Tyler, the Creator, one of the biggest names in hip-hop – and music overall – will begin his 35-date North American tour to promote his latest release, “Call Me If You Get Lost.”
Released last year, this is Tyler’s sixth solo album, and immediately went to number one on the Billboard 200. Perhaps even more astounding: 13 of the album’s 16 tracks reached the Billboard Hot 100 singles. At just 30 years old, Tyler has established himself as highly-successful musician, producer, promoter, and entrepreneur.
Born Tyler Okonma and raised by a single mother, he taught himself to play piano at the age of 14. Tyler first gained recognition as a member of Odd Future (aka Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, aka OFWGKTA), an ensemble that featured the likes of Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt. The group released “The Odd Future Tape” in 2008, attracting a great deal of underground buzz.
Just a year later, at the age of 18, Tyler released his first solo mixtape, “Bastard.” The lead single and music video for “Yonkers” earned him Best New Artist at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, exposing him to a larger audience.
He would go on to release his first major studio album, “Goblin,” which featured dark and sometimes disturbing content. Tyler was often criticized for repeated homophobic slurs and themes of violence. When asked to comment, he insisted that he thought these songs were humorous and not to be taken seriously. Because of this, as well as viral videos and TV show appearances, Tyler earned a reputation as a loud, abrasive, prankster that was rarely taken seriously. However, you have to remember that not only was this over a decade ago, but you’re talking about a kid barely out of high school who suddenly found himself an underground star with increasing popularity.
Frank Ocean was one of Tyler’s frequent collaborators on both Odd Future and his solo releases. Ocean came out publicly in a letter on his blog, recounting unrequited feelings he had when he was younger for another man; a man that he considered his first true love. Tyler, as well as the other members of Odd Future, immediately tweeted their support for Ocean. Tyler said he had known for a while, as Ocean had come out to him privately.
During this time, Tyler would establish himself as more than just a music artist. Along with several of the Odd Future members, “Loiter Squad” was launched on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The show was a combination of skits, stunts, and pranks on unsuspecting people, reminiscent of “Jackass” (and produced by the same company). The show lasted for three seasons.
In 2011, Tyler established Golf Wang (an anagram of Wolf Gang), a clothing line that has found remarkable success, even launching a store in Los Angeles in 2017. In 2012, Tyler began an annual music festival entitled Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival. What initially started as just four acts headlined by Odd Future has since turned into a three-stage, two-day event featuring some of today’s biggest names in hip-hop, such as A$AP Rocky, Drake, Solange, and Tyler himself.
In 2017, Tyler released “Flower Boy,” which many considered his greatest album to date. A drastic change from his earlier gritty songs of horror themes, Flower Boy features beautiful arrangements of violins, soft female background vocals, and superb producing. The album debuted at number two on Billboard and would eventually be nominated for the 2018 Best Rap Album.
The album showed a maturity, not only as a musician, but also in lyrical and thematic content. Tyler, who had often been accused of being homophobic, showed a different side of himself. In “I Ain’t Got Time,” Tyler raps, “Next line I’ll have ‘em like whoa, I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004.” He has also – both before and since – often hinted at his own bisexuality in various tweets. If his first releases with Odd Future and as a teenage solo artist started the momentum for his hype train, “Flower Boy” cemented him as one of the best acts in hip hop today.
Tyler continued to build upon the signature sound from “Flower Boy” with 2019’s “Igor.” Combining elements of hip-hop, soul, and R&B, Tyler said some of the influences for this album were Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams, and Kanye West, the latter two are both featured on different tracks. It’s no surprise that musically and lyrically Tyler has matured, as he was 28 and no longer the young kid singing to get a rise out of people, but instead creating thought-provoking and influential music. Although losing to Kendrick Lamar at the 60th Grammys, just two years later, Tyler, the Creator won Best Rap Album for “Igor.”
And now, just two years later, Tyler again finds himself nominated for Best Rap Album for “Call Me If You Get Lost,” along with Best Melodic Rap Performance for “WusYaName.”
This marks the third straight Grammy nomination for him, and only time will tell if he can repeat with back-to-back wins.
Tyler continues to show his complexity in producing music, alternating between heavy bass-hitting sounds on “Lumberjack,” to “Blessed,” a spoken word track where, Tyler describes all of the things he’s thankful for over a light, flute solo.
As if that kind of range within the same album isn’t enough to impress you, he will often change genres within the same song.
“Lemonhead” starts as a rap song with heavy beats and glaring horns but then without warning, transitions into an almost laidback jazz ensemble. I honestly thought it had changed songs and was shocked when I looked at the track list and discovered it was still the same song. It’s the kind of multifaceted and ambitious arrangement you would expect from a ‘70s prog rock band, not necessarily one of the biggest voices in hip hop music. Tyler represents one of the rare times when both critics and fans come together, and what’s considered “great” music is actually popular.
TYLER, THE CREATOR
Los Angeles, California
March 31, 2022
Tyler concluded his already impressive 2021 by playing Lollapalooza, Day N Vegas, and Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival. Last summer, Tyler announced he would be touring to support “Call Me If You Get Lost,” kicking off in Phoenix, followed by a San Diego show. The tour will hit 35 cities all across the country, concluding in his hometown of Los Angeles, as he headlines at Crytpo.com Arena. He will be supported by Kali Uchis, Vince Staples, and Teezo Touchdown.
SID 220216 | TRACI TURNER, EDITOR
Header Photo by Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis