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A$AP Rocky, Tyler The Creator, Danny Brown And Vince Staples At Theatre At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015, Reviewed

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This is Tyler The Creators’  legacy, or what is left of it , only four years after the fact. In 2011  I saw what amounts to the most threatening concert since the entire audience at a Sex Pistols gig got arrested  in 1976.  At T5,Tyler (here) let loose the dogs of war; there was a real threat wafting in the air over Odd Future, the 20 year old was still worrying on being forsaken by his father, still leading Odd Future and holding it together, still leading white teenagers into paroxysm’s of rebellious jukeboxing, still climbing up the balcony and dangling free like a joyful suicide  and today, now, Tyler is just another rapper. Less than another rapper, he just doesn’t seem to care about it all too much one way or the other. From the greatest teenager in the face of fame to an indolent snarky millionaire, so distracted nothing seems to matter.  As Don Corleone once asked, “how did we get here?”

Well, we got HERE, a sold out Theatre Madison Square Garden, via  A$AP Rocky sharing the limelight with Ariana Grande, and by releasing between the four performers tonight, Tyler, Vince Staples and Danny Brown behind him, and Rocky in front, six great to extremely great records. Plus at least two complete turkeys (hi Tyler). To put it another way, this was a first tier hip hop show and what is more, two of those great albums were released this year, and finally, the show itself was a very well organized four hour block of hip hop performed live with just beats and samples

Unfortunately, except for A$AP Rocky, the rappers weren’t quite up to it. Vince and Danny took forever to get their sets into high gear and Tyler didn’t manage at all.  Vince  used a funny quip to an audience member, “be nice, black lives matter motherfucker” leading to a call and response of “Fuck Da Police” and “Norf Norf” for the set to get down to business. Vince has one of the best albums of the year to his credit Summertime ’06 but he couldn’t quite sell it on stage, suggesting maybe something was missing somewhere. Maybe experience.  At his best, Vince, another guy from Cali suburban ghettos, was as clever as agitpop can be, “I refuse the right to be silent” he rapped at one point, “I never ran from nothing but da police” at another. But as a performer, he didn’t know how to get into it with the audience. Not bad, but not ready.

Danny Brown seems to have forgotten how to sell himself as well. Last time I saw Danny he was the best thing on a stage  that had included Schoolboy Q and Action Bronson, his strange yelp like a cat in heat meets Snoop, and effortless flow, through two great albums (XXX and the incredible Old), had all eyes on him. But last night Danny seemed a little distracted, a little going through the emotions. Not  till a late season “Grown Up”,  did Danny shake the lethargy Even at the end, he couldn’t quite push it all the way.

But they are both hugely better than Tyler, The Creators’ atrocious set. Unless you are in the market for a 24 year old man, dressed like a fourteen year old lost boy, making scatological jokes when he can be bothered to rap at all, now is the time for your tears. How did one of the greatest rappers of the 2010s get to this sorry state? His arrogance is astonishing. Tyler came on stage and didn’t make a sound for a couple of minutes and then started giggling. No, really. He took long breaks between songs and when he did rap, he seemed indifferent at best, with only the occasional explosion of energy,  and then he wandered off stage. “Put your cellphones away” he insisted as the set begun Everybody ignored him, of course.

Half an hour later, the real show began as the A$AP Mob took the glammy looking three story… no wait,  I can’t do description for toffee, here is J Edward Keyes of the Village Voice’s take: “A$AP Rocky’s set consisted of an imposing two-level metal platform with inlaid video screens that seemed part rejected Blade Runner set piece, part MTV dance show circa 1987. It was constantly awash in color” . It was indeed and though I only got to see 20 minutes of it, I did get to hear the best version of “LSD” ever, distorted backing tapes and a psychedelic light show . I’d caught the A$AP Mob on new year’s Eve opening for Diplo and Skrillix and I’d really enjoyed their high energy tag rapping, and if anything from what I saw last night, they’ve gotten better. After Tyler’s sorry set and a long break while they set up the stage, the Mob absolutely manhandled the crowd who suddenly came to life. I don’t think Tyler could care less that A$AP Rocky showed him how it is done in 2015, though from rounds of confetti(?) for “M$” to many voices rapping out lines and snapping into place on ” Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2″.. And while I did leave early (early? 1120pm), I did hear the greatest version of “LSD” the world will ever know.

In a truly great year for hip hop, it was a blast to watch some of it come to life

Vince Staples – B

Danny Brown – C+

Tyler The Creator – C-

A$AP Rocky – B+

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