Odd Future Hammerstein Ballroom Tuesday March 20, 2012
About half way through Odd Future's game changer set at Hammerstein Ballroom Tuesday night, the lost but not forgotten, legendary member of the Wolf Gang pack Earl Sweatshirt, rapped with them for the first time ever. This was followed by astounding, and very, very rare, live version of "She" with, yes, that was indeed him on keyboards, Frank Ocean singing the chorus. And then Frank took center stage for a song off the new album and Tyler, who had already called this a very special night, because of the release of The OF Tape, Vol 2 for one, threw in "Yonkers". If only for this 20 minutes, Odd Future were vastly superior, light years ahead, of their set at Terminal 5 last year.
For Tyler, Domo Genesis, Mellow Hype, Syd The Kid, Hoagy Beats, this was a new plateau. Now, with two OF mix tapes, numerous solo records, and Goblin out there, they have a back catalog to choose from. And after a year of touring, the set had finally evolved past where they were when Tyler had said how sick he was playing those songs, a couple of months earlier. .When they played T5, they were exhausted and riding a high. It was a chaotic, shambolic, fan fave: Wolf Gang themselves sounded like 50 Cent's posse back in the early 00's. Just a lot of drums and shouting, As a music fan, I thought it was simply not very good, though as a happy watcher of the teenage experience, I couldn't believe how close it got to a riot. The fans, white High Schoolers all, were out of their minds. It actually reminded me of early punk gigs, it's like it could've gone either way.
Four months later, Tyler has 15 months earlier on his mind. He mentions his first ride on a plane, to New York City, with exactly six songs released, and the gig at Webster Hall, and it is odd, but not really, that Wolf Gang has grown up by leaps and bounds and there is a sense of the band having completely left those early days behind the, They rap "Who Keeps Shitting In The Tub" -a song that precedes "Bastards ""This is from 2009, man, this is before anything". And the penultimate number is "Fuck Da Police" -off their new album. They are ding the lot today, from the beginning to that morning, and it is as consistent a set as you could want, even if the audience prefers the old stuff.
Until the new album, I found it hard to see Odd Future as anything but Tyler, Frank and plus ones. But OF 2's best moments belong to Hoagy and Domo Genessis had some great moments on stage. The rapping was uniformly excellent, Hoagy seemed to be taking everything not tied down. And though an early problem with the mics left the first half hour with zero pacing, they didn't let that bother at all. The sound was much crisper than at T5 and the rappers rapped. They were serious. Serious enough to stop calling the females in the audience long enough to salute them as "all the beautiful ladies in the word".
And serious enough to let you here that, while they are not remotely past shit and dick jokes (as an excerpt from their Adult Swim TV show screened before the set proves), still there is an accumulation of first rate songs that any rap band, any band at all, would be proud of. A new song like "Rella" (as in relatives), is smart hip hop by any bodies standards. The bass booms but only when they really like it do they pump it up, there is a closeness, a friendship between the posse. And everybody is coming on strong. Everybody
Odd Future have learnt from Tyler: they are childish but underneath the childishness a type of horror of teenagerhood takes hold: these are (were) poor, are black, will be rich adults with the serious vernacular that hits straight at white teen boys, to a lesser degree girls and some black teens. If they were just dumb fun, if they were the sorta bling and bangers of a Big Sean, they'd have a different audience. But they aren't. Bragging about their dicks, sending emails to their Daddy, and showing the sort of rude obnoxiousness that is teenage kids, they completely capture their audience in the palm of their hands. Within Odd Future, and unlike just about any current rock band, is a meeting between band and audience. Their fans love them because they are them. or were. But now the distance widens and now, and forever, Odd Future or both better and further away then they were just 4 months ago,
Though I didn't like them nearly as much at T5, I can see how I might have preferred them if I was a teenager myself. As an adult, between the new album and the performances, Wolf Gang are the best pack around.