It's hard to deny that Tyler, The Creator has evolved as an artist, whether you like it or not. When the visionary Odd Future rapper first burst onto the scene, his music was undoubtedly raw, both lyrically and musically; for some context, take a look back on "Yonkers," which features a violent homicidal fantasy aimed at Bruno Mars. Albums like Bastard and Goblin established Tyler as a scholar of Eminem and Tech N9ne, prone to gruesome imagery and unapologetic shock value.
Yet as his career moved forward, Tyler found himself undergoing a stylistic transformation, borne through a noted sense of maturation. Prior to the ambitious Igor, his Flower Boy album received universal acclaim and a Grammy nomination, a surprising turn for the once-noted "walking paradox." Yet Tyler has always been musically gifted, and his later music allowed his orchestrator's sensibilities room to shine through. Today, Tyler made note of his progress, lamenting the difference between his two most recent projects and the remainder of his discography.
"I always imagine if i refined my first four albums like i did my last two. man," writes Tyler, his tone expressing a concerning sense of weariness. While it's understandable that one might wish to revisit previous works under a new light, Tyler should celebrate his accomplishments rather than dwell on what-might-have-been. Without his formative work, who knows if his latter two projects would have been possible at all? What do you think about Tyler's self-critique?
Tyler, The Creator’s Evolution: From "Bastard" To "Flower Boy"
With "IGOR"'s imminent arrival, we took a look at the musical and lyrical growth of Tyler, The Creator and the shifts in his artistry.
Across all facets of the entertainment sphere, shock value has proved to be worth its weight in gold. The catalyst for legions of concerned parents and conservative moral outrage, it’s an age-old showbusiness trope that has played an instrumental part in the legacies of punk trailblazers, daring filmmakers and even the one-time agitator turned elder statesman Eminem. In the same vein as how a young Em used the debased and puerile to his advantage, a voyage into the darker underbelly of the psyche also propelled Tyler, The Creator on to the world’s stage.
Rich Fury/Getty Images
Filled with nihilistic vitriol and brutal depictions of murder, rape and anything else that he deemed fitting, the man from Ladera Heights harnessed the galling power of his most depraved thoughts and positioned them at the forefront of his music. Tyler’s debut project Bastard, shared with the world on Christmas day 2009, set the tone for what was to come. A prodigious sonic feat cloaked in introspective and at times vengeful lyricism, the first instalment of the therapy sessions between Tyler-- or his villainous alter ego Wolf Haley-- and “DR.TC” would be the rebellious spark that put him and his Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All affiliates on the map.
Laden with poignant piano chords and warped synths, each track bristled with the sort of volatile energy that’s been insatiably attractive to receptive teenage minds since youth culture arose in the '50s. Formed under the proviso that “I feel we’re more talented than 40-year-old rappers talking about Gucci,” the group would soon become synonymous with an anti-establishment spirit that was so neatly summarized on Tyler’s major label debut Goblin:
"Kill People, Burn Shit, F**k School."
As their fame continued to morph and mutate, this epithet came to define OFWGKTA’s heyday and garnered them an audience that ranged from hip-hop heads to more indie-rock oriented consumers that were soon donning their Supreme box logos and emulating their newfound heroes.
Built on a reputation for chaotic live shows and misbehaviour, their fans’ cult-like devotion emboldened the group’s ringleader and his diverse array of cronies to do anything they’d like in the realms of music, fashion and even television. Reviled by LGBTQ+ organizations for their flagrant use of homophobic slurs, the macabre sentiments and moral deconstructivism of Tyler’s early work led to innumerable calls for boycotts and bans from both the UK and Australia. Yet just like all artists that are catapulted into view on a wave of dissension, the effects of outrage as a career accelerant eventually tapers off and by the release of 2012’s OF Tape Vol 2, the sun was setting on the collective’s heyday as a genuine phenomenon.
Unburdened by the weight of the group and the accompanying stigma, Tyler and cohorts such as Earl Sweatshirt, Syd of The Internet and Domo Genesis have gone on to make music that is diametrically different to that which they’d rose to prominence from. But while each of these metamorphic journeys have been exciting to behold, none has been quite as thrilling as Tyler’s shift from a vessel for youthful indignance into a high calibre artist. Once motivated by a desire to make “shit to piss off old white people,” the man lesser-known as Tyler Okonma has re-emerged anew and with a drastically shifted focus. However, what makes his evolution so compelling to witness is that hasn’t been governed by any prevailing trends or compliance with the commercial landscape.
In a recent video entitled “How To Make A Tyler, The Creator Song”, musician Left At London playfully satirizes the Golf Wang figurehead’s change in tact as she describes how he went from a "homophobic psychopath to a lonely gay man who made the Grinch soundtrack."
Comical as that statement may be, it contains more than a few morsels of truth and depicts just how sharp these recent shifts in his career path have been.
John Lamparski/Getty Images
Released after the critical and commercial low ebb of 2015’s Cherry Bomb, Tyler constructed a redemptive tale on 2017’s LP Flower Boy. A conceptual and musical departure from the provocations of old, Tyler’s new album eschewed the guises and misdirects of the previous era in favour of unreserved honesty. A wistful and contemplative project, it took his longstanding affinity for the serene beauty of soul music and the pioneering sound of jazz-fusion legend Roy Ayers’ to its logical conclusion. Save for the A$AP Rocky-assisted “Who Dat Boy” and “I Ain’t Got Time,” much of the splintering abrasion that was a staple of his earlier work has been side-lined in favour of off-kilter melodies and vibrant production.
Exhibited on many of Cherry Bomb’s finest offerings-- including “Find Your Wings,” “Keep Da O’s” and the Yeezy and Weezy-aided “Smuckers,” his penchant for grand, sweeping arrangements came to its logical conclusion on Flower Boy. Although it took many aback, any long-term fan of Tyler was already aware that he had the capabilities to create works of musical beauty. Among all of the misanthropic statements on Bastard, its blunt revelations were offset by the emergence of soaring chord progressions. Exhibited across Goblin and the trilogy-concluding Wolf on tracks such as “She,” “Nightmare” “48” and “Slater,” his tendency to incorporate these moments of splendour amid the animosity of his lyrics came from influences that extended far beyond the hip-hop purview.
As detailed to The Guardian in 2011, the sounds that brewed in the background of his music came from a love of the dreamy terrain of shoegaze and chillwave:
"I listen to Washed Out, Beach House and Broadcast. That's what I'm influenced by. [That's why] the music is a mixture of pretty chords, fuckin' hardcore drums and basslines, and really nice strings."
Aside from his well-publicized love of Pharrell and N.E.R.D, it is these influences that permeate through most regularly in his output and this doesn’t seem to be subject to change. Set to be released this Friday (May 17), the teasers for Tyler’s new album IGOR have all featured fragments of that sound while harbouring a brash, electronica-infused edge.
Said to feature guest appearances from alternative acts King Krule and Mild High Club, these two artists are synonymous with atmospheric, guitar-oriented output and would seamlessly slip into his aural world should the rumoured tracklist turn out to be accurate. On top of frequent collaborators such as Pharrell, A$AP Rocky, Frank Ocean and Kali Uchis, it’ll also see him team up with Playboi Carti and Brockhampton-affiliated singer/songwriter Ryan Beatty. As displayed in the teaser for the frantically paced “WHATSGOOD,” it appears that Tyler is operating with a renewed confidence and sense of defiance that he’d lost in the wake of the turgid response to Cherry Bomb:
“Y'all said I wouldn't go nowhere, took the detour
When you see the someone in the crack right by the sea shore?
When you see them brand new Le Fleurs on these floors?
If the cop says my name, bitch, I'm Igor.”
As of yet, Tyler has yet to clarify exactly what the IGOR motif is in reference to. But when viewed in conjunction with the Lewis Rossignol-devized album cover, it begins to come into focus. A surrealist portrait of Tyler, it comes with a certain level of grotesqueness and horror that makes him seem inhuman. With his cheeks wiped out and hair that protrudes into the face, it shares an unsightly quality that is in keeping with the album’s most prominent namesake. Normally depicted with a hunch and a villainous personality, Igor is a staple of Frankenstein films and classical horror. The faithful assistant to the notorious mad scientist, he’s an integral part of his schemes and-- in the Ghost Of Frankenstein-- even has his brain placed within the hulking monster’s body. Throughout Tyler’s career, he has been something of an eternal outcast and is prone to melding together sounds and textures in a way that many would deem to be unconventional. A self-confessed loner, the idea of a pariah that spends his days in a lab is one that would resonate with the restlessly creative mind. A man that’s made a living out of refusing to conform or blend in, this concept sheds light on how he’s perceived in both the media and by hip-hop’s inner circles.
For all that he’s disavowed much of his earlier music and expunged it from live sets, the evolution of Tyler, The Creator is one of the more captivating of the 21st Century. From provocateur to pop-culture icon, what’s clear upon reflection and revisiting his back catalogue is that he’s achieved the rare feat of keeping his personality intact. Although he may not be threatening the lives of B.o.B and Bruno Mars anymore, his quick-wittedness and ability to craft newsworthy soundbites has retained its potency albeit through taking different forms. More acquainted with grabbing headlines through his candidness about his sexuality and struggles with isolation of late, he may be a far cry from the man that incited a riot at SXSW but he’s all the better for it. Now, all we can do is wait for Friday and see what shape this chameleonic artist will take next.
Tyler, The Creator Drops "See You Again" Music Video
Tyler, The Creator drops off new visuals off of “Flower Boy.”
Over the past few months, we’ve received a whole lot of new music from Tyler, The Creator. He’s released little freestyles over some of his favorite beats and loose demos/tracks that never made it onto his last project, Flower Boy. However, the weird thing about his latest project in comparison to others is that we haven’t received a whole lot of music videos from it. Aside from being a rapper and a producer, Tyler, The Creator’s known for his directorial skills under the name Wolf Haley. The last music video we received off of Flower Boy was for the A$AP Rocky assisted, “Who Dat Boy.” Today, Tyler comes through with some stellar visuals for the track “See You Again” featuring Kali Uchis.
Tyler, The Creator is back with brand new visuals for his song “See You Again.” The video also includes a cameo from his Wang$ap partner, A$AP Rocky. Tyler only runs through half of “See You Again” before it cuts into “Where This Flower Blooms.”
The release of his new video follows his “POTATO SALAD” collaboration with A$AP Rocky on the AWGE DVD 3. The two of them also announced their joint project at the end of the music video, although there’s no indication when it’ll drop.
Tyler, The Creator & Vince Staples Deliver Disparate Sets, In The Best Way Possible
The entry line was wrapped around two blocks as kids dressed in dad hats and Odd Future shirts were being told to keep to the right the sidewalk to prevent blocking traffic. The anticipation for Tyler, The Creator and Vince Staples’ co-headlining tour date in Montreal was very real last night.
RELATED: Tyler, The Creator's GOLF Le FLEUR & Converse Dropping Apparel This Week
It’s an interesting pairing considering that at one point, fans tried to pit the two against each other after Tyler trolled the internet by saying he doesn’t like Vince. However, much has changed since those days. Tyler’s veered away from the abrasive “shock rap” that once got him turned away at the U.K. border and banned from New Zealand. Vince has established himself as a dominating entity in music, who went from opening up for Tyler, The Creator and A$AP Rocky to co-headlining a show with the Odd Future frontman.
Together, they brought a memorable evening to the sold-out crowd at MTelus. The show kicked f with DJ Taco heating up the crowd. For about a half hour, he dropped some big hits from the past 10 years from Trippie Redd’s “Dark Knight Gummo” to M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” and Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit Of Happiness." He made the mosh pit looked like a wave pool.
Shortly after concluding the DJ set, the venues lights went dim. A screen onstage started a countdown from 7:45, while noises waves emerged from the speakers. Grainy footage a brief news clip played and shifted into the intro “BagBak.” Through bright white lights and fog, a silhouette Vince Staples appeared on stage, dressed in an all black attire with a bulletpro vest. He followed-up the intro with “Rain Comes Down” and “Ramona Park Is Yankee Stadium” before acknowledging the crowd.
“My name is Vince Staples and welcome to the show,” he said, before jumping into “Homage.” After playing several Big Fish Theory cuts, he jumped into some favorites from the past including “Prima Donna” and “Senorita.”
Vince’s show was not an average rap show. He didn’t interact too much with the crowd but instead, used his staging, lights and transitions to draw the audience in. In many ways, it felt like a performance art piece rather than a concert. For example, the lights went completely dark when “Alyssa Interlude” played while footage Amy Winehouse’s interview appeared on the screen. As the lights came on, Vince appeared on stage right, standing still with a microphone stand as he performed his parts the song without much movement.
He saved the bangers for the end the set. He concluded with “Big Fish,” “Norf Norf” and “Yeah Right.” Once the crowd sang the last bit “Yeah Right,” he thanked the crowd and made his exit. A lo-fi version the “Star Spangled Banner” began to play and was abruptly cut short by static.
In the span a half hour, Staples’ stage would be transformed into a natural world resembling an abandoned playground in the forest. The lights dimmed, and the crowd chanted “Tyler” until the orchestra based intro to “Where The Flower Blooms” kicked f. The rapper appeared on top the ramp, wearing a neon green coat and matching green shorts. He invited the crowd to chant the song’s hook before jumping f the ramp and performing towards the edge the stage.
Compared to Vince, Tyler was much more interactive with the crowd, ranting about how much he likes Tim Hortons’ White Hot Chocolate while simultaneously shitting on their donuts. It took him about seven songs to get into some older fan favorites. After doing a smooth medley “911” and “Mr. Lonely,” Tyler jumped into “IFHY” which had the entire audience, from the floor to the balcony, singing every single word to the song without missing a beat.
After jumping into his breakthrough single, “Yonkers,” Tyler revisited more his older catalog with “She” and “48” before picking the energy back up with “Tamale.” The rapper took a moment to thank the crowd for knowing his older catalog and continued to cap f his set with more recent efforts.
Tyler and Vince’s sets were two ends the same spectrum. Vince didn’t try to engage the audience by prompting them to cheer or scream too much, relying on the intensity his set. The bulletpro vest took on an added sense thematic weight, considering the tragic events the past week’s shooting in Florida. To confirm, his intro song closed out with the words, “tell the president to suck a dick, because we on now.”
Tyler was clearly the main attraction for the event, even if it was a co-headlining tour. Since his introduction at nineteen, the Flower Boy has matured both as a musician and a person, growing alongside his audience. His performance showed a side that few would have predicted five or six years ago, focusing on his delivery as a vocalist as opposed to the crazy tactics he used to run with during his come-up.
RELATED: Vince Staples Says "Big Fish Theory" Deserves Grammy, But Not For Rap
Overall, Tyler, The Creator and Vince Staples brought their respective albums to life. More importantly, they further proved themselves as unique forces in hip hop with necessary voices.