In 2009, when a new 18 year old rapper named Tyler, The Creator emerged onto the scene with his mixtape ‘BASTARD’ and you pressed play on the opening track, and the first rap line you heard was ‘This is what the devil plays before he goes to sleep’ nobody really knew what to expect. But nobody, and I mean nobody expected that 7 years later we would be talking about someone who has had their own fashion show, their own carnival, features with some of the biggest musicians of all time, personal acknowledgement from his idols and such a big impact on the culture of Hip-Hop. But to see how Tyler got here, we first must, go backwards.
Tyler had created a buzz with his BASTARD mixtape but what really drove him into the spotlight was the simple, disturbing, different and now iconic video for his single Yonkers. A black and white video, featuring Tyler, wearing a shirt and a Supreme cap, sitting on a stool, eating a cockroach and then hanging himself while he raps about everything from Adventure Time to stabbing Bruno Mars. Tyler and his crew; Odd Future were then starting to gain some serious attention. A co-sign tweet from Kanye West referring to the Yonkers video as ‘The video of 2011’ only boosted the hype surrounding Tyler. Tyler and Odd Future entered the Hip-Hop scene at the perfect time. The ‘gangster’ persona was faded; rappers like 50 Cent and The Game were still relevant but way past their prime and it was time for a new sound and culture for the genre. In came; Drake, clearly influenced by Kanye and Cudi, who brought his mixture of singing and rapping, ASAP Rocky and his ASAP Mob, who marketed themselves more as a brand, rather than just a group of rappers, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, who were gaining major popularity from their mixtapes and were being seen as perhaps the heir to the rap throne. Then there was Tyler and Odd Future.
As Odd Future began to be in the spotlight, it was apparent from the beginning that they were different to any rap ‘crew’, or any crew in music in general. It wasn’t just that the content of their music was different, the image they created and represented was different. They didn’t wear the latest Givenchy, Raf Simons and Rick Owens clothes and try and fit in with the likes of Kanye, Jay-Z and ASAP Rocky. They wore brands like Supreme, Vans, Thrasher and just about any other skater brand you can think of. They didn’t go to fashion shows or red carpet events; they went to the skate park. They, as a group, with Tyler at the helm essentially ‘broke down the door’ and brought in a whole new culture to Hip-Hop. They allowed kids, whether they were Black, Asian or White who might’ve considered themselves social outcasts or part of the skater culture into Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop would not have been a genre and a lifestyle that was relateable to kids like this before Tyler and Odd Future.
Eminem has unquestionably had the biggest impact on the culture of Hip-Hop in the 2000s, being white and the best rapper in world at one point in a genre and lifestyle that was considered only to be for African Americans opened the door for a whole new race to openly listen to Hip-Hop and be accepted into the culture. Pharrell also had a huge impact on the culture of Hip-Hop in the early 2000s. He can be considered as one of the first respected personalities in Hip-Hop that did not have the ‘gangster’ image. Calling himself Skateboard P and wearing brands like Bape and Billionaire Boys Club allowed people who did not relate to the’gangster’persona that was soaked throughout Hip-Hop in the 1990s to embrace the genre, and becomes fans of the genre and the culture that comes with it. It’s no surprise that Eminem is one of Tyler’s favourite ever rappers and that he has stated his affection for Pharrell and the influence that Pharrell had on him personally, many, many, many times.
Throughout the 2010s, fashion has become a huge part of Hip-Hop culture. Some of the key influences of this are clearly; Kanye West, diving into high fashion and then making his own Yeezy Season collection and ASAP Rocky who masterfully blends high fashion and street-wear like we’ve never see before. But Tyler may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of ‘Hip-Hop’ and ‘Fashion’, but his influence is undeniable. While Supreme always has been and always will be an iconic brand, Tyler is recognised as someone that put the brand ‘back on the map’, because of how perfectly he wore the brand in his early music videos like ‘Yonkers’ and ‘She’. Brands like Supreme, Vans, Thrasher, Stussy and Palace are prominent in Hip-Hop fashion now because of Tyler and Odd Future. Tyler and other Odd Future members themselves have referenced how influential they have been in regards to allowing brands like these to be accepted into Hip-Hop, with quotable lines in various songs, such as; ‘Oh you wearing Supreme and Vans this season? Quit lying to yourself nigga, me the reason’ (Tyler, The Creator – What The Fuck Right Now) and ‘If your nigga had Supreme we was the reason he copped it’ (Earl Sweatshirt – AM // Radio). It’s not coincidence that stars within Hip-Hop and fans of the genre started paying attention to so called ‘Skater Brands’ after Tyler and Odd Future made it acceptable and cool to wear them.
Anyone considered to be a fan of Tyler knows of his ‘I do what I want and I don’t give a fuck what you think’ attitude and admires, respects and loves him for it. The 18 year old that rapped about the devil, rape and murder on his first mixtape also said that he would follow and accomplish his dreams no matter what. And he did. He collaborated with his idol Pharrell on the song IFHY. He hosts his own GOLFWANG / CAMP FLOG NAW carnival every year and has previously had special guests like Kanye West and Pharrell perform. He had his own fashion show for his GOLF clothing line. He had shorts, plain t shirts and vans on a runway for a fashion show, shaped like a skate park. He continues to go against what is considered the normal and create his own lane, break down barriers and influence the current generation to think for themselves and go for their dreams, while influencing the Hip-Hop music we listen to and the way we dress.
In an interview with Spin Magazine, Tyler stated that ‘I don’t even listen to rap.’ Yet he has influenced the genre in a way that not many people before him have been able to. A true inspiration and at age 25, already a living legend.