Tyler, the Creator pulled one of the harshest bait-and-switches the Grammys stage has ever seen.
Just hours after arriving to the ceremony dressed, sardonically, as the in-house bellhop, “The Daily Show’s” Trevor Noah introduced him alongside classic R&B guests Boyz II Men and Charlie Wilson. Tyler, nominated for rap album for his chart-topping “Igor,” indeed joined those acts for a brief, sweet introduction to “Earfquake,” the relatively tender funk centerpiece of the LP.
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Sunday’s Grammys were dominated by three L.A. artists — Billie Eilish, Tyler, the Creator and Nipsey Hussle — and its greatest athlete, Kobe Bryant.
But seconds later, Tyler took the reins and drove the show straight into suburban hell.
He took this Grammy spotlight, his first live performance there, to instead perform “New Magic Wand,” one of the most brutal noise tracks from “Igor,” delivered in front of a strobe-flashed street strewn with dancers in matching, eerie blonde wigs.
Tyler is one of the most physically incendiary live performers in hip-hop, and whether alone in front of a shaking camera or surrounded by doppelgängers, he left it all on the floor as he screamed and howled and nearly burst his eyes out of his skull. Not since Kendrick Lamar’s 2016 performance of “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright” has an artist lighted up a Grammy stage with this much pure adrenaline and fury.
Tyler had a reputation as a gleeful provocateur in his Odd Future years, but since pared it back into thoughtful, genre-obliterating funk and rock and experimental music. If you’d come to “Igor” by way of the mature, introspective love songs, or were curious about its Billboard 200 ascent, this set was a shock to see on music’s most prominent stage — it would have gotten him arrested if he’d tried it at a Fairfax sneaker store.
It all ended with Tyler throwing himself into a pit of fire and disappearing from the wreckage of the stage. If anyone has their career improved by this mournful Grammys, it’s fitting that it should be him, one of pop’s great antagonists and, as of tonight, its undeniable Grammy breakout performer.