The New Wu-Tang Clan: Odd Future

This L.A. crew features the most talented kids in hip-hop — and the most demented

Bryan Sheffield
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"Oh, fuck! we just came this close to killing someone," says Tyler, the Creator, laughing. The L.A. rapper is calling from a car in Austin where the 11-person hip-hop collective he helms, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, have taken South by Southwest by storm — bringing a ski-masked midget onstage at one show. Tyler epitomizes the group's demented aesthetic: His rhymes are dazzling blurs of violence, jokes and emotional bloodletting. Or, as he puts it, "I'm a big fucking crybaby, and for some reason people like listening to me."

This article appeared in the April 28, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

Since 2008, Odd Future — whose teen and early-twentysomething members also include gifted avant-R&B smoothie Frank Ocean and slasher virtuoso Earl Sweatshirt (who, rumor has it, was shipped off to boarding school once his mom caught wind of his music) — have self-released buckets of free music online. The line on the crew is that they're punk-rappers, from their stripped-down production to Tyler's skate-rat uniform of cutoff shorts and scrawled-on Vans. But there's also serious savvy in their use of shock as a publicity generator, in the group's crudely Photoshopped promo fliers and in cartoonishly atavistic catchphrases like "Kill people, burn shit, fuck school." "It's all a gimmick," Tyler says. The gimmick is working. Love from stars like Mos Def and Kanye West helped transform the crew from cult pets into a burgeoning phenomenon (Beyoncé brought Ocean into the studio to collaborate recently). In Austin, Tyler — whose solo album, Goblin, is due out on indie powerhouse XL Recordings this year — reaches his destination. "Nice talking to you," he says. "You're awesome. Fuck you." Then he hangs up and tweets about how dumb the interview was.

Video: Odd Future Deliver Wildly Charismatic Performance on 'Fallon'

Photos: SXSW 2011

From The Archives Issue 1129: April 28, 2011