Genius of the Month: Tyler, the Creator


Written by Evan Linden, Ralph "The Fro" Compiano & Jack "The Flow" Martin


In the world of entertainment, genius comes in many different forms.


There are many brands of genius, but perhaps none more unique than Tyler, The Creator’s.

Over the past decade, the eccentric visionary has evolved a whole 180 degrees from where he began. While we don’t often see it in today’s music industry, the level of evolution that Tyler has achieved should be strived for by any artist who actually wants to be remembered.


Despite drastic evolution, one thing has always been consistent- Tyler, The Creator has always remained true to himself. While many things have changed, his honesty and creativity have never wavered.


From day one, Tyler has truly done whatever the fuck he’s wanted to.


I mean, this is the dude that had a whole generation of kids rocking donut-covered clothes and religiously reciting nightmare bars, fully embracing Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. He got three seasons of Loiter Squad, which is still probably one of the goofiest shows to ever hit national television. He made the world stop when he ate that roach and subsequently hung himself in the “Yonkers” video, practically igniting his stardom.


More recently, he contributed to the score and soundtrack of The Grinch and self-produced his own confessional love musical that ended up securing his first ever #1, ousting a butthurt DJ Khaled and his superteam of music stars. (I liken it to Kawhi humbly taking down the Warriors).


Tyler appeared as a complex character from the beginning, but he’s only become more complex over the years. Tyler has spent the past decade cementing himself as one of the most multifaceted creatives alive, making waves and breaking rules in music, fashion, entertainment, and art in general.


Being honest, being creative, and not giving a fuck have been Tyler’s formula to success.

That formula has served many other creatives well, but, like I said earlier- Tyler’s brand of genius is one-of-a-kind.



Tyler Okonma was born March 6, 1991 in Ladera Heights, CA- a community in Los Angeles County where Tyler spent parts of his youth and has mentioned in a handful of tracks. Tyler never met his father; he was raised by his mother and moved around often, switching schools almost annually.


From a young age, Tyler displayed a passion for creativity. Before he could make his music of his own, he had visions of being a star. Tyler would make fictional album covers for himself, containing their very own tracklists and running times. By age 14, Tyler taught himself how to play piano and had a MySpace page dedicated to sharing his creative endeavors. He would eventually learn how to produce using FL Studio.


Tyler worked a number of jobs, including his infamous two-year stint at Starbucks. Less infamously, he spent two weeks at a FedEx. Tyler claims that he was a gifted student but never had an interest in following a traditional academic route.



In 2007, Tyler and a few others made a move that would go on to change the hip-hop game forever. 16-year-old Tyler co-founded the Odd Future collective with Casey Veggies, Hodgy, and Left Brain. In 2008, they released their debut project- The Odd Future Tape. Tyler produced 12 of the mixtape’s 19 tracks, proving himself as a talented producer fresh out-of-the-gate.


A year later, Tyler gifted the world with a nightmarish musical gem- Bastard.


Ralph "The Fro" Compiano on Bastard-Cherry Bomb


With Tyler Okonma’s initial trilogy of projects (BASTARD, GOBLIN, and WOLF), the seemingly punk-rock inspired rapper exploded onto the music scene while simultaneously setting trends both inside and outside of hip-hop music.


People simply weren’t wearing, idolizing, or even waiting in line for Supreme branded clothing before Tyler’s self-created group Odd Future was.


Tyler and his close friends/fellow crew members (Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean in particular) were setting trends in two arenas: fashion and music.



Tyler’s musical approach was drastically different from every other rapper’s during the time period he began his solo career. Okonma sounded much more like a long lost member of the Wu-Tang Clan than he did a potential Young Money recruit.


His instrumentals didn’t make kids ache for sexual activities, or want to dance until their legs were sore, or chase bags of money like stereotypical instrumentals from the same time period did.


Tyler’s instrumentals were intensely beautiful, melancholic, methodical and melodic, but they were also haunting enough to be featured in a remix of The Shining. His lyrics were meditative, fucked up, and honest enough to both connect with listeners and impress them with how unique they were.


His music had the perfect horror-film like contrast: a beautiful background instrumental with a raspy, aggressive, and evil voice laid over the top.



BASTARD



“This is what the Devil plays before he goes to sleep /

Some food for thought? This food for death, go ahead and fucking eat /

My father’s dead, well I don’t know, we’ll never fucking meet /

I cut my wrist and play piano cause I’m so depressed /

Somebody call the pastor, this bastard is so possessed /

This meeting just begun, n****a I’m Satan’s son”


And just like that, it had happened. In the very first verse on the very first song of his very first project, the hip-hop community was introduced to an 18 year old named Tyler Okonoma who was from a Californian suburb and had long suffered from OCD, ADD, and severe depression. At least that’s what BASTARD suggested who he was and what he was dealing with.


A couple of quick side notes (cue Tyler’s “RAAANDOM DISCLAAAAIMER” vocals)


-A good portion of Tyler’s early discography must be taken with a grain of salt. He’s not actually a rapist, a murder, or a devil worshipper.

-Tyler admits that he was creating characters in his music and his mode of storytelling was primarily fiction. This creation of characters is evident when listening to his first three projects through the usage of Tyler’s psychotherapist, Dr. TC (voiced by Tyler himself).

-At first glance in 2019, Tyler Okonma is one of the most lively characters in the music industry. He’s been consistently hilarious since he and his gang erupted into the scene (as his former Adult Swim television show LOITER SQUAD demonstrates). He’s as stylish, dripilicious and in tune with culture as his fellow rapper friend A$AP Rocky is praised for being.


But these passions and characteristics that help define one of the world’s most enchanting artists weren’t the traits that sparked his cult following.


BASTARD meant something to people back then and still pulls heartstrings now because it was such a brutal masterpiece sonically. The contrast detailed earlier between the beautiful synths, harmonies, and carefully orchestrated instrumentals and Tyler’s depressive deep dive into his diary are what stand out above all else for audience members.


Tyler’s first solo project reminds fans how far along he has come from making songs like “AssMilk,” featuring Earl Sweatshirt. And it also reminds us that the artist we love and adore today is still the same goofy ass kid that he was when he initially captured our attention.



GOBLIN



“I’m not a fucking role model /

I’m a 19 year old emotional roller coaster with pipe dreams /

Since Kanye tweeted telling people he’s bumping all of my shit /

These mothafuckas think I’m ‘sposed to live up to something? Shit /

I’m still jacking off and proceeding my life careless /

But getting more pussy cause I tell bitches I’m Wood Harris /

Philly to Paris, I’m getting these weird stares /

At skateparks and airports all in a year, it’s weird /

Yonkers dropped and left them craniums mindfucked /

Now competition missing like that nigga my mom fucked /

Pressure’s on me like this top hat /

Bastard intro, how the fuck I’m gonna top that?”


While Bastard was the album that introduced Tyler’s never before seen or heard genius to the hip hop head community, it was Goblin that demanded the rest of the world’s attention.

The Creator’s first breakout song “Yonkers,” was uploaded to YouTube one night and became a viral video the next morning.


The funniest and most ironic part of Tyler’s ascension to the mainstream is that it was partially incidental and entirely rooted in a joke.


Tyler admitted that he actually made the “Yonkers” instrumental as a joke while hanging with his friends when they were imitating New York rappers’ styles.


The only people that were in on the joke were Tyler and the rest of Odd Future, but it was the rest of the world that was thankful for Tyler’s sense of humor since they’d gotten a timeless angst-induced anthem out of it.


While most listeners recall “Yonkers” to be the highlight of GOBLIN, I personally connected with several other songs in a much more powerful manner.


Granted, I am admittedly an over sensitive person who dwells on anti-love songs for days, weeks and months at a time, but I’d truly never heard anything as honest and sincere as the tracks, “She,” “Her,” and “Analog,”.



The chemistry between Frank and Tyler on “She,” is irreplaceable, irreversible, and ultimately one of the most hypnotizing relationships in modern music. Frank’s clean shaven flows are complements to his faded chorus, and Tyler’s storytelling is what ties the entire track together.

Granted, Frank’s approach is much more Frank-like in the manner that it’s consensual, easygoing, and sexy, but it is Tyler’s lyrics that capture the listeners’ triggers.


Whether he’s mentioning how many bullet holes he’ll put in the girl that he loves if she declines his affection, or whether he’s sneaking into her bedroom late at night in a baby blue Preme bogo hoodie with a ski mask; Tyler is obsessive, creepy, and parodically over the top.

GOBLIN was the album that made me fall in love with Tyler, the Creator when I was in the 7th or 8th grade, and it’s still the album of his that I’ll return to when I’m itching for an escape from the mainstream sound nowadays.



WOLF



“You are a whore /

You are a whore /

Fuck / You /

Fuck you /

Fuck you /

Fuck him /

Fuck everything else that I can’t see /

I know, fuck you /

I hate you so fuckin’ much /

I know you think I’m crazy”


Tyler, the Creator had officially been flowing through the veins of the mainstream media by the time he released his third album, WOLF. The album serves as another update on the young cult leader’s lifestyle, daily routines, anxieties, celebrity related issues, and love interests.


To be honest, this album is my least favorite out of the three that I’m writing about, but that’s not because it lacks central cohesion, because BASTARD and GOBLIN certainly don’t have cohesive themes when you consider that they have tracks on them like, “Tina,” and “Bitch Suck Dick,” which both feature Odd Future’s Jasper Dolphin who is merely disguised as an attempt at comic relief, but is really just eager to contribute somehow (wow, THAT was a run-on sentence for the ages).


WOLF simply just isn’t my favorite because it has the lowest percentage of songs that I truly adore and admire. And that’s okay, because it’s still a really fucking good album. It is definitely much better than CHERRY BOMB which I’m not even going to write about in full, but am rather going to drop a link to the documentary dedicated to it because it’s fucking dope and may make you appreciate the album more than you do already.



Anyways, back to WOLF, because I’ll be incapable of forgiving myself if I don’t discuss “Trashwang,” “IFHY,” “Bimmer,” and “Answer,”. So let’s do that song by song.


1. Trashwang ❗️❗️

- SAWED OFF I EAT THOSE

- THESE CLOTHES AINT FREE THO

- STRAIGHT FROM THE BACK OF THE SUPREME STORE

- DONT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THESE HOES

- HOLD ON HOLD ON RUN THAT SHIT BACK

- DJ STANKDADDY

- I WANT THE BLACK KIDS TO LIKE ME FOR THIS ONE MAN


- Trashwang is the metaphorical anthem for Odd Future. The track begins with legendary young skater Na’Kel flowing in his innocent, yet rebellious style and is catapulted into crazy levels by a beat that is so hard we honestly don’t even deserve to have it on our phones as humans. Like seriously, what the fuck did we do to deserve Trashwang? This track is a certified banger, an electrifying ballad, and the ferocity of it has the potential to inspire a mosh pit in a funeral home. There’s not a time or place where Trashwang is not the hardest song to ever touch my ears and I’m not sorry because that is a fucking fact.


2. IFHY feat. Pharrell


"I fucking hate you

But I love you"


I think those two lines sum up this song pretty well.


I’ll let the video do the rest of the talking for me, cause for as beautiful as the sounds are, the video is just plain fucking creepy.




3. Bimmer feat. Frank Ocean


You remind me of my…


Tyler has long been a man obsessed with cars. He’s dropped a plethora of bars about McLarens most recently, but he was initially invested in much more traditional whips like Bimmers before he got the guap to become a member of the high end vehicle driving society.

If anyone had questions about whether or not Tyler could deliver catchy choruses, repeatable refrains, or bridges that bury themselves into your head before, then “Bimmer,” certainly silenced those questions, critics and haters.


4. Answer


I’ve talked too much about depressing topics on this article. Just let this hypnotic track (that initially sounds like it’s directed towards a love interest, but is definitely about his father who abandoned him as a child) lull you into a melancholic trance. You’ll be okay, I promise. Cause if Tyler can make it out of the dark hole that he eventually climbed out of, then anyone can. I mean, shit, I didn’t think anybody would be able to change after they made something like BASTARD but my boy Jack is about to detail the beauty that exists within Tyler now.



Jack "The Flow" Martin on Flower Boy & IGOR


Evan’s Genius of the Month pieces are among my favorite on the site so when he asked if I wanted to collaborate on one about Tyler, I was instantly on-board. My music expertise, while greatly limited, has translated into a few of my favorite pieces I’ve written, and two of them are centered on Flower Boy and IGOR. Unfortunately I’m not the genius we’re covering this month (hopefully August) but I’ll oblige and devote my focus to Tyler.


FLOWER BOY



Lists are downright hard for me. Favorite NBA players, favorite movies, favorite shows, favorite albums; it’s always impossible for me to come up with one on the spot. If someone handed me a sheet of paper and a pen (preferably a Pilot G-2 07) and told me to compile a list of my top five favorite albums of all-time, I’m certain that Flower Boy would be on it. I mean, it’d have to be, I had selected it as my favorite album of the decade for a Burbs piece (the same one I posted on my Medium), which would put it above The Life of Pablo, and I used to find it damn-near sacrilegious to say anything slightly disparaging about that album.


So, where do I start? To me, Flower Boy is therapy in the form of Tyler Okonma-composed beats and melodies. For some reason, winter hit me like a fucking freighttrain this year; it just had me off. I don’t know, I’m not fully sure how to describe it so I self-diagnosed myself with SAD (Google it, I’m not WebMD). Here’s one thing I do know, though, and it’s that Flower Boy was always there for me. There’s just something about this album that makes me feel, like, warm inside? I’m aware I just sounded like a Valley girl (oh my god I did it again) but that’s the first adjective that popped into my head. Starting with “Foreword” and concluding with “Enjoy Right Now, Today”, Flower Boy takes listeners through a journey that touches on hidden feelings of love, materialism, and figuring out who you are. In fact, at the time of its release, Genius lauded it as a “journey of self-discovery”. Tyler doesn’t try to impress anyone with his success, his cars (which are mentioned frequently but not in an avaricious way), or a bountiful amount of sexual partners. When listening to Flower Boy, it doesn’t necessarily feel like it was created by one of the most recognizable names in hip-hop, if it can even be described as much. It truly feels like the emotional escapade of an average, run-of-the-mill guy trying to navigate through the confusion of life, part of the reason it’s so simple to connect with Flower Boy and listen to it in its entirety.


I’ll leave my Flower Boy thoughts on this note: my favorite aspect, aside from the story-like structure and obviously ingenious production, is the features. Tyler really let the features take over their parts of songs, and quite often he won’t come in until halfway through the song. Kali Uchis delivers a beautiful feature on “See You Again”, my personal favorite track on the album. Not once, but twice, we’re gifted with Frank Ocean features on “Where This Flower Blooms” and “911/Mr. Lonely” and after re-listening to the album a few more times in preparation for this, it only has me itching for more Frank music. Also featured twice is Rex Orange County, heard on the introductory track “Foreword” and another personal favorite, “Boredom”. A$AP Rocky, Lil Wayne, Steve Lacy, Anna Of The North, Estelle, and Jaden Smith also lend their talents to the project, making it a culmination of superlative musical artistry.


TOP 5 SONGS:


See You Again

Foreword

Boredom

911 / Mr. Lonely

November



IGOR



Ah, my Album of the Year. Nothing has captivated me quite like IGOR since its release about a month ago, and I still find myself returning to it on a frequent basis. When it was discovered by Spotify’s “Dissect” podcast that Flower Boy and IGOR were direct loops of each other, it blew my mind, but with the level of avant-garde mastery Tyler has seemingly grasped over the course of these two albums’ releases, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Tyler once again explores themes of self-discovery, but is more squarely focused on love. Essentially, Tyler is at least bisexual. He’s in love with a man that’s in a relationship with a woman, and it’s tearing Tyler apart. It pains him to see somebody he cares so deeply about lying to themselves in a relationship, yet Tyler learns he must come to terms with how things are throughout the duration of the album. This isn’t the first time Tyler’s alluded to his sexuality (there were lines on Flower Boy that were considered his “coming out”), but this was the first project he’s released that’s really focused on his love of another man. OK, that’s all I have on that because who Tyler likes really isn’t any of my business.


I’m a big fan of hip-hop; I’d consider it my favorite genre. I’m a fan of artists from all legs of hip-hop but just like anyone else, I have my favorites. Like I’ve mentioned so many times before, my musical lexicon is greatly limited so sometimes it’s hard to express in writing, or even verbally, how I “feel” about an album. Stick with me: my favorite projects are those that sound like complete collections of “art”. You know how you listen to projects like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Good Kid, m.A.A.D City and can just tell that it’s “good”? It just feels whole, like it should be viewed in a different light than an ordinary release; it’s more than music. IGOR is one of those projects. Listening to it, the impeccable production stands out more than anything. Add the features and Tyler himself and it’s a perfect concoction that defies hip-hop “guidelines” and places IGOR in a class of its own. It doesn’t matter if you listen to it from top-to-bottom or click “Shuffle”; there’s always something new. I’m listening to “PUPPET” right now and I just heard Tyler background vocals for the first time despite the fact that I’ve been bumping this album on repeat for the last month. Holy shit, it’s been almost a month and a half since IGOR dropped? I’m going to be seventy next week if time doesn’t slow down. The amount of time put into each song and Tyler’s perfectionism is more evident than a stinker of a fart in a crowded room; you can feel the passion.


I think my favorite part about IGOR is that it’s essentially genre-less. I wouldn’t call it a rap album. I certainly don’t consider it a country record. That was a dumb joke, sorry. The best way to categorize IGOR is to take from its own lyrics on “WHAT’S GOOD”: “...bitch, I’m IGOR!” There’s been a multitude of conversations surrounding IGOR since its release and, much to my chagrin, there have been a few people that told me they weren’t a fan. Often I follow up with “Why?” and the responses are never full-flushed. “Did you listen to it all the way through from start to finish?” “No, I just kinda hopped around.” “OK, well you’re a moron.” At the end of the day, IGOR should be enjoyed however the listener wants to take it in but like many other pieces of art, sometimes there are certain ways to go about submerging yourself. I truly believe that IGOR should be taken from the top; I rarely choose a song randomly from it. It’s the same situation I have with Flower Boy: once I hear one track, I have to start from the beginning and run it through.


That’s all I have. Thanks to Evan for letting me hop on this piece, I really think this is going to turn out awesome. Shoutout to Tyler for crafting Flower Boy and IGOR, they’ve both had a profound impact on my life. They’re projects I’ll force my kids to listen to over and over, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll get the chance to sit down with Tyler and ask him about his creative process and just shoot the shit. Shit, hopefully he somehow finds his way to this piece.


TOP 5 SONGS:


1. EARFQUAKE

2. I THINK

3. A BOY IS A GUN*

4. GONE, GONE / THANK YOU

5. ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?

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