I don't know what to tell you about what went down tonight at dusk at the Fader Fort: I have seen the future of rap and its name is ODD FUTURE? Nah, right. South by Southwest is often, at bottom, several thousand professionals deciding by fiat what the agreed-upon agendas will be for the next three months. Artists are carefully groomed, worked like dogs, and put mercilessly through ther paces. Then you've got a bunch of 19 year old kids who just want to fuck shit up, crowd surf, incite a riot, and maybe kick a photographer in the face.
"Fuck a blog post," said one 30-something rap fan in a fitted who was standing next to me in the middle of a crew who nodded vigorously, their video camera trained on the deepening mayhem onstage. "This is straight punk rock shit right here." The idea that mainstream rap supporters might be embracing the punk metaphor to describe a scene that -- fuck it, I'll say it -- kind of felt like what we all read about the Sex Pistols . . . well, let's just enjoy that for a moment, even if it turns out to be completely misguided.
What happened on stage was, in some ways, utterly familiar -- teenagers exulting in the fire of anything-goes, baiting an audience that clearly adored them and wanted in equal measure their affection and their rage, dudes screaming "fuck the police" -- and yet utterly new, in the sense that as closely as "Wolf Gang" comes to rhyming with "Wu Tang," these are kids who use hashtags to protest the absence of one of their members . . . and at that, they're not asking to #freeearl from prison. They want his mom to let him out of prep school. Matt and Kim had to follow them. They're an exuberant bunch, but they know when they've been upstaged: "I'm about to jump out of my skin over what I just saw," Matt told the crowd, then shook his fist and started up the "Wolf Gang" chant again.
Maybe we're all making too much out of what a cynic might reduce to a can- and bottle-throwing match between a rap group and its audience, in which, amazingly, no one got serously hurt but not for lack of trying. When they left the stage under what seemed like it could have been the imposition of elders stepping in for everyone's safety, there was no riot. No greater purpose. Nothing more than the sense that whatever Odd Future are up to, they seem to have that magical ability to cart chaos around with them and summon it at will. We've seen a ton of great music this week but a severe shortage of great moments -- those explosive narrative plot points that keep us all dumb and speechless in the face of the music's transformative anarchy. A lot of shit went down, but this is the one we'll be talking about next year.