Last night, Odd Future headlined Hot 97 DJ Peter Rosenberg's "Night of 'Real' Hip-Hop" at Times Square's Best Buy theater, a converted Broadway space with a surprisingly lax security staff that's big and comfy like a suburban movie theater. The bill was crowded with a strange crew of Rosenberg favorites; hometown traditionalist Nitty Scott, snarly weed obsessive Smoke DZA and redhead jam-rapper Asher Roth, whose clean and canned set includes a theater exercise where he invites fans onstage to ride with him in an imaginary car and smoke an imaginary blunt. Paternalistic legend Raekwon opened last, telling the crowd in the sweet and methodical voice of a teacher, "Remember, they didn't care about hip-hop 30 years ago." An emcee wearing a tux and top hat shuffled acts on and off the stage promptly; his microphone sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. Action Bronson helped him host, charmingly wandering out to center stage once in a while in a puff of smoke. In the wings, he rapped every word of Rae's set, while the casually reverent '90s babies on the floor held their hands up in Ws.
Though the entire Odd Future crew attended Frank Ocean's sold-out show at Terminal 5, watching together from a balcony where they giggled and danced to Rihanna, they arrived to perform fresh and on time. Tyler and Earl were joined onstage by Taco (playing DJ in his older sister Syd's absence), Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, Domo Genesis, Jasper Dolphin and shirtless hype man Nakel Smith. Rushed over after his star turn, Ocean was there too, beaming proudly with a mic in his hand, occasionally grinning a verse-ending rap into it. He looked his big-brother part, calmly pacing the stage and swilling water, the tasteful french shirt he wore for his television debut tied around his waist. Lucas Vercetti, the gawky bleach-blonde skater who appears on the cover of Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 watched from stage right, flanked by his girlfriend Tallulah Willis.
As seen at his first live appearance with Odd Future since returning home, at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom back in March, Earl blends easily into the crew's stage show, an incessant swirl of limbs where everyone jumps, everyone yells and the backing track is played very loud. He let the crowd rap his verses, pumped his wiggly arms and cracked jokes at Rosenberg, who was sitting like a cool-dad behind a speaker. Still, Earl's gestures are smaller than the rest of the crew's; Tyler's knees kick up higher, Hodgy's a louder dresser (he looked pretty stunning in head-to-toe red) and Domo cheeses harder, running from stage corner to stage corner and slamming an air guitar. Earl's not lost in the mix, but it would be nice to hear sounds coming out of his mouth—or any of their mouths—a little better. Or maybe it doesn't matter? From the thick of the crowd, where girls in size 5 Vans held hands and dudes removed their cat-emblazoned OF shirts, it's pretty impossible to glean any details of the action on stage. At the front, there wasn't loose room until the set's tail end. Instead, fans hugged tight against one another, teetering like one enormous, slothy person. On the train ride home, a group of high school guys just wanted to talk about how awesome it was to lose and then find their shoes in the hive.
And OF seem happy to please. "'I can't wait to go on tour, get this money my mannnn," Left Brain yelled sincerely as they wrapped things up, the whole crew heading over to the night's third and last show in Brooklyn to support Trash Talk at 285 Kent. When "Radical," the satisfying burn shit fuck school anthem that often closes OF shows dropped out, Earl and Tyler said "Thank you New York" in perfect, accidental unison, each voice filling in the other's cracks. Keen to present a united whole, and nothing less, they hadn't played "Oldie," the fan favorite posse cut that closes OF Tape Vol. 2. "We're not doing oldie, Mike G is not here," someone said.
While in town, Odd Future filmed a freestyle over 50 Cent's "I'll Whip Ya Head Boy" at Terry Richardson's studio. Watch below: