The last time Tyler, The Creator appeared in DC, he came with the entire Odd Future collective. In fact, one of their first shows outside of Los Angeles took place at U St. Music Hall. Two years ago, the group was the hottest act in America. Tyler became an instant celebrity after dropping the career-launching “Yonkers” video on an unprepared public.
In 2011, they were a novelty. Odd Future shows were volatile, buzzed-about experiences. The show I attended at Rock N Roll Hotel featured Frank Ocean serenading a young lady with an unplanned, a capella serenade version of “American Wedding.” It concluded with an upset bouncer on stage, yelling at kids to simmer down while the rap group chanted, “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school!”
Unfortunately, there were no surprises Monday night during Tyler’s sold-out performance.
As you might expect, the crowd skewed younger. U St. Music Hall bouncers were liberally distributing X’s. One gave me a dubious look when I told him that, yes, I planned on drinking and, yes, I was born in the ‘80s.
The two least essential members of the Odd Future collective were present. Taco warmed up the audience, replacing his older sister (Syd tha Kyd) as Tyler’s tour DJ. He cycled through a medley of popular hits, including a remix of Kanye West & Jay-Z’s “Gotta Have It”, Schoolboy Q’s “Hands On The Wheel”, Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa”, and, of course, Earl Sweatshirt’s recently-released “Whoa.”
The raspy-voiced Tyler and hype man Jasper Dolphin took the stage after the lengthy introduction, the two trading off lines from “French!” off of Tyler’s self-produced debut album.
Tyler hasn’t changed much since achieving celebrity status. He was dressed in a white shirt and “GOLF” five-panel hat—I thought there was a rule against performing in your own merchandise. If any were offended by his excessive use of “motherfuckers” and “faggots,” you shouldn’t have spent $30 to see him. It was juvenile music for juveniles. You’re not in their demographic.
The set was short—less than an hour—containing nearly all of Tyler’s hits, albeit neutered without his confederates. The three made it known early on in the show that Earl wasn’t around. It’s also obvious Frank Ocean is doing bigger & better things. But even the absence of Tier-2 OFWGKTA members like Left Brain muzzled the performance. In a pack, Tyler’s charisma and energy fleshes out the show, complemented by technically proficient rappers (Hodgy Beats, Earl) and stoner goofballs (Mike G, Domo Genesis). Alone, Tyler’s weak lyrical stifness and crappy sense-of-humor were exposed.
Tyler’s rapping in concert may be suspect—he does have asthma—but there’s little doubt about his proficiency as a pitchman. He has a new CD coming out April 2, a detail that he let the audience know over and over again. He performed a few new songs off the album, including the legitimately fun “Domo 23”, “Bimmer”, and “Cowboy.” He also referenced a commercial he recently directed for Mountain Dew, but considering how disturbing and dumb the ad is, I’ll let it go without further commentary.
Tyler’s genuine self-appreciation toward his directorial efforts and dippy television show makes it seem like rapping has become less a passion and more a day job. Prior to introducing “Yonkers”, he sighed and said, “I hate this song,” letting the crowd carry most of the bars. He may have been kidding, as Tyler is a well-known kidder, but it makes sense that one would eventually get tired of threatening to disembowel Bruno Mars night after night.
My criticisms aside, the show was animated, if unmemorable. His older songs were very well-received. A legitimate mosh pit broke out during “Tron Cat”, a rarity at rap shows. The pulsating beat of “Dracula” made the crowd go wild. If you would have told me that a song called “Bitch Suck Dick” would be the evening’s highlight, I wouldn’t have believed you. There was ample crowd surfing throughout the evening. Jasper is a pretty funny dude.
Even sans Earl’s verse, “Orange Juice” remains as raw as ever with clever lines like “Do not give a fuck / I’ve got the swagger of a virgin’s dick.” But it was painfully obvious how badly Tyler requires a stronger partner to rhyme with than hip-hop refuse like Jasper Dolphin and Taco Bennett. I can only imagine how much better this tour will be when Earl is unleashed on the West Coast leg in a few weeks.
The group ended the evening with “Sandwitches,” which, two years removed from Odd Future’s incendiary debut performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, still brought down the house. I overheard several young people outside the club boast how this was the best show they’d ever seen. I would disagree, but then again, maybe I’m getting too old for this shit.