One of the biggest reasons that Odd Future was such a tasty morsel for the media machine in 2011 is that their music was so self contained. Its not that parts of their catalog are don’t have influences, but that first set of free albums and mixtapes that slowly emerged out of the internet’s cloudy abyss in 2010 was so without precedent that everyone felt that they could listen to the music and have an opinion about it without knowing anything about rap culture in the first place. This is no longer the case.
Domo Genesis’ first album, Rolling Papers, like the most of that first wave of releases, was a character portrait viewed through OF’s house lens. Hazy, shuddering beats showcased an easy-going, weed-loving, Kush and OJ-obsessed teenager. Cameos from Tyler and the rest made Domo into a distinct character in Odd Future’s story.
In this sense, No Idols is sort of a bittersweet moment in Domo’s career. It is a symbol that Domo and the rest of Odd Future have been almost fully absorbed by the rap world. The album has little more than ancillary indications of its OF heritage: a Left Brain outro here, a Tyler the Creator or Earl Sweatshirt verse there. Other than Tyler’s very characteristic appearance, the album fits into a very old mold. Given the Alchemist’s production, it sounds an awful lot like an album that might have been released by one of his frequent collaborators, talented but traditional rappers like Prodigy or Curren$y. In many ways, Domo raps in the tradition of these men, with verses focused on rhymes and wordplay rather than shock value, experimentation, or teenage giddiness.
Fortunately, it works. No Idols is a all killer, no filler kind of album. There’s no back story, no album intro, no skits, no nonsense. It showcases both Domo and Earl as the incredibly versatile MCs that they really are. Both show that they can be rapper’s rappers as well as conceptual indie darlings. Domo rhymes with an easy flow and the subtle, but not overwhelming confidence of a much more experienced rapper. Earl, sometimes an overly distinctive performer, doesn’t even sound like himself at times. Rather than his usual maze of overlapping syllables, he provides hooks and switches up his signature flow into gruff spurts and heavy rhyme.
Most importantly, however, No Idols exhibits some of Odd Future’s best elements in the absence of others. The group’s least appreciated advantage, friendship, is the album’s biggest strength. Guests from Action Bronson to Smoke DZA to Freddie Gibbs are all on the same wavelength, passing the baton from verse to verse with an impressive consistency. The record sounds like a conversation between friends, rather than the collaboration of artists from various sides of the rap polygon.
Even more so, No Idols shows that Odd Future’s inherent creativity is more than just shocking content and a distinctive sound. Each member showcased shows a surprising amount of consideration in his verses. One highlight, a song called “Me and My Bitch”, is a ode to weed taken to the extreme, comparing pot to a spouse to the minutest detail. What may seem like a mildly depressing song about an empty drug turns out to be a examination of the complicated relationship someone can have with the substance. Such moments are only evidence that Domo and Odd Future are more than often meets the eye, rap lovers who have not only created a new subgenre of hip-hop with their unprecedented sound, but talented artists who know how to make unique music in multiple modes.