PHOTOS & REVIEW: Tyler the Creator in MTL

A few years removed from the hype around Odd Future, the ringleader of the L.A. crew remains larger than life.

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Tyler the Creator. Photos by Cindy Lopez (scroll to the bottom for more)
A few years removed from his brief stint as rap’s freshest iconoclast, Odd Future ringleader Tyler the Creator made his long overdue Montreal debut on Tuesday night, finally giving his long-suffering minions a taste of what they’ve been missing.

The 23-year-old Californian court jester — accompanied by portly hype man Jasper Dolphin and beat queuer Taco — did not instruct the ecstatic crowd to burn shit or fuck school. Colourful language was bandied about in unexpectedly humorous ways, and he still jumps around like he’s throwing a tantrum in a shopping mall, but the je ne sais quoi youthful dissent, which gave him and his crew much of their early edge, is largely gone. He’s graduated to Adult Swim stoner, which has its own passionate niche audience.

It’s that fart joke charm, and his ability to use epithets until they’ve lost all meaning, that’s endeared him to the young-uns (it was an all-ages show and most people looked to be in their late teens) and made him the scourge of hip hop heads.

Purists can give Tyler a bit more leeway when it comes to his inventive wobbly beats — again, very stoner-ish, especially if you’re the type who gets agitated and paranoid after a few puffs — but this show’s highlights mimicked the simplistic aggression and halting cadence of trap, the same type of club hits Taco was queuing from his laptop in the opening slot. Trap is pretty much this generation’s rebellion music, and while Odd Future doesn’t occupy the same sonic space as a Ferg or 2 Chainz, they can throw down their own winking interpretation when the situation warrants it.

15)TylertheCreatorcrowd (640x425)As someone who, in Tyler’s words, “fucked with them since the beginning” (I saw them at SXSW when they initially blew up), I was happy to hear “Yonkers” again, delivered with the same discomforting vitriol. But overall, Tyler’s seemingly boundless energy has become more moderated. He took two- to three-minute breaks between songs to catch his breath and chastise the crowd, likely a necessity given how often he hurt himself on stage early in his career. The performances themselves were manic and hyper, and Tyler shout-rapped his verses with unrestrained venom. He rapped a few drowsy break-up songs too, and they were thankfully not the really creepy ones from early in his career. Even when Tyler’s energy waned, the young crowd continued to cheer and mosh. To the easily impressionable, the show was whatever they wanted it to be, and they were more than happy to injure themselves for the cause (Tyler noticed someone in the pit with a busted nose, and he also chucked a water bottle that happened to hit a girl’s head).

The show was only an hour, and done before 10 p.m. It ended abruptly, and the audience, which hung on his every curse word, seemed taken aback by the short set with no encore, as if they had been violently jolted from their fugue states. At least everyone left knowing they got to chant “Golf Wang” and something about pussies and necks, as well as see Tyler go wild on stage during “Tamale.”

Tyler the Creator still teases greatness, even a few years removed from Odd Future’s time as renegades. His ability to whip teens into a frenzy is unmatched, and his on-stage leaping, growling and rasping persona is larger than life. But he’s older, I’m older, and we’re ready for the next step beyond sophomoric humour and violence (although those things can be great). At least Montrealers finally got to witness first-hand what everyone used to talk about. ■
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