Affectionately labeling his beloved fans “fuckers” and “assholes,” 23-year-old rapper Tyler, The Creator packed the Ritz Ybor on March 18. Riddled with teens donning x’s on their hands and brightlycolored snapbacks, this may have been one of the few places where people paid to be insulted. Born Tyler Gregory Okonma, the darling of the hip-hop supergroup Odd Future is completely aware of the cult-like following he has inspired. Because of the dedication of his fans, he no longer has to eat bugs to make money.
Due to an illness, the duration of the show was roughly an hour and Okonma was not able to finish all the verses for most of his songs, but this was the least of the crowd’s worries. In fact, many were just relieved that the show actually happened. Just a few days prior, the rapper was arrested at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin for inciting a riot. When he brought up his earlier arrest, the audience cheered and applauded but he quickly quieted them stating, “Shut the fuck up, going to jail is not cool!” As bras, hats and even a cell phone were flung onstage, it was clear that one of the best things about Okonma is his ability to make being a loser look cool.
At first, I found it alarming how many kids were wearing Odd Future shirts. How could they not know about the taboo of wearing a band t-shirt to the show of the band you are going to see? But after I assessed the whole crowd, I realized that maybe this was just a facet of the new concert scene that had been emerging since EDM started becoming popular among teens who are still not old enough to drive themselves to the mall. It may be due to his young age, but the largest portion of Okonma’s fans are a part of this demographic. And this is not a bad thing. These fans are the most dedicated, hyperactive and united bunch. And that is what music needs again. Okonma’s fans are easily excitable, overly apologetic and loveably annoying. The Ritz Ybor was packed full, and it is generally expected at concerts to be pushed and shoved by the crowd, but at this show everyone was a little too polite, apologizing for even the tiniest elbow bump.
Though Tyler, The Creator can be described as a controversial rapper due to the explicit nature of his lyrics, he and Odd Future bring something fresh to hip-hop that appeals to mainstream followers as well as the seasoned “I liked them before they were cool” listeners. The show exemplified a movement in rap culture that promotes unity, staying in school and being straight edge rather than the usual sex-drugs-and alcohol spiel.