Tyler, the Creator didn’t thank his sold-out crowd at New York City’s Terminal 5 on Monday night (Nov. 13) for the sake of formality -- he did it because they helped restore his faith in his own songwriting.
The 26-year-old rapper born Tyler Okonma revealed that he thought he only had “three good songs” prior to releasing his latest album, Flower Boy, in July. "I spent that whole summer re-teaching myself how to write songs,” he told his 3,000-strong audience. “So the fact that you guys like Flower Boy really means a lot.”
That should’ve been obvious already. Flower Boy garnered nearly unanimous critical acclaim upon its release and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, his best showing to date. More importantly, though, it consummated Tyler’s shift from shock-rap provocateur to melodic mastermind, capable of unpacking topics like crippling loneliness, unrequited love and fluid sexuality on both mellow jazz excursions and booming trap bangers.
Tyler crammed more than half his 70-minute set with Flower Boy tracks, determined to show the breadth of his talents. Crewmembers tore a curtain off a platform in the middle of the Terminal 5 stage, revealing the MC, dressed in a green GOLF snapback, white collared shirt and puffy floral pants. He muttered the lyrics to set opener “Where This Flower Blooms,” his gangly silhouette barely visible amidst clouds of smoke, and lunged across the stage as the chorus hit, the audience flailing and shouting in unison: “I rock, I roll, I bloom, I grow.”
"I don't have nothin’ to say so I'mma just play onstage for an hour. Take your photos now,” the rapper said after the first song, posing for the adolescent fans hugging the barricade. “Alright, now put your phone away and enjoy the show in real time. No one cares about your Snapchat stories anyway."
While that was probably true, it seemed just as likely their phones wouldn't survive the furious mosh pits that broke out during the punkish “DEATHCAMP” and the rumbling “Mr. Lonely.” Tyler played manic conductor to his audience all night, leaping off his platform and hurling his limbs in every direction without sacrificing his nimble flow. He sat cross-legged onstage for the heart-wrenching “Boredom,” demonstrating his mastery of cadence and uncanny ability to bend syllables to his whim. Flower Boy is far from a typical turn-up album, but the audience clung to every word of the rapper’s plaintive confessionals.
That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of opportunities to rage, though. The venue shook with hysterical applause as Harlem’s own A$AP Rocky took the stage for a scorched-earth rendition of “Who Dat Boy,” the latest in a string of recent collaborations between the two rappers.
"I don't wanna bum-rush this shit, but can we do one more?" Rocky asked to deafening cheers.
"You know we’re gonna do one more 'cause we planned this,” Tyler retorted. “You are so corny sometimes, dude. I fuckin’ love you man, but shit, dude. ‘Can we do one more even though I already know what’s the next song so the crowd can feed my ego when I ask a question?’”
Ego trip or not, Rocky’s question was met with a resounding “yes,” and both rappers raced through a blistering version of “Telephone Calls” off A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends. “Thanks dude, I’ll see you in like 24 minutes,” Tyler deadpanned as the self-proclaimed “Pretty Flacko” sauntered offstage.
Tyler devoted the final quarter of his set exclusively to Flower Boy material, an extended comedown after such a high-octane cameo. Rather than end on the gloriously boneheaded “Tamale” as on previous tours, he left the audience with the contemplative, yearning “See You Again,” which he previously revealed might be his
he's ever written.
see you again is my favorite song i made i think— Tyler, The Creator (@tylerthecreator) July 22, 2017
"Thank you New York, until next time,” Tyler said as the beat faded and he left the stage. “I love you guys."
The audience groaned as the houselights flicked on and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” blared over the loudspeakers. But unlike the lovelorn protagonist of Tyler’s closing song, they can rest assured they’ll see him again.
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