How Being A Fan of Tyler, the Creator Molded Me and Maybe an Entire Generation
One day I was watching MTV Jams, a program that I don’t think exists anymore for obvious reasons. The channel usually played your run of the mill Chris Brown and Drake music videos. Shortly speaking, it isn’t the best place to discover new, progressive music. But one time, I turned it on and I saw a black shadow sitting in a chair. Creepy and unsettling music was playing in the background which made my eyes glue to the television. I don’t recall even blinking during the first minute. Throughout the video, the rapper was cradling a huge cockroach in his hand and eventually ended up devouring it. My young mind wasn’t just disgusted by the imagery, but also by the disturbing lyrics. Brutal lines like “telling Jesus to quit b*tching, “stabbing Bruno Mars,” and the excessive use of extremely harsh profanities left me frozen in fear. The end of the video featured him hanging himself. I thought he was the devil himself.
The horrific image of him hanging was stained in my mind for the next 24 hours. My curiosity got the best of me. I got on the internet and searched terms like “roach-eating rapper” and “suicide rapper.” After the few tries, I found the name Tyler, The Creator along with the infamous music video, “Yonkers.” I also discovered he had only one mixtape to his name called Bastard and is the head a hip-hop group called Odd Future. I ventured into his entire catalog and fell in love with his music. His music was full of anger and frustration which I could relate to as a preteen. From the process of puberty to my parents impending divorce, Tyler’s music was the outlet I needed at the time. I still wasn’t comfortable with how he expressed his atheism by chastising religion or how he rapped about rape, but the music was a perfect medium for the resistance of my parental guidance.
I was a superfan. I ran a Tumblr blog that followed Tyler and his career endeavors. The era when Tyler released his debut album, Goblin, was arguably the best time to be a fan. My first few years of middle school were comprised solely of Tyler. Of course, that obsession was due to the impressionability of my youth, but I took great pride in being a fan. Any negative critiques of him made me furious. As a whole, Odd Future fans were passionately rebellious and disrespectful toward cancerous authorities because it was the main thing that the rap group preached. The consensus was “fuck the system,” which translated to them telling people to do what they love and not care what anybody thinks. That’s exactly why Tyler made such a huge impression on me as an 11-year-old: he made it clear that the only person that dictated his success was him.
Fast forward to 2013 when he released his sophomore album, Wolf. He gave fans compassionate songs about love and his last goodbye to his fatherless woes. It had far less of an angry tone than any of his preceding projects. It was more so a look into how he was developing as an adult with more responsibilities. The look of his fanbase was changing too. It went from annoying white men that would call you the n-word on Twitter to pretty black girls in flower crowns. It wasn’t automatic, but it was a smoother transition than I would have ever thought would happen. It’s highly likely that those kinds of girls were mad at the world just like I was.
In late 2014, my sister bought me two Tyler tickets for me and my friend as a birthday present. Unfortunately though, “Yonkers” was still his most popular song, and when my mother saw the video, there was no way I was ever going to go to that concert. My mother also thought he was the devil personified. This caught me by surprise. I completely forgot the type of person that Tyler perceived himself to be on that song. Tyler’s music had progressed by not by just lighter production, but lighter lyrical content. She told me I definitely was not going to his concert.
His 2015 release, Cherry Bomb, was Tyler at his happiest. The happiness was a contagion to his fans. The project had virtually no type of negative energy at all. Despite that, some fans didn’t like the turn of events. They missed the old, as they were still miserable and needed someone to relate to them. They weren’t able to make the emotional and mental progressions Tyler was able to. That’s not necessarily their fault, but their dislike came from the peace of mind he was in rather than the overall quality of the actual music. He lost those Goblin-era fans, but was able to make new ones at the same time. The people Tyler helped grow out of their sadness had stuck around. There are not a lot of transformative artists out there like Tyler. There are not a lot of transformative fans like Tyler’s.
Now we are in 2017. He’s set to release his fourth studio album, Scum Fuck Flower Boy on July 21. By the look of the singles, he is still as joyous as ever. Being a Tyler, the Creator fan throughout my life has helped tremendously with my character. He taught me the strides you can make as a person and how I shouldn’t let anyone stop me from achieving my dreams. My introduction to hip-hop was with Tyler. I am thankful for that because it taught me how much of a strong effect music can have on people. I’m happy he is making music that truthfully reflects him as a person now.