The will-call line was extra long and security extra tight at Neumos Wednesday. Tyler, The Creator — the auteur/provocateur leader of the L.A. skate-punk-rap collective Odd Future — was in town to play a solo show. So the extra muscle at the door was no surprise, really, given the group’s record of ultra-violent, misogynistic lyrical content and reputation for doing shows that border on riots.
Most of the capacity crowd looked underage (even a good percentage of the over-21 section of the club), and the vibe was overwhelmingly young and trendy. Five-panel caps, upside-down crosses, tie-dyed hoodies and other Tumblr-wave fashions were everywhere. Tyler’s close friend and crew goon Taco handled DJ duties in place of an opening act, playing Chief Keef, Drake, Waka Flocka and Kid Cudi songs that the crowd knew every word of.
Finally, the theatrical chord swells and cymbal crashes of the intro to “Wolf,” Tyler’s third full-length record, which sold nearly 90,000 copies in its first week, played over the house PA, the mass of teens singing along with the melodic “oohs” and “ahhs”. The brief, harmonious moment was cut short as Tyler dashed onstage — joined only by crew member Jasper as his hypeman — grunting the opening bars of his breakout 2010 single “French” as the sneering, whomping beat dropped and sent the rabid crowd into a bouncing, thrashing frenzy. The energy never let up from there, only pausing briefly between songs for Tyler’s candid banter.
“What up, assholes? You guys hangin’ out?” were the first words the 20-year-old rapper/producer/director directed toward the crowd — while sporting a white T-shirt emblazoned with a unicorn and rainbows. But he professed his love for the city and said that “the entire ‘Wolf’ album is based in Seattle” — a bit of info that adds some context to the album’s somber tone.
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Tearing through a balanced set of material from his “Bastard,” “Goblin” and “Wolf” albums, Tyler — who may have one of the best voices in rap today — spat his verses clearly but savagely, often continuing a cappella when the beat dropped out. But all of these rap-nerd details were overshadowed by his natural flair for live performance. Tyler jumped and flailed all over the stage, making wide-eyed, animated faces, screaming his lyrics in a gravelly, cigarette-smoking voice, channeling some punk spirit into a weird post-Neptunes, post-Kanye, post-Internet rap form.
The trademark nastiness of some songs was certainly present, but in a live setting it seemed both less sincere and more jarring — during one openly misogynistic number, Jasper admitted to feeling bad because “that’s the #1 most disrespectful song to women,” as the crowd blithely chanted along. While this shock material may be all part of the act for Tyler and Odd Future, there is definitely something disturbing about a few hundred young people reciting back lyrics word-for-word about rape, with only maybe a slight hint of irony. The fact that such things seemed as commonplace as the $65-hoodie/$30 T-Shirt/$40 hat/$15 socks Odd Future clothing line is even more alarming.
But provocation, not propriety, was the order of the evening. Toward the end of the show, Tyler stood atop a stage monitor and put his foot out, shoes unlaced, and told a man in the front row, “Tie my shoe.” The audience member promptly obeyed. “Dude, Malcolm X would be so proud!” he exclaimed. “I got white people tying my shoes!”
Mike Ramos: @RAM0S206