Photos by Melissa Welliver

Tyler, the Creator w/ Earl Sweatshirt

Ace of Spades, Sacramento • Friday, May 17, 2013

I know I’m supposed to be writing about the Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt show at Ace of Spades, but I really just want to talk about race and gender relations in America, so fuck it. Rap shows are all the same, anyway. They’re pretty much just talking, but with rhymes. But race relations in America are in our direct line of vision. Black people are everywhere. And, while we’re at it, so are Mexicans and homosexuals. The color-blindness of yesteryear is a myth. And guess what, Billy Bob? We can’t unsee people of color! And as much as we plug our ears, gay people are even louder. So let’s just talk like humans for a second. After all, the next step in homo-sapiens-ism togetherness is being as open as we can about race and sex—until all of us are squirming in our chairs and vomiting all over the linoleum floor.

Anyway, most youth—and I mean real youth, like the hormonally-challenged 16-year-old virgins with acne grease dripping from their chins—are a million steps ahead of old folks when it comes to social justice. And if there’s anything young people love more than masturbating in the shower, it’s talking openly about race, so much so that it’s actually kind of creepy. For example, today in line at the liquor store, a girl who couldn’t have been more than 15, described me as “super white for a Mexican,” and then she started laughing maniacally. It was awesome.


Even more amazing is that this new form of say-anything racial discourse is intertwined with popular culture. However, kids don’t sit down over coffee and trade quotes from Judith Butler and Gloria Anzaldua essays; they listen to Earl Sweatshirt say things like, “Hey, you’re a faggot!”

Harsh, I know. But, c’mon: youth!

Do you remember that Tyler, the Creator-produced Mountain Dew commercial that never aired? Something about a battered woman, a bunch of black dudes in a police lineup and a goat? Newscasters reported, “THE MOST RACIST COMMERCIAL EVER” and scolded young Tyler for his display of unschooled ignorance. But what they don’t understand is that the discourse has changed.

Popular culture has changed. Rap has changed. We’re in a new phase of race relations that might look a lot like racism to old people, because the new discourse doesn’t rely on manners. Young people don’t pussyfoot around issues. The new discourse relies on uncomfortable bluntness and awkward humor.


Which brings us (finally) to the sold-out Tyler, the Creator/Earl Sweatshirt show at Ace of Spades. First, the place was packed with kids. And you couldn’t tell who was gay and who was straight because everybody dressed like freakish clowns—clashing colors, big, tie-dyed shirts, huge lensless glasses. Under all that weirdass clothing, even ethnicity was blurred. In fact, the only identifying mark of this Odd Future show was a shitload of cat-related T-shirts.

So when Tyler rhymed, “I’m not a rapper nor a rapist nor a racist/I fuck bitches with no permission and tend to hate shit,” it meant, “Fuck you if you don’t understand me.” Get it? Of course not. Much like racism, the new discourse makes no sense at all.


It’s hard. It’s weird. It’s contradictory. For instance, when Taco jumped into the crowd to attack a fan, nobody flinched. It wasn’t an attack. Taco’s fists meeting that kid’s face was the aggressive signification of a new America. That’s not to say the performance was entirely cryptic in message. Part of the show was about the music. Songs like the upbeat “Orange Juice” showed Earl Sweatshirt’s superior lyricism, while favorites like Tyler’s strangely paced “Yonkers” reminded the world why Tyler, the Creator isn’t just a hype machine, that he’s a kid with a worldview unlike anybody else’s. If the dude isn’t a genius, he’s pretty damn close.

And, of course, the show was not without its tender moments. In between the “Swag, swag, punch a bitch” chant and the gladiatorial portion of the evening where the crowd was to divide into two sides and then instructed to bash each other to death, Tyler took a moment to address the audience. “Enjoy this as humans,” he said. “Put your fucking phones away and enjoy this as humans.”


It was an epiphany of sorts. It seems that sometimes we’re so concerned with being compassionate humans that we’ve become afraid of each other—frightened of offending another race or sex. We’re so bent on being sensitive and politically correct that we forget to enjoy each other as the gross, disgusting humans that we are.

Well, fear not. We have sailed through this choppy storm of social injustice into a new era of race relations, with our fearless leader, Tyler, the Creator at the helm.

Just think about that for a minute.

    Josh Fernandez

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    Josh Fernandez is a writer whose first book of poems, Spare Parts and Dismemberment, was published by R.L Crow.