Odd Future Bring Mayhem, Commercialism, Lil Wayne to Downtown L.A. 'Carnival': Concert Review

Cristina Dunlap
Odd Future
It was a full-fledged circus atmosphere -- literally -- as the rising hip-hop collective returned to its hometown for a sweaty, fast-paced show.

Sunday night must have been a somewhat surreal homecoming for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.

The young rap crew returned to Los Angeles after a monthlong U.S. tour with its own carnival, shutting down a full city block downtown and selling out a headlining show at the 2,300-person Club Nokia. Making the gig even more of an event: a guest appearance by Lil Wayne, representing the Odd Future collective like he were a full-fledged member. For a group hardly anyone had heard of just two years ago, to pull off an event of this magnitude shows more than an astonishing ascent as a hip-hop act but as a discernible brand and commercial entity.

“It’s actually crazy we pulled that motherf---er off,” said the group’s ringleader Tyler the Creator, after his partners Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis had just torn through the explosive opener “Bitches” until faltering and cutting the track when Hodgy forgot the words.

“He forgot his lyrics!” said Tyler, wearing a polka dot Odd Future T-shirt, shorts and a baseball hat.

“I’m too sober for this shit,” Hodgy retorted.

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But it was the kind of night where simple missteps were easily washed over by the friends’ casual jest and a readiness to move on to the next track. Odd Future's energy stayed high for the most part, with a constant flow of the crew’s members and posse onstage keeping the audience pumped up. Violently, they rolled through 25 tracks in less than an hour, stage diving and moshing, cracking jokes onstage, billowing out pot smoke and doing basically whatever they could to turn the otherwise stuffy, plastic venue on its head.

More in line with the Odd Future aesthetic was the earlier Odd Future Carnival, which was executed with remarkable precision across the street from Staples Center and the L.A. Live complex. Everything there seemed to be branded perfectly, from the big Simpsons donuts-inspired “OF” logo plastered to a building wall to the massive number of games for which every prize was a piece of Odd Future merchandise -- socks, skateboards, hats, plush pillows, sweatshirts, ironing boards, you name it. Even the little paper game tickets, which cost $1 apiece, had OF logos on them.

At the dunk tank, the Odd Future members sacrificed themselves, riffing as fans tried to knock them into a pool. And at the outdoor stage, Queens rapper Action Bronson delivered a strong set that included his collaboration with Riff Raff, “Bird on a Wire,” for which the wild-style Houston MC showed up to the party very literally right on time to deliver his verse about two minutes into the song. During that same set, Bronson, who had been performing from the crowd rather than onstage, marched his audience across the makeshift fairgrounds to the Action Bronson’s burger food truck just for the hell of it.

The laissez-faire vibe of the day carried easily into Odd Future’s performance that night. It pretty clear who was in charge of the show -- that the audience had come to see Odd Future and its antics and not the other way around. Throughout the set, Tyler spoke candidly to friends side-stage or in the pit, asking “What are you doing?” or “Why are you doing that?” and “Hey Steve, why are you laughing? Did I do something funny?” There were mocking shout-outs to Nick Cannon, and a guy with a chicken’s head on ran around, doing summersaults and flips into the crowd. Tyler the Creator, Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis, Earl Sweatshirt, Mike G and Left Brain all performed tracks off their own releases and collaborations. Meanwhile, Jasper Dolphin acted as a hype man, working the crowd and singing backups while Taco deejayed, two of them rapping on the outlandish “We Got Bitches.” 

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Throughout the night, especially during hardcore band Trash Talk’s set that followed Odd Future’s, security was noticeably on edge, as if they were working around a tinderbox, with nearly a dozen standing between the stage and the audience and probably a hundred more lining the venue.

Tyler addressed the situation after his track “Tron Cat,” saying: “To security, you guys are doing a chill job. But if they’re not actually killing anyone, just let them back into the crowd.”
But by the time Lil Wayne strutted onstage, there was no containing the mayhem. The theater erupted with energy as Weezy walked out, cloaked in a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses, everyone parting before him, struck a power stance and aggressively started into the summer jam “Pop That” he recorded with French Montana, Drake and Rick Ross. Stripping off his top to join the bare-chested Hodgy Beats, Taco, Mike G and others, Wayne next conducted the theater in singing along to the new “No Worries” and then stuck around, posting up in the front of the stage as Tyler welcomed Trash Talk to perform their apocalyptic collaboration “Radicals,” sharing the chorus, “Kill people, burn shit, f--- school.”

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As successfully put together and pulled off as the event had been, the night’s shame was that Club Nokia seemingly couldn’t accommodate all the microphones onstage, plaguing the performers with inconsistent sound levels. Most notably, Lil Wayne was left without a working mic for a portion of his appearance, and Earl Sweatshirt -- one of Odd Future’s most talented members -- suffered quietly all night. But for everything that could have gone wrong with such an undertaking, the crew persevered just fine and triumphed outright.

“Hey, thank you guys for coming. Hope everybody had a good time!” said Jasper Dolphin after Trash Talk’s righteous set of thrashing mayhem, for which about half the audience had left and the other half transformed itself into violent animals. And then, for the fun of it, he added a big, “F--- you!”

In just an hour and a half, the show was over; despite chants for “One more song,” no encore came. And so, sweaty and exhausted, the crowd slowly filed out -- much of it young teenagers -- exchanging war stories of crowd surfing, aerial flips and mosh pit head trauma.

Set List:

Rolling Papers
Forest Green
Swiss Army
Elimination Chamber
Sam (Is Dead)
La Bonita
Orange Juice
Tron Cat
We Got Bitches
Everything That’s Yours
[New Tyler the Creator song; no title]
Turnt Down
Pop That (with Lil Wayne)
No Worries (with Lil Wayne)
Radicals (with Trash Talk)

Twitter: @THRMusic

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