Tyler, the Creator uttered an emphatic “Fuck no” when asked recently by Hot 97 radio host Peter Rosenberg if the hip-hop collective he came up in, Odd Future, would have succeeded in 2021.
Beginning with 2008’s “The Odd Future Tape,” the group’s catalog was littered with violent, sexist, misogynistic and homophobic lyrics, which would never fly in the current climate. In fact, Tyler’s subsequent solo material was deemed so offensive at the time, he was ultimately banned from multiple countries, including New Zealand, Australia and the entire U.K., accused of promoting violence, homophobia and racism.
“We came at the right time when you could still be crazy, you could still be a kid and fuck up,” he told Rosenberg in the August 2021 interview. “You could still have satire. You could have a conversation even if you disagree.”
And Tyler knows he just slid by. Since breaking out on his own, he has slowly evolved into a modern-day renaissance man — and it’s truly been inspiring to watch, if not a bit unbelievable. After all, he’s the same person who rapped “Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” on the 2011 “Goblin” single “Tron Cat.” That’s not to say he still doesn’t have the occasional controversial bar, but they’re tame by Odd Future standards.
Now 30, Tyler’s bold and often brash creativity has opened the door for a multi-faceted career. He’s helmed his own fashion lines (the recently launched Golf le Fleur and Golf Wang), earned two No. 1 Billboard 200 albums (to competitor DJ Khaled’s apparent chagrin), picked up a Grammy in the best rap album category (for 2020’s “Igor”) and earned a second nod in the same division, for 2021’s “Call Me If You Get Lost.”
But Tyler predicted he would win a Grammy over 12 years ago, a testament to his unabashed confidence. Shortly after his win, he had what he described as a “petty” moment and drudged up an old tweet from someone who insisted he’d never win one.
“I FAVORITED THIS 9 YEARS AGO JUST FOR THE MOMENT TO TELL YOU I GOT ONE,” Tyler tweeted in January 2020. “YES IM PETTY AS FUCK, GOOD DAY MARK.”
It may have taken him nearly a decade to nab a gilded trophy, but it was well deserved. The growth and maturity Tyler has exhibited over the last few years has been palpable, especially on “Call Me If You Get Lost.”
Boasting features from Lil Wayne, NBA YoungBoy, Pharrell Williams, Lil Uzi Vert and more, the 16-track album effortlessly illustrated Tyler’s appeal with both a mainstream rap audience and underground hip-hop nerds who still appreciate his anti-establishment attitude. Between the braggadocious bars about his Rolls Royce and multiple homes, typical of what’s found in the homogenized rap that rules the Billboard charts, Tyler also presented a refreshing vulnerability typically shunned by men in the rap world. As he spit on “Corso,” “Turn the fuckin’ noise up… my heart broken / Remember I was rich so I bought me some new emotions / And a new boat ’cause I rather cry in the ocean.”
Then there was “Massa,” which came with a line that appeared to address his sexuality: “Everyone I ever loved had to be loved in the shadows,” another “a-ha” moment for those still curious about his private life. For years, people have assumed Tyler is gay or bisexual, and while he’s never exactly admitted it — at least not without a joke attached to it — he seems more comfortable in his skin than he’s ever been. On the 2017 album “Flower Boy,” Tyler slid in a jarring confession on the song “Ain’t Got Time” in which he said, “Next line will have ’em like, ‘Whoa’ / I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004,” an obvious shift from the homophobia presented on previous Odd Future projects.
Whether that was the beginning of a type of rebirth for Tyler, the Creator is only something he knows, but one thing is certain — this is Tyler’s moment. When the 64th annual Grammy Awards do get rescheduled, there’s a high probability that Tyler — maybe rocking a stylish sweater vest, bellhop hat and baby-blue-painted nails — will be on that stage once again, proving to the world that his talent, ingenuity and ambition far outweighed any lingering moral distaste.