OFWGKTA are more than a hip new rap act: they’re a brand, a controversy, a whirlwind of aggression, a phantom beast with as many as 13 heads and yet no real center. They’ve managed to upturn the script for success in the modern rap game, igniting excitement with just a few scattered mixtapes before detonating in underground consciousness with a full-force nihilism that managed to catch the everyone off-guard. Ostensible head Tyler, the Creator is, as he puts it in his solo hit of last year, “Yonkers,” “a contradiction/no I’m not,” a scrappy, bratty doof who nonetheless manages to speak and rap with an oddly affecting gravitas, a voice that sounds older than his 21 years. Odd Future have courted hysteria with their blatantly offensive horrorcore lyrical assault, and it has paid off handsomely — their every appearance sets off near-riots. The question now is not just how long can this wave of mutilation last, but what this band of contrarians will do with the bully pulpit they’ve crawled up onto.
RUNNERS-UP: Azealia Banks, Watch the Throne, Shabazz Palaces