Tyler, the Creator Answers ACL’s Call

Hip-hop great delivers a solid, if anticlimactic, performance

There’s a bit of poetic justice – and irony – in Tyler, the Creator receiving the call to replace DaBaby as a marquee 2021 Austin City Limits Festival headliner.

The Charlotte rapper got the boot from a slew of festivals nationwide after strangely hurling homophobic sentiments while performing at Rolling Loud Miami. Tyler himself knows a thing or two about getting “canceled” thanks to a laundry list of perverse lyrics and vulgar tweets, but “Manifesto” from his latest album, Call Me If You get Lost, best summates his attitude toward his past:

Tyler, the Creator on the SS Baudelaire. (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Internet bringin’ old lyrics up, like I hide the shit/ What’s your address, I could probably send you a copy, bitch/ I was canceled before canceled was with Twitter fingers/ Protestin’ outside my shows, I gave them the middle finger.”

So, in perhaps yet another demonstration of how much the former edgelord producer/rapper truly blossomed before our eyes, he spent no time referencing the controversial man he replaced. The Austin-loving Californian also failed to mention his own remarkable redemption arc in the city where he was arrested nearly eight years ago after encouraging fans to rush the gates into the Scoot Inn during South by Southwest 2014 – and thus being charged with inciting a riot. He simply put on a good, albeit arguably uneventful, Weekend 1 closing performance on Sunday evening.

Spectators at the Ladybird Stage needed to wait two extra minutes due to Dallas guitar goddess St. Vincent leaving the T-Mobile Stage scorched in her wake across the field. Tyler Baudelaire arrived with a case in hand as he stared down an eager mass of humanity dwarfing that of his disappointedly-attended Oct. 2019 one-man masterclass at the Frank Erwin Center. “Corso” from the aforementioned rap-heavy, DJ Drama-narrated June 2021 LP properly opened the 84-minute set with pyro matching the track’s abrasive tone. The lovely stage setup included a red boat featuring a “Baudelaire” insignia on its side and screens casting idyllic backdrops of nature to match the vacation theme of album-of-the-year contender Call Me If You Get Lost.

Bunny Hop offered his love for Austin in a way only he can.

“We’re in weird ass fuckin’ Texas. It’s hot as fuck,” he said after track three, before revealing his fatigue. “Based on my skin color, I don’t feel safe in most motherfucking places, but we are in my favorite city in Texas. Y’all have an incredible Whole Foods.”

He would later thank those who attended his show on numerous occasions with genuine gratitude.

Cuts from LP6 such as “Massa” with its varied flows and autobiographical lyricism sounded splendid in a live setting as Tyler wonderfully rapped bar-for-bar. Songs from the warmly produced 2017 album Flower Boy brought out amusing forms of call and response. “You’re not convincing me...try harder bitch,” demanded the sarcastic jokester after the crowd failed to sing some of the album’s beautiful choruses to his liking. Those multiple quips set-up a lovely moment during “Boredom” when thousands promptly wailed “Find some time, find some time to do something” in a way patterned after the track’s features helping Tyler when he asks for help singing.

“Yonkers,” a song he says he first performed ten years ago at SXSW 2011, perhaps drew the loudest reaction upon its drop. Though Tyler warned a potential struggle may occur when performing three of his much older songs – and he did misstep a tad on “Tamale” – he noticeably reworked the homophobic slur out of his 2011 smash. The rapper once needlessly barred from the United Kingdom for his obscene subject matter just about came out several years ago, but that change to “Yonkers” marks a deviation from his 2019 Erwin Center set where he still rapped the song unaltered in his Igor attire.

Igor era joints began the last section of the show as a golden shower of pyro befit for professional wrestler Randy Orton lit up the stage for the always lovable “Earfquake.” Tyler certainly showcased improved singing a capella for the track. After branding “New Magic Wand” his favorite song due to layering a section with five different melodies, the exhausted, drenched in sweat 30-year-old star closed with “I Thought You Wanted to Dance” and horn-heavy “RunItUp” to a slowly thinning crowd. The latter track may seem like a weird set-ender for such a grand show, but Tyler gave a shout out to Beaumont, Texas rapper Teezo Touchdown, who features on the cut.

Tyler, the Creator holds a well-earned spot in the highest echelons of modern hip-hop to the point where putting on a good performance at a massive festival feels...unremarkably solid? The artist we see today feels like a polished aggregate of all of his eras akin to a Super Saiyan fusion from the anime franchise Dragon Ball. He’s even back to wearing a cap and got rid of the blonde wig. Thank you for answering the call, Tyler.

“See You Again”
“Who Dat Boy”
“Igor’s Theme”
“I Think”
“What’s Good”
“New Magic Wand”
“I Thought You Wanted to Dance”

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More Tyler the Creator
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A timeline of the rapper’s notorious SXSW

Chase Hoffberger, March 18, 2014

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Tyler the Creator, ACL Fest 2021, Teezo Touchdown, Whole Foods

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