Written by Alex Brazeau
One of the most anticipated acts among this year’s Bluesfest hip hop heads had to be the leader of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (but to make things a little easier, let’s just shorten it—like most do—to Odd Future or OF), Tyler the Creator. The 23-year-old, LA-based rapper and head of the Odd Future movement isn’t exactly the type of artist Bluesfest has been known for booking in past years. His presence here in Ottawa is more or less the result of a new advisory panel created to help draw a younger crowd to the stages at Lebreton Flats… and it seems to have worked. This was by far the youngest group of concertgoers seen all festival long with more high-waisted cut-offs and crop tops, along with more five-panels and bucket hats ever seen in one place (except maybe your local high school). But what this crowd might have lacked in festival or even concert experience, they certainly made up for with sheer excitement and love for this indie hip hop superstar who has clearly hit the mainstream.
Like most rap shows, things got underway with a quick set from the DJ, this time around with Odd Future resident Taco Bennett, but it was right about the time Tyler hit the stage, alongside hypeman and OF-member Jasper Dolphin, that this ceased to be your regular Buesfest show as he greeted the thousand-or-so packed in front of the Claridge Homes stage with a quick, “What’s up, assholes?” before jumping into his verse from the Hodgy Beats-assisted (and Jamba Juice-inspired) opener, ‘Jamba’.
A few songs into the set, a plastic alligator was thrown onstage and Tyler began to crack jokes with it. This seemed to encourage the audience to try and one-up the gator and throw other things they had in the rapper’s direction. Of course, there were the usual items like bras and such, but that’s when things got weird and someone threw a pack of raw bacon on stage. Clearly, this was not your average rap show.
And far above average was the performance that was delivered by the OF crew. Offering up a blend of all three of Tyler’s studio albums, including ‘Bastard’ from his debut of the same name back in 2009; ‘Bitch Suck Dick’ (alongside both Jasper and Taco Bennett) and ‘Yonkers’ from 2011’s Goblin; and‘Domo 23’ and ‘IFHY’ from his most recent release, Wolf, they delivered an energy-filled and truly hype performance. In fact, things got so heated that security had to bring out a hose… which somehow ended up in Tyler’s hands leading to everyone directly in front of the stage (and even those on it) being sprayed in between songs and as he rapped.
As the set drew to close, Tyler told everyone to lose their minds when the next record came on. Just as he said this, Taco dropped what is arguably one of the OF-leader’s biggest tracks, the frenetic and fast-paced ‘Tamale’… and—just as he’d asked—the crowd lost it. Hundreds of teens jumping up and down with their hands in the air, looking like a mosh pit at a metal show, as they rapped along. In true Tyler fashion, he didn’t have an encore song picked out, so instead of disappointing his chanting fans who were still cheering for more, he came back and hit ‘Tamale’ one more time. In all, a great show with tons of energy and excitement from both the performers and the crowd. Tyler the Creator and his Odd Future crewmembers were a dope show and a great way to warm up before checking out the legends—Cypress Hill.