Tyler the Creator has an endless list of accolades and credits – rapper, singer, songwriter, fashion designer, producer, actor – and has been on the scene for 15 years now. With such a longstanding career in the industry, we’ve been able to see Tyler grow from a 15 year old kid to a 30 year old superstar, and the personal development – think musically, stylistically, and attitude – has been astonishing.
Prior to becoming globally known for his alternative rap music, fashion sense and undeniable comedy value, Tyler first emerged onto the music scene as the figurehead of Odd Future. What was a group made up of teenage friends having fun, messing around and making music together, quickly progressed into a national treasure, being the west-coast counterpart to Rocky’s A$AP Mob which was founded only one year prior. The six friends – Tyler the Creator, Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, Casey Veggies, Matt Martians, Jasper Dolphin – went on to recruit more and more people through the group’s life cycle, from the likes of Earl Sweatshirt to Frank Ocean.
Odd Future completed a show in London back in 2010, with the concert selling out within 48 hours of announcement, and being compared to punk rock shows for the antics involved: stage diving, moshing, and group members antagonising the crowd. OF, globally recognised for their eclectic music production and “OF” donut merch, paved the way for other collectives formed through the internet in the era when YouTube was in its formative years and Facebook was barely getting started. The Odd Future Tape dropped in November 2008 to critical acclaim, and moving forward the individual members would continue to create music at an unprecedented rate, all pushing one another to go higher and higher. To coincide with the group’s second tape, they returned to London for an even bigger show – see below for the incredible vibes.
Loiter Squad was Odd Future’s TV show airing on Adult Swim as a mish-mash of sketch comedy, pranks, and skits, and first dropped March 25th, 2012 featuring Tyler, Jasper, Earl and Lionel as the main characters while other members dropped in and out for cameos all the time. If that synopsis didn’t ring any bells, the program was produced by the same team behind Jackass.
As OF was blossoming, Tyler also dedicated energy to his solo endeavors; “Bastard” released as a Christmas present to fans in ‘09 as a chaotic, swear-laden debut with a dark, dystopian energy to it. The opener sees us looking in on a therapy session between the self-proclaimed “depressed and possessed” Tyler and Dr. TC, the school counsellor dealing with this angst. While this released as a solo venture, Odd Future members feature prominently throughout, but this work saw a frightening display of who Tyler once was.
2011 saw Tyler drop Goblin, his second album widely accredited as his breakthrough, pushing the boundaries of what rap can be and once again showcasing his otherworldly talent and creativity. This record really rocked the boat, finding a foothold across the globe and continuing the dialogue between Tyler and his therapist Dr. TC. Gradually through the album Tyler descends into a deeper, darker, murderous energy, talking on killing all of his OF friends in his dirty imagination. Tyler found himself criticised for homophobic and mysogynistic lyricism, and has since disavowed many of the tracks released in Goblin. However, he still stands strong with the biggest track, Yonkers, the video of which depicts Tyler eating a live cockroach, vomiting it back up then mimicking suicide by hanging – by no means an easy watch, but these dark beginnings are a necessity to revisit when considering the California rapper’s development and ascension to stardom.
“WOLF” came about in 2013, with the record narrating an intricate love triangle between three characters: Wolf, Sam and Salem. Alongside this, he exposes many thoughts on the negatives attached to fame and stardom. “Colossus” sees Tyler speaking on how he can’t even enjoy something as simple as an outing to Six Flags with his friends. Dr. TC appears one final time to tie up the album, with Tyler grieving his grandmother’s passing, and talking about the difficulty of doing this while in the public eye. This album, while covering inherently dark feelings and internal conflicts, manages to exist with more commonplace tongue-in-cheek humor and energy we all know and love Tyler for these days.
A couple years later, Tyler dropped “Cherry Bomb”, which was the first time he showcased a gentle, soft soundstage with feel-good lyrics and major chording. While this is a glimpse into what we see in 2021, Tyler’s fandom at the time received the album with huge criticism, calling the project immature, cheerful and fake. In typical fashion, Tyler refused to apologise to these fans, saying that Cherry Bomb was his favorite album yet. It was also in 2015 that Tyler was banned from entering the UK by Theresa May for “encouraging violence and intolerance of homosexuality” and “fostering hatred with views that seek to provoke others to terrorist acts” since speaking on the ban saying he was “treated like a terrorist and murderer” for little to no reason. See below, and keep an eye out for a young Kevin Abstract in the crowd at 2:30.
In what was a massive progression and switch-up for the priorly dark rapper, “Flower Boy ” came as an introspective view into Tyler’s subconscious, with heartfelt vulnerability and honesty. While “See you again” and “Garden shed” address failing romantic endeavors and confusion with sexuality, Tyler’s dark, murderous tone is showcased in “Who dat Boy” alongside A$AP Rocky. We see Tyler singing alongside Kali Uchis, with some of the most incredible visuals in what is arguably his best work ever – this album is special.
Tyler returned to the UK following Theresa May’s departure from Number 10 with “IGOR”, his brightest, oddest, most eclectic project ever. Here, rather than a binary separation between his Jekyll and Hyde-esque light and dark sides, we see the two themes alongside one another in a perfect harmony. We hear confessions of love with cynical, dark thoughts, as well as big ballads all in one record. The album was most famous for his blonde wig, which became an icon and will no doubt be remembered for years to come.
His latest and greatest – “Call me if you get lost” – explores every facet of his creative prowess, showcasing bags of talent as a producer, rapper, writer, and vocalist. “Lumberjack” leads the album as the single, arriving as a Frankenstein’s monster with elements of “Bastard” alongside melodies and soliloquies akin to those found on “Flower Boy”. Perhaps the most interesting track is ‘WUSYANAME”, which sees Tyler alongside Youngboy NBA, an artist widely known for being violent and thuggish, even the center of a meme playing on this idea. Here, Youngboy NBA strays from his commonplace style, appearing as the “Sweetheart” Tyler describes him as in a dramatic shift in styles. This, for me, is hugely important – over the past 15 years we witnessed Tyler morph from boy to man, so it’s nice to see him involved in the same process for a young, rich rapper facing the same issues he did a decade ago.
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See also: SAM WISE: GENRE-BENDING AND DISRUPTING UK MUSIC