Coachella 2011: Odd Future has some work ahead of them
Just after Tyler, the Creator finished the last half of "Yonkers" as an a capella rap, he made a rueful admission. "I got too hyped and I climbed on the table and busted this," he said, pointed at the laptop providing beats for his sprawling rap posse Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.
He might have said the same about today's show, his crew's most high-profile live performance to date. Booked into the enormous Sahara tent at a prime late-afternoon slot, the mood at the start was ravenous. In just a few months, Odd Future has turned from Internet curiosity to buzzy local upstarts to the ostensible saviors of West Coast rap. Twenty thousand people seemed ready to scream "Wolf! Gang"! until their throats bled.
And for about five minutes' worth of "Sandwitches," the track they tore apart on Jimmy Fallon's show, they delivered. All the major players (save the yet-un-free Earl Sweatshirt, sadly) sauntered on like the reception was precisely what their talents were owed. Tyler's gravel-tongued raps and Hodgy Beats' manic stage presence were as feral as their reputation implied. It felt like a major star turn about to happen.
And then it didn't, not quite. A weird, very modern kind of disconnect settled in between Odd Future and its fans. Many in the crowd seemed to know all the signifiers of the group -- shouts of "Swag!" the goofy name-chant inversion of "golf wang" -- but got lost at the actual songs. Posse-rap is a difficult genre to translate live anyway (you try getting almost a dozen crew members to stay in line), but a kind of confusion soaked into the otherwise dance-inclined Saraha tent. Outside of Tyler's biggest singles like the demoniacally swaggering "French," the group's vast Web-based discography seemed at odds with the needs of a set like this.
Odd Future subsidiary MellowHype's "I Got A Gun" is a witty upending of firearm-rap, but the dark joke felt lost on a crowd ready to scream catchphrases, and the delicious boastfulness of Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats' "Tang Golf" didn't rile the slowly depleting tent as they'd clearly hoped. The music is no problem -- while Tyler is clearly the group's figurehead for a reason, Odd Future's bench is surprisingly deep (the group's live DJ Syd lends an intriguing androgyny that counterbalances any rape-talk), and messiness can be made up for with live-set venom. But the set felt a bit at odds with what this big crowd expected, and it showed in the tent's energy. Were they overbooked? Still working up to their own hype?
Absolutely. But that's different from saying it's all unwarranted. When Tyler introduced a tune by promising, "This moment is about to be the greatest of my life," he probably meant it. And he'll probably have plenty of chances for even better ones in the year to come.