In his breakthrough hit “Yonkers,” Tyler The Creator declares “I’m a walking [expletive] paradox,” only to follow up with “no I’m not.”
That opening line perfectly personifies the rapper and what he brought to town with his “IGOR” tour Friday night at Chaifetz Arena. A hip-hop misfit with a dedicated fan base that has been along for the ride of oddities he has offered for the past decade, rapper Tyler The Creator was mesmerizing in his one-man show that was hip-hop anarchy and purity at the same time.
Tyler and the featured artists he brought with him showcased the best of what lies beyond the mainstream. The show was an illustration of the musical liberation that can happen when artists create beyond the R&B and hip-hop by numbers formula.
Rapper GoldLink, a member of XXL’s 2015 Freshman Class kicked off the show with a 30-minute set that was centered around his “Diaspora” album – including a double play of his biggest hit “Crew.”
British R&B singer Blood Orange not only delivered alternative music for the genre, he celebrated alternative lifestyles in a show that paired video imagery that featured Janet Mock, transwoman writer and director for the Emmy Award-nominated Fox series “Pose” and Indya Moore, one of the show’s co-stars who identifies as nonbinary.
In a blue Vegas lounge singer suit with freshly polished white shoes and a silly blonde cropped wig, Tyler The Creator proved his music and delivering a live show that his fans won’t soon forget are a serious matter. He gave them everything they could have wanted in a stage show and more in his 85 minutes that blended, hip-hop, R&B and soul with a punk edge and rock energy.
It was anyone’s guess what Tyler would serve up when he stepped on stage and immediately committed himself to a mannequin challenge of sorts as the music of “Igor’s Theme” played on. His fans screamed and cheered while singing along while Tyler stood motionless for the full duration of the song.
Then when the music for “I Think,” dropped, he unleashed all of the energy that was reserved during his opening number – and never relinquished again as he poured everything humanly possible from a performer as he delivered more than 20 tracks that ranged from his mixtape days to his most recent, the Grammy nominated “Igor” album.
Tyler The Creator has a freedom and artistic defiance that is downright refreshing in the age of the rap-along-to-tracks that many of his mainstream peers have adopted as standard operation procedure for hip-hop performances. The silliness of his attire contrasted with the seriousness, intention and attention to detail that obviously goes into the stage show is part of the paradoxical irony – and it worked brilliantly for the thousands who Tyler had captured the undivided attention of Friday night in St. Louis.
It was intimate as he sat at the piano and tinkered a little tune. There were also moments of rock star grandeur that included pyrotechnics and video imagery.
He wasn’t shy about getting in his feelings with “I [expletive] love you, but I hate you,” “GONE GONE/THANK YOU,” “Running Out of Time” and “Earfquake.”
He went trap with “Who Dat Boy” and “Tamale.”
He asked fans to “let me be in my personal space,” as he danced around and rapped like he was performing in alone in his bedroom during “What’s Good.”
He closed the show by crooning his heart out for “Are We Still Friends” – and delivered a full spectrum of his capacity as a performer and an artist.