Tyler, The Creator, aka Wolf Haley, Ace the Creator, IGOR, and now Sir Baudelaire, has been one of the most volatile, polarizing, and eye-catching artists in the past 15 years. Dropping his debut mixtape “Bastard” in 2009, the California native made an immediate impression on the internet, appealing to teenage angst, rage, and lack of filter. However, before his debut Tyler was honing his production skills, producing for all of his Odd Future crewmates, including the sad-pop heartthrob Frank Ocean and the lyrical mastermind Earl Sweatshirt.
Since the beginning, Tyler has written, produced, and mixed all of his projects, as well as designed his merchandise and directed his music videos, a level of elite self-dependency that only comes around every decade or so. Recently releasing his sixth studio album “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” in June, Tyler has added to his lore as one of the most talented in Hip-Hop. Already getting AOTY buzz, Tyler’s latest album is a strong body of work, showing off his superior production skills as per usual. But what is starting to truly be solidified is the maturity of his lyrical ability, adding more complexity to his already superior storytelling, with his content becoming more refined especially on the topics of love and life. Tyler’s growth over the past 5 years has been monumental and fans are ready to see where this rollercoaster will continue to take us.
2009 was a transitional time in music, like many genres at the time Hip-Hop was evolving. Kanye West was still AWOL, Drake and Nicki Minaj hadn’t dropped an album yet and Lil Wayne was in a class of his own. The community was beginning to trade in baggy clothes for clothes that were too tight, auto-tune was still frowned upon, and being an internet-savvy entertainer was an underrated strength. Enter Odd Future, a group of young artists that would take the world by storm, led by a teenage boy who would eventually be banned from some parts of it. His over-the-top videos, use of explicit language along with his content including topics of rape, violence, and all-out chaos, were crucial in generating internet buzz around his earlier projects. But while this caught young internet users’ eye, it caught the eye of their parents as well, leading to the Odd Future frontman becoming a public parental enemy throughout America, stifling his mainstream trajectory.
However, with each album, Tyler’s genius became more apparent, it wasn’t just anger and yelling, there was a storyline, characters, a flow, and order. By the release of Tyler’s third project, “Wolf” in 2013 Tyler had made a name for himself, his Odd Future clothing was flying off the shelves, he had a TV Show on Cartoon Network, his close friend Frank Ocean was a Grammy winner and he was finally being noticed by a larger, more accepting audience. But even though Tyler’s sound was becoming one of the most refined in Hip-Hop, the community generally stayed clear from Tyler.
While Tyler’s ability to create a universe within his music was as impressive as it was unique, Tyler and his aesthetic needed a bit of time to become ready for the mainstream. In 2015 Tyler’s initial flagship characters and themes of his first three projects had come to a close, and the rapper was ready for something new, enter “Cherry Bomb.” Met with some moderate critical acclaim, on “Cherry Bomb” it was clear his maturity was still progressing in front of our faces, however, the album lacked a level of consistency and cohesiveness, specifically in content. While Tyler’s albums have always thrived being sonically versatile and unpredictable, fans and critics alike wanted to see Tyler take it up a level. While “Cherry Bomb” had a clear aesthetic, the overall theme didn’t jump out at you like before, and even worse so, Tyler would not be able to tour the album around the world with the United Kingdom banning him from visiting, let alone performing. Yet again, Tyler would find himself stuck in a situation hindering his rise to superstardom.
2017’s “Flower Boy” served as Tyler’s 4th studio album and first to be certified. Between the singles and music video releases before the album, it was clear Tyler had a new focus and for die-hard fans, there was optimism we would get something historic. Partly fueled by the not so faint allusion to his queer status and propped up by the fact that the album was a complete gem, “Flower Boy” would end up earning Tyler a grammy nomination for best rap album. Finally, Tyler stopped being known as just the loud vulgar kid, with amazing beats and underrated vision and started being respected as one of the few Hip-Hop connoisseurs to come out of the new age.
Shaking the ground again in 2019 with his experimental “IGOR,” Tyler, The Creator would introduce a new character and be rewarded with a #1 album, a platinum certification for his smash hit single “Earfquake” and an eventual lift on his ban from the UK. But “IGOR” didn’t get the same critical reception as “Flower Boy”. “IGOR” saw Tyler expanding on the use of his singing and sacrificing some of his instrumentation for a more electronic, dance sound, which threw many of his fans off. But Tyler also used this album to introduce a new character “IGOR”, a tall figure, with a taste for high fashion, and a signature blond wig. Tyler showed that he is a great performance artist just as much as he is a producer or rapper. Tyler, The Creator was keeping in line with his name, continuing to create new ideas and approaches to clothing, music, and videos that showed he was reaching peak maturity, and creatively couldn’t be touched.
Fast forward to his latest album “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” selling 169K in its first week, and hosted by DJ Drama, paying homage to the historic Gangsta Grillz Mixtape series of the 2010s. Inspired to rap again by Westside Gunn, Tyler’s latest album makes good on all the past experiences, all the ups and downs, all the hits, and the flops. His latest album is his most refined, most focused, and best-produced album yet. A true masterpiece, Tyler, The Creator has solidified himself at the top of music. Experimental, Classic Hip Hop or otherwise.
There’s no telling what Tyler will do next. He’s done it all, and now he’s at the side mission part of the campaign. He’s entering the high fashion sphere, Golfwang had become a Converse partnership titled “Golf le Fleur”, which includes a shoe line, he hosts one of the best music festivals in America (Camp Flog Gnaw) and with his 3rd critically acclaimed album in a row “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST”, it’s safe to say Tyler isn’t just in his prime, but he’s been in it for some time now. Whether it be live performances, albums, clothes, TV & Film, Tyler’s next move could be anything, but it’s safe to say Tyler hasn’t just arrived, he’s now in control.