Odd Future is a lot like a much (much) younger Wu-Tang Clan in many ways. Aside from the obvious (both being large rap groups, etc.), they’re both extremely influential on their contemporaries, they both have a hugely devoted following, and few people ever really know the status of the groups or if any internal beefs have truly been squashed.
On Monday night, Earl Sweatshirt put on a solid performance for his yearly Christmas show at the Observatory in Santa Ana. The concert was just the right mixture of intense lyrics and delivery with a relaxed air about the whole thing, much like his studio albums.
The young crowd began chanting “Sweatshirt! Sweatshirt! Sweatshirt!” as soon as the clock struck 10 and a cloud of fog and smoke so thick it enveloped different parts of the stage entirely appeared. The 21-year-old rapper responded with “Pre,” the opening track from his debut album, 2013’s Doris, to get his performance started.
One of the biggest hits of the night, “Burgundy,” came second, and the L.A. native was off and running after that. Fellow OFGWKTA associate Domo Genesis grabbed a microphone to complete the first three songs from Doris with “20 Wave Caps” as Sweatshirt settled into a rhythm for the set. From a performance standpoint, Sweatshirt’s decision to have some backup vocalists provide a backing track was a refreshing change of pace from listening to most rappers just rhyme over a recording of themselves.
Genesis stuck around for his live mini-song “Hot Soup in My Motherfucking Bowl” before Sweatshirt asked the crowd for requests. The mustached rapper explained that he didn’t have a setlist for “this shit” because it was the Christmas show. After having hundreds of excited fans scream song titles at him, Sweatshirt realized he’d be better off determining the setlist alone with his DJ.
“Guild” was what the two decided to play next, followed by a visit to the new album (March’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt) for “Grief,” “Off Top,” and “Grown Ups.” All three were met with cheers from the crowd, but there was still clearly a longing for material from Sweatshirt’s past.
“All you asking for old songs, I’m going to be honest with you,” Sweatshirt said. “I don’t got those instrumentals with me, so it’s not happening.”
Sweatshirt backed up that promise by performing “AM // Radio,” “Faucet,” and “DNA” off of this year’s record before stating “It’s Christmas time, so let me do all this new music.” The rapper then went on to work his way through several (so far) unreleased tracks including ones known by the (all-reliable) Internet as “(I Be) Outside,” “Vulture,” “Swamp Vermin,” and “Hell.”
The new tracks were briefly broken up by some audio problems, but would eventually continue after Sweatshirt asked everyone to “make some noise for technical difficulties.” Of the last few songs of Sweatshirt’s set, “Quest/Power” got a bigger reaction from the semi-disinterested crowd, (they’d been lost by the fourth or fifth new song they’d never heard before).
The talented youngster didn’t even leave the stage for his encore, at which point he joined the DJ to spin a few songs as a DJ set of sorts.
Ultimately, few could complain about Sweatshirt’s set, and he’s clearly one of the stronger talents for the next generation of rappers. Unfortunately, seeing Sweatshirt or any other Odd Future-associated artist (with the possible exception of Frank Ocean), leads to the same problem that causes Ghostface Killah to perform a few Wu-Tang hits at every one of his shows. The majority of the crowd would’ve rather heard his older material, whether it was technically an Odd Future song or from his first mixtape, Earl.
When it comes to large hip-hop crews, the whole is often far greater than the sum of its parts.