It had all the makings of an epic night. The Cat’s Cradle had been sold out for weeks, and Tyler the Creator’s new studio album was set to release on April 2nd. I knew I could be in for something special. What I discovered however was a different kind of ‘epic’ than I was expecting.
Let me begin by saying that I almost feel bad proceeding with this review in this manner, because it makes me feel like an old timer complaining about today’s youth and their crazy antics with my old timer buddies while sipping a saucer of warm milk. Alas though, I cannot un-see what I saw, and thusly must report my version of the truth to the good readers of Chapelboro. This “concert” was probably one of the best nights of 95% of those in attendance lives. Unfortunately for this reporter, the average age of that grouping hovered somewhere between ages 15 and 17, and for the first time in a long time, I simply did not get it. There were chaperones a plenty cautiously lurking throughout the Cradle, which I noticed almost immediately after entering. That was the first red flag in a series of peculiarities that I was not expecting from this show.
Tyler the Creator is a Los Angeles based rapper (and more so entertainer) who over the last year and a half has gone viral throughout the back alleys of the internet. Since obtaining this popularity, he has broken through in relative form into mainstream media, and is the front man for his group Odd Future. I found out about Tyler from tech savvy friends who discovered his unique and raspy style of emceeing through posts on Facebook, and other social networks. Usually in my experience, this is a good sign. Underground rappers who require an active listener to seek their material out for themselves have lived up to the hype previous to my stumbling upon Tyler. There is nothing “cooler” then being the first to discover something new in what will ultimately become your friends’ next favorite thing. Such names return to me as Immortal Technique, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Lyrics Born, Aesop Rock and Brother Ali. Each of these lyrical beasts were for the most part popularized to me amongst the aforementioned active, savvy hip hop listener, and I remember the proof being in the pudding once the record needle hit the wax. I wanted this to be the case with Tyler the Creator, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, I wanted this to be the review of me witnessing another great emcee in the making. It is just not so. Why you say? On to the actual performance.
I am no novice to hip hop as a genre but keen to recognize difference and innovative new styles as being good things, and, folks, Tyler the Creator is nothing more than a 20 year old kid doing exactly what a 20 year old kid with newly acquired massive fame and money would be expected to do: acting crazy and being vocal about doing it. He is living the dream, apparently not giving a damn, and utilizing sensationalism to the utmost degree. Trust me, I am trying to comment on the actual music but there was so little of it during his performance. One of my biggest qualms with unprepared, poorly delivered rap shows is that many times a studio rapper or group does not translate well to a live stage. This is because the genre as a whole relies much more on studio production, since in hip hop the lyrics and beats go hand in hand. As a result, just as I have seen sporadically in the past, rappers will sometimes do a medley of their songs on stage, as opposed to performing whole tracks all the way through. It is very unsatisfying. This was the case at the Cradle as I tried to establish somewhat of a groove or flow to Tyler’s “set.” Thirty second verses were delivered over and over again, interposed by what was in my opinion some of the most heinous crowd interaction I’ve ever seen. The most memorable part of the show was when Tyler and a female fan on the front row went back and forth about how much money the young lady would accept in exchange for literally licking a pair of one of Tyler’s crony’s undergarments. Yes friends, sensationalist “he said what!?!?” rap is long removed from the times of NWA’s “F— the Police.” Enter a sad state, where “munching my man’s draws” (yes that is a direct quote from Tyler) is far more enjoyable to the young and spry crowd than a lyrical beauty.
The exclamation point on the evening came as Tyler embarked on his last song. About halfway through his verse, so in real time no more than 20 seconds into the backing beat, the sound went out. The faux pa seemed to be Tyler’s own DJ’s fault, not the in house sound man who the group did not hesitate to bark at, probably unjustly. Now this was an opportunity for something really cool, one which Tyler did not capitalize on. When the sound goes out at a good rapper’s show, specifically during the last song, the crowd is usually in for a special treat: a freestyle. For a second, I actually thought the Creator was about to deliver something worthwhile, because you can’t fake a freestyle. Instead, in what was the ultimate anti-climax to the night, he simply remarked about how it sucked to end a show like that, and then walked off stage. Close curtain.
For the first time in a while, I left the Cat’s Cradle disappointed, but interested. Why? Tell me, what is the allure in this man and his music with the youth? Is it simply to feel like one’s youthful self is a part of something? Probably. If the mission was to confuse an optimistic young music journalist, mission accomplished. Touche, Mr. Creator, for to some extent I believe it is this confusion that makes your presence viable whatsoever. Still though, it is ALWAYS great to get out and see something different. I look forward to Ghostface Killah’s upcoming appearance at the Cradle, and the opportunity to show people what a real rapper and professional performer can do.
You can follow Charles on Twitter @This_Is_Bones