November 19, 2012

Talk Trash and Mellow Out

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As part of what seems to be a conscious effort by Dan Smalls ’92 to diversify his offerings at Ithaca’s hallowed (or, in the case of Castaways, hollowed out) performance spaces, The Haunt welcomed rap duo Mellowhype and hardcore punk revivalists Trash Talk this past Friday as part of their explicitly named Trash Wang Tour. While the affiliates of infamous hip-hop collective Odd Future are not what you would call an intuitive pairing, their respective styles share some serious similarities: themes of apathy, a sense of rambunctiousness and a preoccupation with violence (sonic, lyrical and otherwise). The crowd was young, hip and, quite evidently, stoned; T-shirts emblazoned with upside-down crosses were common; and one mustachioed audience member insisted on grinding with a blonde girl who may have very well been in high school. Tipper Gore would have been terrified.

To call Trash Talk’s brutal hardcore ‘nostalgic’ would betray the group’s own inventiveness. As evidenced by new album 119, the band’s pummeling attack is economical and filled with starts and stops, giving prospective headbangers whiplash. Prefaced by that Ithaca College rapper who really needs to let the audience know what his name is, Venue’s sound was bound to shock the venue. When Trash Talk finally took the stage, its initial delivery literally left the audience stunned. It wasn’t until frontman Lee Spielman beckoned for us to “get this shit going” that The Haunt transformed into a maelstrom of flailing limbs. Despite the brevity of its songs, the band was able to maintain its infectious momentum for 45 minutes, leaving fans out of breath and stinking of something mighty fierce. Having attended far too many Ithaca shows devoid of any crowd involvement whatsoever, Trash Talk’s energetic set, along with their propensity for joining the violence in the pit, was a heady reminder of the visceral and physical impact punk music can still elicit.

Even if Trash Talk had not bulldozed the stage mere minutes prior, my expectations for Mellowhype’s set were high. I had seen Hodgy Beats and Left Brain as part of the Odd Future ensemble before, and it remains one of those sets that I recall as if it were yesterday. It was a veritable riot both onstage and off, as life-affirming as it was life-threatening. Still, that last show belonged to Tyler the Creator: leading the chants of “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school!” and stage-diving with a broken foot, he was the ringmaster of Odd Future’s family circus. Hodgy and Left Brain fell to the background; would a show with them at the fore fall flat?

As if he knew intrinsically how to answer, Left Brain shattered any doubts the moment he dived into the simmering crowd, which soon erupted into a full-on boil. While Left Brain mostly played hypeman (on the records he plays a large role in production), Hodgy Beats revealed a range and ability that belayed his supporting roles on Tyler and Earl Sweatshirt’s solo albums. The unhinged, multi-faceted rapper many of us were introduced to during his performance of “Sandwitches” alongside Tyler on Fallon proved that he was nobody’s sidekick. Even Left Brain, who may have ceded most of the verses to his comrade, proved himself more-than-capable, offering a baritone substitute for Hodgy’s quick-spit delivery on tracks like “F666 the Police.” While the set ran rather briefly, it was as expected: chaotic, profane and humorous. As the backlash against Odd Future’s alleged sexism dies down, we are able to take them for what they are: a confederacy of damned talented rappers who can put on a show as chaotic as any hardcore outfit. As a wise man once said, they’re rad as fuck.

Original Author: James Rainis