Tyler, The Creator’s journey towards self-acceptance

Taylor Smallwood Volunteer Writer [email protected]

Early in his career, Tyler Okonma, known as Tyler, the Creator, was in a collective called OFWGKTA, better known as Odd Future. Odd Future can be described as a group of misfit teens who all came together to perform in ways the world had not yet seen. I was not a fan of the music released by this rag-tag team, but in the coming years I would grow just as much as Tyler, the Creator, himself.The collective ignited major controversy over their shock-rap lyrics. People began to associate Odd Future, especially Tyler, the Creator, with horrorcore: lyrics revolving around rape, murder and many other violent themes.Tyler, the Creator released his own album titled “Bastards,” which also featured lyrics pertaining to rape and murder as well as homophobia and misogyny. This album and his next titled “Goblin” both had the same type of sound and grittiness to them.The first time I heard Tyler was on his song “Yonkers” from “Goblin.” This song was a staple point in his career and sent him to stardom.Two years after releasing “Goblin,” Tyler, the Creator released “Wolf”. This album showed a slight shift in his music. Not only was his music different, but the art he was putting out with it was different as well. The album covers of the first two were dark and had images that were not kind to the eyes. “Wolf” had a light blue background with just two different pictures of Tyler. In one he is holding an inhaler. “Wolf” was almost a love story between three characters on the album. Despite this change, he still has themes of misogyny and homophobia is this album.Another two years passed before Tyler released his album titled “Cherry Bomb.” This album displayed a gentler side of his personality, but his older fans started to show backlash. They did not like seeing this side of him, as they had only known the dark, twisted narrative of his last three albums. This album was his most playful; he produced it himself and had experimented a lot with it.“Flower Boy,” a censored version of the original album title, was a major turning point in Tyler, the Creator’s music. This album’s themes are growth and vulnerability. Tyler showed a side of himself people never expected. He alluded to his sexuality in this album with lyrics like, “Next line I’ll have em’ like woah, I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004” and “Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase, thought it’d be like the Frank, poof, gone, but, it’s still goin’ on.” The thought of someone who portrayed himself as misogynistic and homophobic while hiding who he really was through music is exceptional artistry. Even at the early stages of his career, he stated that his lyrics were just him telling stories and encouraging listeners to not copy what he was doing. In “Flower Boy” he began to express his true self and let people see his personal growth.Despite this his roots still show in tracks like “Who Dat Boy,” a song with traces of his gritty, hardcore style of music. This song showed that while Tyler was opening up more as an artist and a person, he still had room to grow.This growth is evident in his latest full-length album “Igor.” This album has a sense of cohesiveness. It is well-rounded and truly represents and expands on his queer nature. “Igor” is a love story following Tyler and the boy he is in love with and their relationship journey. Produced and written by Tyler himself, it is one of his most emotional albums, further propelled by the production and singing in each track.His earlier works were full of homophobia, so for him to allude to his sexuality was a huge shock to his fans. Some said he was just putting on a persona, but I feel that this would not be something someone would use when they know their fans are not particularly fond of it.It was a big step for him to take. I think that his earlier content resulted from him being alienated and suffocating under something he was hiding; he felt the need to put out music that was against what he truly thought and felt.I never felt more in tune with someone then when I heard “Igor” for the first time. I felt as if I was listening to someone I could relate to. The things he spoke about in this album hit close to home. The album starts with Tyler falling in love with a stranger. It then moves to him kindling a friendship that grows into a relationship. However, it concludes with the couple breaking up and ending their friendship. I find that when artists’ lyrics are relatable their songs are more enjoyable for me to listen to.I loved watching Tyler grow as an artist. I was not a huge fan of his earlier music and would criticize my brother for listening to “Goblin.” As time went on and I saw his growth, I was overcome with emotion. I was lucky enough to see him perform live on his “Igor” tour. He has such a strong stage presence for one man. There was never a moment he was not dancing around the stage. Of course, since this was the “Igor” tour, most of the songs were from that album. In the middle of the set, he spoke about how he loves the fans he has grown with over the years. He said that he feels love for fans that came from Odd Future and later from “Igor” despite his past.Tyler, the Creator has paved a way for artists to take risks and be who they truly want to be. He does not like labels and likes to step outside of boundaries. He shows that anyone can love themselves, even when at their lowest point and cannot even recognize themselves. Tyler, the Creator’s growth and music will continue to stick with many as he continues his journey.