Monday Earl Sweatshirt of Odd Future plays Bowery Ballroom. While O.F. are unapologetically a product in both image and sound of their L.A. roots, it’s notable how many important moments for the crew have happened right here in New York City. While we’re about to enter year four of the group’s ever-expanding cult followin–becoming, along the way, a ubiquitous outsider hip-hop juggernaut–it’s easy to forget how quickly the group’s profile rose. Fortunately, this astronomical trajectory can be seen by revisiting their New York performances, and it is in anticipation of Earl making further history in the city that we bring you the story of Odd Future’s New York love affair.
The Studio at Webster Hall 11/8/2010
The crew’s first New York performance, and only fourth or fifth performance ever, took place in November of 2010. With Earl’s whereabouts still a mystery and a limited selection of the crew on-hand (no Domo Genesis either), it was the night listeners a whole coast away from the groups origin discovered Tyler is a star. With the back of the room full of journalists, local rappers playing both walls and the middle of the intimate sold-out space packed with voracious fans, the word-of-mouth from those lucky enough to be in attendance spread like the plague. It was also during this visit, Tyler’s first time in New York, that he was inspired to name a track “Yonkers.”
“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” 2/15/2011
If the Studio at Webster Hall show was a spark, the spark generated from their performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was a full blown forest fire. Going down the day they performed at Santos Party House, the ominous visuals and hyper-kinetic on-stage antics catapulted the crew to being the talk of the rap world. A great moment where the rigid structure of mainstream television was systematically disemboweled, it would set the tone for the firestorm of media that would soon follow the group.
Highline Ballroom 5/13/2011
By their third visit, Odd Future had become a full-fledged force both in media and on store shelves as Tyler, the Creator’s Radical had become the outfit’s first commercial release. The monetization had begun as this show signaled the New York debut of the group’s merch table. Like all Odd Future shows, this one became absolutely raucous, including shoes being thrown from the stage and hitting people in balcony VIP section proving no-one was safe. The most notable aspect of this show was Frank Ocean’s first New York appearance with the group after the widespread circulation of his Nostalgia/Ultra mixtape, performing “Novocain” to a crowd that had been hearing it in regular rotation on Hot 97.
Terminal 5 10/19/2011
One year after making their first mark in the city, Odd Future rocked the then-biggest show of their career at Terminal 5. Arguably the most anticipated set at CMJ that year, the wall-to-wall packed house seemed almost surreal compared to the cramped confines not even 12 months earlier. Of course, the bigger platform meant bigger antics as members Tyler, the Creator and Hodgy Beats channeled their inner Eddie Vedder and scaled the venues’ walls for a pair of outstandingly reckless New Jack-esqe balcony dives. Miraculously, nobody was hurt.
Hammerstein Ballroom 3/20/2012
By March of 2012, the Odd Future mushroom cloud had begun to cast a shadow on other forms of media as well. Starting their Spring 2012 tour supporting the collaborative release The O.F. Tape 2 in New York, the buzz around the show being something special was almost palpable. While the night began with the already huge surprise of a ten minute extended preview of the collective’s new Adult Swim comedy show Loiter Squad, the real story came about halfway through the set when the moment two years in the making finally happened. The story of Odd Future had partially been driven by the Earl Sweatshirt mythology–a kid who, at 15 was already one of the most outstanding technical rappers on the planet being mysterious absent for the rise of the group due to various alleged conflicting circumstances. While the rap world had spent two years hearing these tales out of school, there’s no denying the flesh-and-blood truth of Earl’s on-stage return taking his rightful place alongside his Odd Future brethren. It’s a moment some doubted would ever happen, but the genuine rejoicing from all in attendance made it something really special.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 7, 2013