpened series of tracks on the tape, The Internet’s Outkast-for-zombies-funk feels more out of place than intended. MellowHype’s attempt on “50”  to both re-create “Radicals” and be Brick Squad (a stunt pulled off to more avail by Jasper, Taco and Tyler) fails painfully.

Perhaps that is why  “Oldie” towers above the rest as the best track on the album. It assembles the entire crew for a single purpose and that purpose is simply to rap. The collective cypher spirit overrides any stylistic tensions. Who knows how much more we will see of that in the future, especially if the members’ individual visions continue to diverge?

-Anthony Obst

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