Adaptability Q3

Mini Series: The Evolution of Tyler the Creator

by Hazel Thayre

Having followed Tyler, the Creator since my very early teens, I have closely watched how his image has completely transformed over the years. Nowadays, it is difficult to remember the way that Tyler used to be, for his character has undergone such a dramatic change in both an aesthetic and literal sense. Nearly every element of Tyler’s persona, from his sound to his outlook on the world, has transgressed in an unexpected way.


The Odd Future Era

As a self-produced artist, Tyler first gained fame in 2007. It was in this year that Tyler founded the alternative rap label, Odd Future(also known as OFWKGTA). The label was made up with a group of young rappers, such as Hodgy Beats and Earl Sweatshirt, who all shared a unique common ground: defiance. The hateful lyrics of Odd Future and the recurring themes of violence, drugs and anarchy in their music left listeners feeling horrified but oddly fascinated at the same time. Because of this, Tyler quickly became a controversial figure. I mean, OFWGKTA literally stands for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. How can that notrattle a few cages? From this, OFquickly gained notoriety within the music industry, as Odd Futureintroduced a very new type of bracket to the archetypes of the hip-hop world. For the devoted fans, typically young male teens, OF was more than just music, it was a language. Odd Futurewas a form of education to these young people and became an influential counter-culture movement within youth culture. As the captain of the OF ship,Tyler steered the way to fame for the group and thus became a leading name within youth culture. Odd Futurestood for the anti-establishment, the rebels, the delinquents. For the 4 – 5 years that Odd Futurewas most active, Tyler wore the ‘donut’ logo on his back like a second skin. The culture of OFwas an extension of Tyler’s own rebellious attitudes and ideologies at the time, as the topics explored by OF was revisited by Tyler in his own solo career.


Tyler, the ‘homophobe’: the Early Years

Tyler is no stranger to controversy, even in his own solo projects. In 2009, Tyler released his debut album, Bastard; an album that would set his reputation for many years. The title of this album is a direct reflection of Tyler’s image as a social outcast and non-conformist. Bastard takes the themes explored by Odd Futureto an even more horrific level, as Tyler’s lyrics in this album centre around rape, misogyny and graphic violence. Through Bastard, Tyler created the image of himself as an agnostic, as he openly identifies himself with atheism. It was these predominant and graphic themes that made Tyler even more disagreeable. The frequent homophobic slurs and threatening anti-social behaviour throughout this period was what earned Tyler his 6 year ban from the U.K; a ban issued by Theresa May that was (thankfully) lifted earlier this year. It was this unapologetic homophobic behaviour that made Tyler a problematic figure for a large part of his early career. Although Frank Ocean was “on ten of his songs”, it is impossible to excuse Tyler’s repetitive use of homophobic language as simply for dramatic effect. When Tyler started to show the beginning signs of change, I have to admit that I was thrilled.


Tyler, the ‘Flower Boy’: Current Day

The release of Flower Boyin 2017 was a pinnacle point, as I perceive this to be the period where Tyler completely and somewhat unexpectedly re-invented his public image. Odd Future was the seed and this album was quite literally the sunlight that made it grow into the blooming flower that Tyler now is today. Although his image typically shifts from album to album, Flower Boyis Tyler’s metamorphosis. The dark, murderous persona that Tyler once had was completely transformed. Prior to Flower Boy, Tyler was known for experimenting with the idea of writing with multiple conscious. His writing style took a stream of consciousness approach, as the general narrative of each album of the three albums before the release of Flower Boytold the story of Tyler’s internal battle of the dark voices in his head.  His former alter-ego’s , such as the mentally disturbed Wolf Haley in Goblinand the murderous Sam in Wolf, were once prevalent voices in Tyler’s philosophy and an alias for Tyler’s own identity. However, Flower Boyis when Tyler completely shed his former self and took on a new type of skin. The rigid expression of sexuality once found in Bastardwas now loosened, as Flower Boyis an album of self-discovery in both a personal and sexual sense. Although Tyler has never officially come out, his admission of ‘kissing white boys since 2004’ made Tyler’s former reputation as a homophobe even more of a distant memory. From this, Tyler quickly became an ally for LGBTQ community, as I view Tyler’s possible admission of his homosexuality as an apology for his past behaviour.


Nowadays, Tyler’s image continues to sparkle. His latest album IGOR, his biggest critical success yet, follows the same patterns as Flower Boy and emphasises his new attitude towards both his music and ideas on life.


Fashion: from the Battered to the Boujiee

One of the biggest factors of Tyler’s dramatic reinvention is the way in which his style has changed, almost as if in accordance to his music and ideologies. Throughout most of his career, one of Tyler’s biggest idiosyncrasies has been the clothing brand, Supreme. Supremestarted off as a small skate-wear clothing brand worn by a select few of rappers. Over the past few years, Supreme has become quintessential within popular culture and is now firmly established as one of the leading names in streetwear worldwide. As a pioneer of the ‘box logo’, Tyler massively influenced the popularisation of Supreme, as Supreme became heavily ingrained into Tyler’s aesthetic. However, as Tyler started to grow in age and popularity, his image gradually transitioned from streetwear into the luxurious realm of designer. Nowadays, Tyler is photographed flaunting the double C’s of Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. His once neutral palette of whites, blacks and blue has been replaced by primary colours, as Tyler’s style is now extremely bold and colourful.

Over the past eight or so years, It really has been quite extraordinary watching this man’s very unique journey of re-adaption. Now, it is nearly impossible to picture the Tyler that I saw in London 2014, jumping around the stage in battered blue vans and screaming words of hate into the mic. I now view Tyler, the Creator as a star who once saw the world in black-and-white but now lives in technicolour. An artist that has certainly transgressed his early legacy by ‘finding his wings’.