Wolf Gang certainly aren’t “progressive” rappers like Common or Lupe Fiasco, and Odd Future shouldn’t hold their breath for a White House invite, but in highlighting generational conflict they are the most political popular musicians working. Tyler’s music is a radical critique, justifiably blaming his elders for the murderous voices in the back of his generation’s head. The papering over of America’s social antagonisms frays at its young edge, where the contradictions are still apparent. Odd Future conveys the artistic threat that the masks might fall and the plan to produce another generations of citizens could spin out of control. The sound of youth is not the bells of dawn but a death rattle. As Tyler puts it in the song “Radicals” (also in singular form the name of the group’s first mixtape): “Fuck the fat lady/It’s over when all the kids sing.” In this potentiality, the amphetamines doctors prescribed to keep students still produce “the Ritalin regimen/Double-S shit/Swastikas on the letterman.” Teachers who claim to be “here for you” become the Schmittian enemy in “We are us/They are them/Kill them/All.” At a time when America’s confidence in its future has reached polled lows, when, for the first time, fewer than 50 percent of Americans think the next generation will be better off, no one has figured out how to tell the kids. We measure our pessimism in terms of their lives and imagine they won’t notice. But teenagers don’t wait to have the world explained to them. It’s easier to write about what Odd Future is than what it says, and it’s easier to diagnose a group of teenager rappers than the society that produced them, but Wolf Gang’s art pulls back the curtain and in doing so forces the issue: there’s hard work to be done.
more from Malcolm Harris at The New Inquiry here.