How Tyler, The Creator went from an industry outcast to winning big in 2021

Tyler, The Creator

US rapper Tyler, The Creator performs during the Austin City Limits Festival, at Zilker Park, on October 3, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Picture: Suzanne Cordeiro AFP

Published Oct 8, 2021


When Tyler, The Creator and his crew of outcasts, “Odd Future”, broke into the mainstream music industry a decade ago, they immediately made a point of expressing their disdain for celebrity.

They cussed out their peers, they were unruly at every turn, and they shunned media appearances and celebrity co-signings, in favour of group collaborations.

It didn’t seem like they’d be around very long.

But despite widespread media criticism, they only grew in popularity, embodying the kind of fanfare Eminem garnered, by appealing to fans who also felt like outsiders.

Their shows were wild and full of rage and, occasionally, protesters would camp outside to express their displeasure at the group’s foul-mouthed music.

For the first few years, it wasn’t quite clear whether their vision was to topple the powers that be, or if garnering outrage was just their marketing strategy.

Either way, their lyrics and gimmicks saw them banned from countries, such as Australia, England, and New Zealand, for several years.

As their popularity grew, Tyler, their de facto leader, began to temper his aggression in favour of more sober, thoughtful lyrics, particularly on 2017’s “Flower Boy” and 2019's Grammy Award-winning album, “Igor”.

Tyler’s recent album, “Call Me When You Get Lost” continues on this departure from the “Odd Future’s” DNA.

He isn’t cussing people out on every second verse and he’s casting his net wide, with a handful of A-Listers featured on the project, including Lil Wayne, Brent Faiyaz, Lil Uzi Vert, and Pharrell Williams.

It's this openness to collaboration and a much more well-rounded sonic appeal that's led to more commercial success.

In a viral clip from an interview with HOT 97 in August, Tyler discussed his unexpected success and how he's learned to embrace the naysayers: “They try to push me to the side, keep doing that.

“Ten years later I’m still here bro, my career has only been (going up). It’s artists who were the hottest sh** in 2012, where are they right now?

“People push me to the side like, ‘That ni*** weird’, but I’m still here right now. Pockets heavy, skin glowing, looking for a lake house right now.”

At Wednesday’s 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards, Tyler was the biggest winner of the night, taking home awards for Album of the Year, Best Live Performer and Cultural Influence Award. During his acceptance speech for the Cultural Influence Award, he spoke on how far he’s come and paid homage to some of his influences.

“Playboi Carti has a line where he says: ‘Bought my mama house off this mumbling sh**,’ and I always tear up when he says that.

“This thing that’s a hobby or a pastime or a passion for us, a lot of people in here, that sh** kept us out of trouble.

“And it allowed us to change our family lives and friends’ lives … I definitely think that I’ve created my own path, but it’s people – who allowed me to understand that I can do that – who laid the blueprint.”

He might still feel like an outcast, but Tyler is in his moment, and he's being embraced a lot more than we ever thought he would.

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