Tyler, the Creator raps new and old at TLA

Tyler, The Creator has a new release "Woolly" that is due out on April 2.
Tyler, The Creator has a new release "Woolly" that is due out on April 2. (BRICK STOWELL)
Posted: March 27, 2013

Tyler, the Creator has been one of hip-hop's best, brightest, and most provocative. As the wild centerpiece of the wilder Odd Future collective, he was - in Wu Tang Clan terms - both its RZA (the overall sound designer) and its GZA (its most unique rapper).

Tyler's incendiary solo albums Bastard and Goblin got gobbled up by the masses and criticized for their wrongheaded misogyny, homophobia, and rape and vampire fantasies. Sure, he said he was kidding, but his name - for better and worse - was on the tip of every tongue for his vividly vicious lyrics, barking raps, and ominous musicality.

That is, until Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean came along, dropped his Nostalgia Ultra mixtape, hooked up with Jay-Z and Kanye's Watch the Throne, released his R&B-soaked Channel Orange, brought up his bisexuality, and won a Grammy. There went Tyler's thunder.

But you can't keep a good Creator down. Tyler's back with the weird, woolly Wolf (due April 2), a set of lyrics not that sinister, derisive, or divisive (though "Domo 23" is pretty harsh), and a sold-out show at Theatre of the Living Arts on Palm Sunday.

With fellow Odd Futurists DJ Taco, MC Jasper Dolphin, and the loopy, sarcastic Earl Sweatshirt (all dressed in Phillies shirts), Tyler presented all phases of his career.

Wolf's new music was loping and jazzier than his usual agro-hop, with "Bimmer" an early favorite for its goofy, woman-and-automobile comparisons ("A lot of trunk space, the perfect two seater") before things get nasty ("you wax and buff my muffler").

Things got harder, lewder, and louder as Tyler gruffly took on Odd Future tunes such as the frenetic (and denigrating to all) "French." When "French" finished, Tyler, wearing a Chase Utley-numbered jersey, yelled out, "I haven't seen you a----s since Made in America." He used that friendly term of endearment throughout the gig to a youngish crowd who spent as much time passing out as they did moshing.

Beyond the chilly "Bimmer," the night's best moments came from Tyler's solo catalog (the slow, catty "Blow" and the fluid "VCR/Wheels" from Bastard, the dastardly "Transylvania," and the breezily buoyant "Sandwitches" from Goblin) and his interplay with Sweatshirt. Caustic and comic, the rap duo could be the next Ralph Cramden and Norton.

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