Earl Sweatshirt has come a long way. He used to be a nervous kid with a knack for language. Then, he was a famous, nervous kid with a knack for language. Now, he's still got one of the illest skill sets in the game, but a critically-acclaimed album and a world tour seem to have done the 20-year-old some good.
Sweatshirt ended his most recent headlining tour this weekend in Fort Lauderdale, and he just fucked up the party. He wasn't backed by the rest of his OFWGKTA crew, yet he commanded the stage with ease and confidence.
Much like the Tyler, the Creator show at Revolution about a month ago, the atmosphere was more punk rock than the usual hip-hop affair, and Sweatshirt had the crowd moshing, crowd surfing, and tossing bras on stage, demanding that kids let loose and "fuck up."
OF fans are young and dedicated. Sweatshirt didn't pull a crowd as large as his leader, but anyone who was there was decked out in OF gear and ready to party. One girl wheeled around on a bicycle with a broken leg. That's fucking dedication.
There was no opener. With a strict curfew of 10 p.m., the Saturday night gig cut straight to the point, but not without time to build hype. By 8:45, kids were screaming and cheering for every stagehand that hit their line of sight, and when the white boy in a Stray Rats hoodie hit the decks to DJ the rapper in, everything was mayhem.
"What's up?" the DJ asked.
"I don't think they heard you, bro," Sweatshirt could be heard from the back.
"I said what's good, Miami?" And then he dropped right into local rapper Denzel Curry's "Threatz." He worked the crowd up with some Waka Flocka, some Soulja Boy, some Rick Ross, and when they were good and sweaty, Odd Future's Taco came wildin' out, playing hype man to a skinny Earl, rockin' a Stray Rats hoodie himself and ripping right into "Kill."
"Just watch, Ima kill em all," the crowd roared along, and it was an honest threat. The hoodie came off right after, and Earl started laying the deal out flat.
"This is the last fucking show of this tour," he said. "This is it. You've got to give it your 110 percent. I don't want you to feel safe tonight. I want you to fuck something up."
This is the kind of attitude that authorities hate but kids love. This is the energy that makes OF fans so loyal. When we saw Earl last March, before Doris was released, his stage presence was more subdued. He was self-deprecating, often teasing the audience about how much they didn't care. He still teases the audience, but in a playfully angry way. Part of the deal is, OF is going to make fun of you, and that's why it's fun.
"I just realized," Taco said after a couple more tracks, "have you ever been here before?"
"Nah nigga," someone yelled from the crowd, and the stage erupted in laughter. Sweatshirt missed previous OF appearances in south Florida due to a mysterious "exile" in Samoa, so he was making sure to bring his all.
"This is a fun-ass part of the show," he said. "When I count to three, you all yell 'Ima fuck the freckles off your face bitch.'"
He rapped through "Molasses," his track with Wu-Tang's RZA, before ripping into South Floridians for being the home of cannibalistic zombies.
"Cali is relaxed," he said. "Y'all niggas crazy. I need y'all to calm down for this song, then, right after this song, you can eat someone's face."
He turned down for "Sunday," then turned them back up for "Centurion" and a brand-new song.
"Shut the fuck up and listen," he said. "When I say 'sweat,' you repeat it. When I say 'shirt,' you repeat it. We all went to school. This shit is easy."
The new song is dark and heavy with spitfire lyrics boasting his eminence. It was a different tune from the one he premiered in NYC, so it appears the work on his next release is coming along nicely. He followed with a string of favorites from Doris, all the while goofing off in between, dancing with Taco and his buddies, insulting the audience, and directing them to do various absurdities.
Watching these dudes on stage, it looked like being a member of OF is the most fun anyone could have ever. At one point, they stopped rapping entirely and just started dancing to Rae Sremmurd's "We," a song they ended up playing four or five times.
"Y'all wish you knew that song," Sweatshirt teased, and he was right. The crowd was on a mission by the time the show was over.
But before that, there were way more tracks to kill, and he gave a perfect mix of old and new material, plus beloved tracks like "Orange Juice" from the OF Tapes. Some lucky bro named Rob was allowed to come on stage and "get his lines off." He impressed the crew enough to hang out on stage for a song, but then he had to go. Some dude named Hector tried to climb on stage, but Earl gave him his hand to the face. Some girl threw her bra on stage, and another threatened to suck Taco's dick. It was pure juvenile insanity, and it was magnificent.
To finish on a high note, Earl got the crowd organized and ordered a giant pit to form on the floor. He gave careful instructions for the pit to watch his hand, and they weren't to start attacking each other until he brought it down. They only had to do it twice before they could get it right, and when the second verse of "Drop" hit, his fist fell, signaling for all hell to break loose.
No one wanted it to end, and the crowd stayed to watch as Sweatshirt and his buddies kept mobbing on stage to other people's tracks. They danced around like idiots, clearly stoked on the end of a successful tour, but by 10:15, there was nothing left but for security to turn the lights up and kick everyone out. Everyone was still singing "you grab the Ciroc, you grab the Henny." Like "We" said, Earl Sweatshirt fucked up the party.
20 Wave Caps
Rae Sremmurd "We"
Rob the Rapper
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.
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