Tyler, The Creator: Goblin to Flowerboy

Matthew Boyle, Staff Writer

With the May release of his most critically acclaimed album “IGOR,” Tyler, The Creator, real name Tyler Okonma, has shown that he has come a long way from his days with the insanely named California Hip-Hop collective, “OFWGKTA” (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All). IGOR has broken several records, making history for being the first solo produced rap album to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album list, and what’s more, this album features Tyler rapping less than ever before.  This time around, Okonma chose to explore his more sensitive and creative side with tracks like “PUPPET” and “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?,” while still delivering his signature bangers such as “NEW MAGIC WAND” and “WHAT’S GOOD.” 

Tyler wasn’t always the critically acclaimed, open and vulnerable artist we know today. Turning the clock back a decade would show you a completely different person.  A Tyler who had been banned from the U.K. and had his concerts protested for “homophobic” lyrics, and talk of intense violence. Dropping every slur in the book in every other song of his earlier album “GOBLIN” and his mixtape “BASTARD.” You would see a young adult labeled a homophobe, a racist, and a terrorist. Someone who, in his own eyes, was just being offensive for the fun of it. 

Despite all this, Tyler was able to make a large career for himself. His 2013 album, titled “WOLF,” saw Tyler exposing a more emotional side to himself. It was a more laid back album, but one that many Tyler fans consider their favorite, with sticky, lovey tracks like “Awkward,” the personal, father-hating track “Answer,” and instrumentally odd, unsettling track “IFHY.” It was the success of this album that would propel him into the view of Adult Swim, where he was greenlit for a TV show, which would come to be known as Loiter Squad. The show received good ratings and decent reviews from fans and critics alike, due to it being an amalgamation of pranks, skits, and other weird art forms from Tyler himself, accompanied by his many friends.

Tyler’s rise to fame wouldn’t always be in the positive, however, and his 2015 album “CHERRY BOMB” shows this perfectly. The album is a Frankenstien’s monster of gritty, heavy, demonic beats, smooth jazz, hip hop, and many more. The album hit a nerve with some, even Tyler fans criticizing the album for its inconsistency in sound, production quality, and “bipolar” lyrics, going from the bass-destroyed “CHERRY BOMB,” over to tracks like the quiet, angelic “2SEATER.” 

Expectations for Tyler were then shattered, when he unexpectedly dropped his 2017 album “Flower Boy.” The album was a stark turn for Tyler, as it seemed to nearly completely abandon his immature, zany personality, for a more serious, sensitive, and emotional one. Tracks like “Forward” highlight Tyler’s distaste and anxiety about the rockiness surrounding the music industry, while tracks such as “911 / Mr. Lonely” highlight the rapper’s increasingly dissatisfaction with his fame, and his fortune, just wanting to be loved for himself, not just for his art. This album also may have revealed Tyler’s sexuality, as there are several lines on the album illuding to the possibility of him being gay. Internet critics like Anthony Fantano (theneedledrop) agreed that this album was a major step in the right direction for the artist, and hopefully the start of an artistic reinvention for the California rapper. Tyler’s next album would only solidify this belief further. 

Only four months ago, Tyler dropped his fifth studio album IGOR to critical acclaim. Tyler was more open, more sensitive, more emotional than ever before. He was more jazzy, and rapping less than on any other record he’s ever put out. Ironically enough, this album, as stated before, became the first and only solo-produced rap album to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album list. This record featured Tyler in a new persona, IGOR, representative of his plight and his life for the past decade. He’s been IGOR all his life, seen as an internet troll, and someone who’d quickly become a thing of the past. But now IGOR has risen to stardom, and what’s more, he’s falling in love. The lyrics aren’t clear at times, but it’s very clear through the track titles that IGOR is a love story. 

In the breakout single “EARFQUAKE,” Tyler sings to his lover about how he cannot live without them, and how they’re his entire world. They make his earth shake from their mere presence alone. The track “PUPPET” shows that this person is controlling Tyler. They’re not even manipulating him, he’s just so enthralled and loves this person to the extent where they could get anything from him without a second thought. Finally though, Tyler realizes this, and the final three tracks conclude this love story, with “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU,” “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE,” and “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” 

It’s a mystery as to where Tyler will head next. Is this the high of his career, is it only downhill now? Or will Tyler wow us again by passing expectations as he did with his past two records. Only time will tell.