Tyler, the Creator Feeds Off Adolescent Angst at Warehouse Live

Tyler, the Creator
Warehouse Live
July 16, 2015

What does it mean to be a Tyler, the Creator fan in 2015? The apex of the Odd Future wave was 2011, when “Yonkers” exploded into a black-and-white punk declaration and everyone wanted a piece of them. If you were starting high school that year, you’re about to start your first year of college. If you were in middle school when Odd Future broke through, then you’re in the tenth grade now. And if you’re me, you’re 27 years old watching a leader morph into an adult who can fetishize about the fact he has Pharrell’s number on speed dial, create N.E.R.D-inspired tracks and got one of the best Lil Wayne verses of the year on his album.

If Tyler, the Creator chooses to grow up, his fans will remain dedicated to near-death experiences. Warehouse Live’s ballroom doors didn’t open up 8 p.m. Thursday, but some fans decided to sit and damn near melt in the Texas heat for five hours to get a perfect spot to see the show. Whatever headspace Tyler occupies now, it doesn’t contain the same angst or drive to prick at tastefulness. For all of the waves he made (throwing his arm around Frank Ocean when he came out in 2012, transitioning into a well-received Cartoon Network show), he’s starting to shed his skin from being a misogynistic, shock-punk rapper and dive further into being...well, a sometimes misogynistic shock musician.

After Taco Bennett played de facto hype man and DJ, luring the crowd into a worked up frenzy via Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright," Drake’s “Know Yourself” and Chief Keef’s “3hunna," Tyler appeared. Kids, some who looked no more than 15 but could easily angle their way into the twenties range, roared in approval. He and Jasper Dolphin, the “co-host” of the Cherry Bomb World Tour, launched into “Bitch Suck Dick” and the super N.E.R.D tribute “Deathcamp” and for an hour decided to let the crowd have it in more ways than one.

“Somebody got some big ass titties!” Jasper cackled as a fan threw her bra on stage. Tyler marveled at a poster someone tossed onto the stage, asking which fan decided to gift him with such a thing. Three years ago, Tyler headlined a show at House of Blues along with the rest of Odd Future. Water fights, Pimp C dedications, and anarchy were his forte, plus receiving random gifts such as lighters and money. Three years later, all he could complain about during “ballads” such as “Fucking Young/Perfect” and “IFHY” was how hot it was inside Warehouse.

He saw the kids, those walking in his tour merchandise that specifically showed up for a rave.They looked just like him, leggy and fit; if they had any fashion ancestors it would be a Pokemon gym trainer. He faux-thanked them for appreciating his singing voice (“better than Mariah!”) and did the typical split the crowd to see whose more intense hip-hop trope. Instead of opting to become the full-fledged voice of an Internet generation who run through memes for conversation emojis and should be far more aware of the world at large, he’s opted to be a flat-out musician. And the crowd went along with him.

Imagine a crowd dressed exclusively for summer camp. Imagine a shit ton of tye-dye, super-short-shorts and 5-panel hats. The awkward feel hearing Smokey Robinson's “Cruisin’” with a loud, very audible hum from the crowd, antsy to jump around and party and shoot middle fingers in a form of civil disobedience. They flock to the back when it gets too hot, or when the mosh gets too crazy. Sweat zombies. A girl will complain about there being “so much sweat” while another guy, walking with his girlfriend in a bikini top, will announce with glee, “Welcome to your first Tyler, the Creator show!”

As much anger and rowdiness exists in his discography, the set list for the opening night of the Cherry Bomb World Tour ranged from swaying chill to roaring bounce. I’ve seen Tyler perform “Yonkers” three times and this was the calmest he’d ever done it, walking to each major statement as opposed to yelling and fighting through it. There are songs like “48,” where he conceptualizes himself as a drug dealer trying to weave through the bulk of the country, and creepy-perfect love songs like “She” where he can admire a girl’s beauty before calling her the worst thing you can ever call a woman. If “Jamba,” “Domo 23” and “Tron Cat” get teens hyped, moments like “Bimmer” and “IFHY” make them think about awkward adolescent romance.

That’s a Tyler, the Creator show in 2015. I just hope he doesn’t fall out of love with the songs the same way Andre 3000 did.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell