The Veterans Memorial Coliseum arena in Portland hosted two of the most high-profile rappers in the industry Saturday night. Tyler, The Creator and Vince Staples both dropped two of the most polarizing albums of 2017. Tyler’s glittering “Flower Boy” was ranked the eighth best album of the year by Pitchfork, while Staples’ house-influenced record, “Big Fish Theory,” came in at seven on the list.
This isn’t their first time teaming up for shows; the powerful duo also toured together back in 2015. But their status has never been higher than it is now, and the excitement at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum showed it. Tyler and Staples may be at a similar echelon, the forefront of their genre, but their style and execution have very little in common.
Staples performed first, alone, dressed in all black on a wide stage. He was backed by a giant screen rendering him nothing more than a silhouette, mixing intensity and casualty in his movements. The spectacle was not being made for him, but for the immense power of his music, as the electronically-saturated pounds and kicks of “Big Fish Theory” spoke well on their own.
Staples made the occasional call-back to his 2015 album, “Summertime ‘06,” but his latest work was clearly the priority. The performance itself acted as a nice microcosm for his career as a whole. The music came first, and his rhythmically-simple rapping style was as straightforward as his strictly black and white screen displays.
The distinction between the two acts was made only a few minutes after Vince finished up. A large purple curtain dropped to cover the performing end of the arena. With the curtain being showered by red overhead lights, the first glimpses of color were shown, foreshadowing Tyler’s performance.
After a 20-minute intermission, the curtain made a long descent to the ground to show Tyler, his back turned to the crowd, standing on the trunk of a fallen tree, maybe 15 ft. above the stage. While Vince went simple, Tyler indulged, building a grand stage with colors abound, including two giant trees on either side of the stage and a fallen one in the middle which functioned as a nice staircase for the offbeat Odd Future founder to enjoy.
Tyler was his usual self — the goofy rapper whose self-critical and emotional lyrics attract endearment and even a little sympathy. The beautiful sounds of “Flower Boy” translated just as well as it did when he stopped by Eugene back in October. This time, in between songs he briefly chatted about getting used to playing in similar arenas to the Coliseum, his Grammy hopes and teasing Jasper, long-time Odd Future member, about the broken leg he’s recovering from.
The setlist, like Staples’, was varied. After knocking out a few “Flower Boy” essentials, such as “Boredom” and “911 / Mr. Lonely,” Tyler tested the crowd’s knowledge with throwbacks to previous songs, with “48,” “She” and “Yonkers” among them. The sheer grandiosity of the stage was a spectacle in itself, again being a great glimpse of Tyler’s musical identity.
Audience members were on their feet the entirety of the show, and both artists showed their love to Portland throughout their sets. Tyler mentioned near the end of the show, “This is one of my favorite cities, y’all got the trees and painted houses. It rains a lot, but it’s pretty as fuck.” It was one of the best hip-hop shows Portland will have for the year, and with the Grammys on Sunday, Tyler will be looking to continue his tour with his first Grammy win under his belt — he’s up for Rap Album of the Year.