As the trendsetters and troublemakers loitering outside Hammerstein Ballroom eagerly awaited the anarchy, one could sense that a special night was in the making. The hooligans in line, decked out in Supreme five-panels and vibrant all-over print oxfords, saluted with middle fingers high, anxious to explode with the music. Tyler, the Creator and his Odd Future crew were in town, and every fan hoped that Tuesday, March 20th, long-absent Wolf Gang emcee Earl Sweatshirt would be making his overdue debut with his crew.
Earlier in the day, Earl and Tyler appeared for an interview on Hot 97 with Peter Rosenberg, arousing suspicions that he would perform at the Hammerstein. Odd Future released their first official physical album OF Tape Vol. 2 the same day, so the reasons for excitement were stacking up.
As lone female member Syd (The Internet) introduced the group from behind the ones and twos, Tyler, Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, Mike G and Domo Genesis charged stomping onto stage like their swag was on fire. Eager eyes and ears searched for signs of Earl to no avail, but Tyler, Hodgy and Domo quickly quenched the crowd’s thirst for energetic lyricism and controlled chaos. Mike G serenaded the crowd with silky smooth rhymes that perfectly juxtaposed Tyler, the Creator’s aggressive energy.
After a year of consistent touring, LA’s Wolf Gang had clearly perfected the art of harmonious rebellion, supporting each other on every song and keeping the energy at a solid peak. But an hour into the show, even with members of the group diving headfirst into the crowd at every opportunity, everyone in the audience was still asking, “where’s Earl?” The crew on stage felt the anticipation as Hodgy Beats rapped, “Where we goin’? To free Earl from the fuckin’ Samoans” from the song “Tang Golf.” After a pregnant pause, Earl Sweatshirt emerged, swaggering out to center stage amidst a roar of excitement. Earl casually slipped into his hit “Orange Juice” and everyone in the building erupted. After his song Earl was bombarded with hugs from the group, who were all just as excited as the audience. Then Tyler and crew backed Earl up on some material from the group’s mixtape Radical and his solo release Earl, and it felt like the youngster never left.
With the whole Wolf Gang back together, the happiness onstage was clear and contagious, and as the entire group rapped along with Tyler on “Yonkers” their smiles were visible from Balcony 2. As if Earl’s surprise appearance wasn’t enough of a crowd-pleaser, fan-favorite Frank Ocean joined his friends onstage to assist Tyler on “She” before sitting at the piano to play his own new song “White.” As Frankie articulated his unique brand of soul, Earl took a seat on stage with his friends to appreciate the moment.
As the show neared its end, Tyler told the crowd that they were about to witness the only live performance of Odd Future’s new song “Oldie” ever. The whole gang jumped in for the song, complete with verses from Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt, and the song summed up a special evening in frenetic fashion. Odd Future earned their respect fan by fan, never shying away from their creative spirit and individuality. They worked hard and stayed true, and the rag-tag crew of misfit hoodlums known formally as OFWGKTA are enjoying their time in the spotlight. And after Tuesday night’s show at Hammerstein Ballroom, the Wolf Gang is finally complete.