Odd Future has gained another detractor, no big news there. This time, though, the critiques come from Steve Albini, who you may recall from the producer credits on albums like Surfer Rosa and In Utero, or his post-post-punk powerhouse band Shellac, or his around-the-waist guitar strap, or his tendency to speak his mind, even if it makes him seem like a grumpy old guy (see: Steve Albini on Sonic Youth). Needless to say, he wasn’t exactly jumping for joy when he found himself sharing an airport shuttle bus with the Odd Future gang in Barcelona this May, he writes on the message forum of Electrical Audio, the recording studio he operates out of Chicago. They acted like you would expect the kids from Odd Future to act, which is to say obnoxious. In Albini’s words:
They piled onto the shuttle late, after finally getting corralled by their minder, who was nursing a head wound with an ice bag wrapped in a towel. They piled in, niggering everything in sight, motherfucking the driver, boasting into the air unbidden about getting their dicks sucked and calling everyone in the area a faggot. Then one of them lit a joint (or a pipe, I didn’t look) and told the driver to shut the fuck up nigger and smoked it anyway. A female passenger tried to engage one of them in conversation, but he just stared at her with a dead-to-me stare while his seatmate flipped double birds in her face.
The whole trip they complained about not being at a McDonald’s and repeatedly shouted for the motherfucker to pull over so they could get some fucking McDonald’s nigger. Interspersed with the McDonald’s requests were shouted boasts about how often they masturbated and fucked bitches nigger and got paid like a motherfucker fifty grand like a motherfucker. They continued complaining that the trip was taking too long and insisted they be fed immediately all the way to the airport, where their minder presumably fed them.
Even more interesting than illustrating what riding a shuttle bus in hell might be like, he touches on the “it’s art, not reality” argument that Odd Future supporters tend to stand by, while also acknowledging his bias of approaching the debate from a non-rap background — the money quote bolded for emphasis by me, not Steve:
I am well aware, thanks, that good people can make ugly art and that ugly people can make good art. Ultimately the function of art is to express something and move an idea from one person to another, and the tools of that can include revulsion and discomfort. Having been in a few bands myself, thanks, I know that the uninitiated can mistake these devices as windows into the soul of the creator. Ultimately they are, of course, but not necessarily in the crude autobiographical way they are often interpreted.
I know all that, so I am never quick to judge a person based on a superficial reading of creative output. Peter Sotos is a lovely fellow whom I trust implicitly, despite his writing evoking a truly primal disgust in me, to use another rapey example. Michael Gerald from Killdozer said it best in an interview, when the journalist remarked that he seemed like a nice fellow, which was unexpected given that the characters in his songs are often repellent. ‘Oh, that’s not us,’ he said. ‘That’s the crazy people we sing about.’ In that light, I am one hundred percent behind Odd Future’s right to rap about what they wanna rap about, and if she don’t like it fuck her.
And also fuck me. It’s none of my business what they wanna. I’m not part of the audience for hip hop, and as a non-dilettante I don’t generally respond to it when I hear it, so I can’t make any critical assessment of Odd Future’s music on its own terms, but they go out of their way to make it clear that this is not a case of regular people making music about assholes, but assholes making music about being assholes. I have no time for that. I don’t respond kindly to it when Ted Nugent does it either.
If the whole thing is a put-on, a bit of Vincent Gallo life-as-theater for the benefit of whoever happens to be sitting next to them, that’s no excuse. It’s being an asshole about being an asshole.
I feel bad for their minder.