Odd Future side project The Internet explains its love/hate relationship with its namesake.
Shauna Miller is a ride-or-die writer and editor.
The Internet was birthed through a series of tubes called the internet. Twenty-year-old Syd the Kyd and 23-year-old Matt Martians, founding members of the hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, never knew a time when the web wasn’t there to serve their every music-making need. Myspace allowed Matt to trade tracks with an intense 15-year-old called Tyler, the Creator. Craigslist helped Syd flip equipment to raise funds for a bare-bones studio. Twitter found them a publicist. Tumblr let them release tracks on their own label, for free, as fast as they could make them. Online tastemakers deemed them the future of hip-hop. Odd Future side projects, including Syd and Matt’s year-old R&B-electronica fusion project, The Internet, were born and raised on the web, too.
But after Tyler, the Creator won a Video Music Award for his song “Yonkers,” swaths of the internet turned on Odd Future, labeling them a bunch of violent homophobes. (GLAAD denounced the win, noting that variations of the word “faggot” appear 213 times on the album, which was produced by Odd Future.) The revelation that Syd the Kyd was openly lesbian made the lead single and video for The Internet’s full-length debut—in which Syd gets her date high on coke, then pushes her unconscious body out of a car—even more problematic. The Internet was labeled “careless and offensive.” Syd was deemed a bad gay who played to the boys instead of empowering women.
At a recent show at D.C.’s U Street Music Hall, a crowd of largely underage fans sang along to every word of the song “Cocaine,” lovingly flipped off the band, and begged to take home Syd’s shirt and socks. Afterward, the duo talked about what the internet has given The Internet—and what it’s taken away.
Tomorrow: It’s pretty hard to Google The Internet. Why did you call the band that?
Matt Martians: We met most of our friends on the internet in the mid-2000s. That’s where we got our music. It’s the representation of a lot of shit.
Syd the Kyd: We [The Internet] were in the studio one day working on an album before we had a name. [Odd Future producer/rapper] Left Brain was in the room, and someone asked him, “Where you guys from?” And he said, “I’m not from nowhere. I’m from the Internet.”
T: Matt, you met Tyler on Myspace?
MM: I did. We were just exchanging music at first. I heard about him when I was [a freshman] in college, and I was like, “This dude is 15 and he makes shit like this?” It was the type of shit I liked—real spacey chord progression, very out-there stuff.
T: Syd, you first got a lot of your equipment off Craigslist.
SK: I built my whole studio off Craigslist. I started my first business and it was Craigslist-based, a guerrilla marketing company. I was 15, so I was too young to get a job. I made it look like it was legit, but it was run by kids. I’d hire my friends for street-team stuff, passing out fliers for companies. After that, I started buying and selling musical equipment. If I could make at least $20 on it, I’d buy it and flip it.
T: How’d you teach yourself to produce and engineer?
SK: I started recording some kids I grew up with. It became a goal of mine to make them sound as good as possible. I was always trying to find that new thing I needed to buy, [that] new technique I needed to try to make them sound good. I bought my first mic on Craigslist, my dad got me a laptop that had Garageband on it, we didn’t have a computer in the house. I bought the mic for $90. It’s not a vocal mic, but I didn’t know that at the time. I actually used it onstage tonight. I used it for vocals for a long time and was just making it work.
T: When Odd Future first started releasing tracks, it was through mixtapes on your Tumblr that you could download for free. What about charging for MP3s or releasing CDs?
MM: Well, we didn’t have the opportunity to do that. No one had the means.
SK: We knew about Tunecore, but we didn’t even have the money for that. That’s a website where you pay $10 to put a song on iTunes, $40 for an album. We were always giving music away before any labels had offered us anything. Like, when XL [Recordings] picked up [Tyler, the Creator’s second album] Goblin, it was already done, so the album advance went straight into Tyler’s pocket. We’d recorded it for free, so Goblin going up for sale made a lot of sense. From there, people started seeing we could make money on our own, and started wanting to help us help them. And we got our own label.
T: But when The Internet released Purple Naked Ladies last year, it was as a physical release — the first one on Odd Future Records.
SK: We wanted to release it for free; I think all first albums should be [free]. But our manager thought it would be a good idea to make it the first release for Odd Future records, to show the diversity in the label. At the time, I was still DJing for Odd Future and OF was just a group of angry black kids that did mosh pits and stuff.
T: What’s coming out next?
MM: Right now, we’re touring as much as we can without going insane. We’re working on an EP right now, which should be out before the end of the year, for free. Our second album won’t be until next year, though. EPs are cool, because you can do concept EPs. I want people to be ready for when we come back and be like, “All the weird shit they been putting out, I don’t know how this is gonna sound.”
T: So, the internet was pretty good to you guys — finding band members, equipment, letting you release stuff the way you wanted, making a name. Then, it kind of turned on you with all these blogs calling you a misogynist and a bad lesbian role model after the “Cocaine” video came out.
SK: I still think, for the most part, things have been more good than bad. I can’t complain. We’re aware that most of our favorite artists put out their first projects and went unnoticed for years and years. So we feel lucky. At an advantage.
T: Do you ever go off the grid entirely?
MM: The internet is a depressing place, because greatness is the norm now. You go on Tumblr and see all these beautiful women, all this beautiful artwork. When you’re not on the internet, you can actually go to an art gallery and see real things and be like, “Whoa!” But instead, you’re just like, scroll, scroll. It desensitizes you to extraordinary shit. Five, six years ago it wasn’t so accessible to see so much great stuff just streamed at you—the best artists, the best rappers. It can be discouraging. It can make you want to work harder. But it teaches people that fame is the ultimate goal.
T: Do you steal music off the internet?
SK: Not anymore. I did when I couldn’t afford all the music I wanted. But now that I can afford it, I don’t. It’s worth it. Even if you don’t have that money in your pocket afterward, they do, so it’s circulating.
T: What about to hook up with people? Are you on Grindr? eHarmony?
MM: I’m on that website CougarLife. It’s for older ladies. Where cougars meet cubs. I’m playing with you, but I was on there the other day and thinking about signing up.
T: Do you guys even remember life before the internet?
SK: It was intriguing as a kid with no friends. It’s a place where you could make yourself as important as you wanted to be. But it bores the fuck out of me now.
MM: Life before the internet was important. Now, nothing’s about physical relationships anymore.
This interview has been condensed and edited.