In concert: OFWGKTA at U Street Music Hall
For the L.A.-based rap group OFWGKTA, conquering the underground was the easy part. And it couldn't have come much easier. A motley crew of teenage kids spouting off their most violent and nihilistic fantasies over delightfully warped beats proved to be perfect music-writer catnip. The lyrical content begged to be dissected: Were these kids telling gory tales about rape and murder pushing the boundaries of artistic freedom, good taste or both? (We won't dare print any of the lyrics in this publication.)
A steady stream of self-released mix tapes and videos - all adhering to the group's cartoonishly horrifying aesthetic, all a bit more deranged than the rest - increased the buzz and kept the conversation going. Throw in a bit of creation myth (mysterious member Earl being sent to boarding school after his parents heard his music), some obscenely entertaining Twitter feeds and a handful of catchphrases and you've got Next Big Thing quicker than you can say the group's full name. (That would be Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All; Odd Future, for short.)
On Monday, the group's de facto leader, Tyler, the Creator, signed a one-album deal with XL Recordings. (The label is home to acts such as Vampire Weekend, M.I.A. and Beck.) And that night the group played at a sold-out U Street Music Hall, delivering a performance that mostly justified the hype.
That was mainly due to Tyler's larger-than-life persona. Part of what made Odd Future so initially thrilling was the pack mentality; now it's the charisma and talent of the group's breakout star. The 19-year-old not only is a natural onstage but has raised the bar so high with his new material that his friends simply can't keep up.
The live debut of "Yonkers" - his album's first single, which has amassed more then 500,000 YouTube views in less than a week - was a brutally focused performance. The song cements him and Odd Future as more than just a curiosity. Bandmates Left Brain, Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis (an incomplete roster, but the ones who made this trip) were no slouches on the mike, but their frenzied shouting was no match for the cold efficiency of Tyler's verses.
Tyler was a handful of contradictions - baby-faced but oozing confidence, menacing but seductive. He somehow turns violent fantasies into bizarre come-ons. As he rolled his eyes into the back of his head while delivering his harshest lyrics, it was reminiscent of a move favored by famous wrestler the Undertaker. And it was fitting - Tyler is like the bad guy you find yourself rooting for.
When he wasn't onstage things lagged a bit, but each time he appeared he was the center of attention. At almost an hour and a half, the show went on too long, but the overwhelmingly underage crowd wanted more and got it. By the end the band members couldn't keep up the sinister front and were simply smiling and saying how much they loved Washington. Tyler snapped a few pictures of the crowd, breaking the club's "no cameras" policy. You got the feeling that, despite his lyrics, it was one of the most illegal things he's done. At that moment he was just a kid. Enjoy it while you can; the big time beckons, and soon.
| February 15, 2011; 7:05 PM ET
Categories: In concert | Tags: OFWGKTA, Odd Future, Tyler the Creator
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Posted by: audiohysteria | February 16, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse