The Studio at Webster Hall
Monday, November 8
Better Than: Steve Harvey.
Since everybody wants a piece of Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future, let’s go ahead and carve off ours. Not the moment, about halfway through the show, when pack leader Tyler the Creator took a break from stage diving and bugging his eyes out of his own head to take one powerful hit off something that looked a lot like an asthma inhaler. Not the inevitable emotional climax, when Tyler took in the assembled media and label people in the basement of Webster Hall and said, to applause, “Fuck every label and magazine in here.” Instead, we offer this: a 19-year-old kid sitting down, catching his breath, and talking dolefully about hating his dad over some spare piano chords and the bated breath of an entire industry.
We may as well mention here that this was not exactly a good show. Odd Future is ten people on a good day, and probably rolling six or seven or eight deep tonight, notably sans Tyler’s number two, Earl Sweatshirt, but even more notably sans the real life, beginning-to-end live charisma that distant internet kindred spirits Lil B and even Das Racist have already mostly mastered. (DR’s Himanshu Suri: “Yo no shots that Odd Future shit was fun but if we ain’t ready they got a minute.” Yup.) This show basically peaks the second Tyler walks out onstage, ski-masked up, “Sandwitches” blaring behind him, jump kicking his way across the stage like a young H.R. Weird as it may be to say out loud, we have not exactly assembled to see these guys rap. We’re here to see Bad Brains in 1979. Tyler is possibly that good. The rest of his group is probably not.
Which is not to say that the Hodgy Beats/Left Brain duo Mellowhype, who saunter out as Tyler propels himself off, don’t have their own low-key, stoner charm, though not as much of it as Odd Future secret weapon Mike G, who is next onstage in front of tonight’s crowd. The realization that nobody knows any of these songs besides the hardcore pack of fifty or a hundred kids in the front is palpable right around now, which I guess is what happens when people learn about things piecemeal, from the internet, but also what happens when you show up to see the Wu-Tang Clan and you get nine solo shows instead.
And yet now Tyler is back out, flying from one end of the stage to the other sans shirt or microphone, playing hypeman and later, suiting back up to curse 2DopeBoyz, Nah Right, and of course, us, the dudes who are bathing tonight’s proceedings in the sickly glow of a thousand iPhone note applications. “My asthma’s flaring up,” Tyler says, by way of explaining why the show needs to end, but it doesn’t just yet, the group clearly reluctant to relinquish the stage and go back to real life, where Mos Def is even now waiting in their dressing room, wearing a funny hat. “Yo this is the best show we’ve had,” Tyler says. It’s also their second, after London, outside their home city. May they still be this wide-eyed this time next year.
Critical Bias: I knew every single person in the crowd at this show.
Overheard: “This show needs a little more Altamont to it.”
Random Notebook Dump: Interscope and XL were both very much in the building. Consider the ground floor already occupied.