For my ethnographic research project, I will be examining the cultish following surrounding the rap group Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All, which I will from here on refer to simply as Odd Future or OFWKTA. The group piqued my interest largely because of the controversy surrounding their quick ascension to stardom. Their lyrics are undoubtedly nihilistic, usually delivered by the group’s leader, Tyler the Creator. An often-cited example is a line from Tyler’s song “Tron Cat” – “Raped a pregnant bitch / told my friends I had a threesome.” I plan to start an analysis of what the implications of lyrics like these might be on their fan base, which consists primarily of middle-upper class and Caucasian males.
My research will be mainly web-based, as the group notably rose to fame (infamy?) through their expert use of social media, particularly Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube. I also plan on conducting interviews with any/all of the following:
a) Fans that I find at the Odd Future show at Boston’s Royale theater on October 21
b) A web-based fan, hopefully somebody that actively reTweets or reTumbles their posts, or frequently comments on YouTube videos
c) A professor of either Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Ethnomusicology, or American Civilization to get a scholarly opinion regarding Odd Future’s provocatively amoral lyrics and their implications on their fan base.
d) A Brown student, who might be an example of the aforementioned archetypical Odd Future fan (educated, but unperturbed by the lyrical content)
I hope to address some of the following questions/issues in this project:
a) Youth subcultures often arise out of a sense of “otherness” and alienation, but how might Odd Future represent a rift from this established pattern, in that its fans seem to “other”-ize themselves from the music, establishing a strange dichotomy between lyrical affinity and actual personal belief?
b) How can we reconcile lyrical content with actual artist intent, which in this case might be in striking contrast? Is this a masterful artistic tool to draw public focus to various social issues, or something completely different?
c) What are the implications of Odd Future’s lyrical content and following on the subject of gender disparity?
d) Is there a subconscious sense of voyeurism in Odd Future’s fan base?
I also hope to keep in mind the following issues, which admittedly have the potential to problematize my research:
a) My personal opinions of the group and its fans, which I have been forming over the last year and might lead me to pointedly research some subjects and ask leading thematic questions. However, I believe that knowing my bias will help me prevent it from encroaching on my research.
b) My immediate community, which might not be indicative of Odd Future’s fan base as a whole.
c) My difficult questions that I plan on addressing in my research paper, which may require judgmental analysis to answer.
d) The difference between lyrical analysis and ethnographic research; I will need to remind myself through the research process that my goal is to examine the group’s fan following and its interpretation of the lyrics, not my own.