What does it take for rap music to shock in 2011? The answer was at Friday night's Odd Future show in the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, and it's not a pretty list.
The adolescent collective's lyrics boasted all their vilest tropes - sacrilegious screeds, anarchist rape fantasies, and faux-Nazi propaganda, to name but a few - and, like in every other East Coast urban center they visited this past week, there was a very sold out crowd there to shout along to every word.
Indeed, the group known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All has managed to bring moral outcry about hip-hop back into fashion. Led by the good rapper, great producer, and superb showman Tyler Okonma (alias Tyler, the Creator) - recently turned 20, and nearly the eldest of the seven onstage - they have been denounced by publications like Slate, fellow musicians Tegan and Sarah, and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Yet for every attack, there's been an accolade: Kanye West has called them brilliant; Billboard has called them the future of the record industry, and Beyoncé has called at least one of them to collaborate. Even in Internet years, it's an incredible résumé for a group that was underground just three months ago.
Okonma was in tatters by this final date of the tour, leaning heavily on his charisma and comrades - most notably Hodgy Beats, who ably backed him up on incendiary takes of favorites like "French!" and "Sandwitches." But Okonma screamed his rhymes and surfed the pulsing crowd with all that he had left. By the end of the first song, the asthmatic rapper was gasping for breath; by the end of the set, his voice was raspier than Miles Davis'.