Why Tyler, The Creator Is The Low-Key MVP Of 2015.

Feb. 14, 2011: “Odd Future is coming to
town, you haven’t heard?” I stared
blankly at my friend with the same face
most people gave me when they found
out I enjoyed the wild
collective’s music. It was 6:50 p.m. and instead of taking a seat in my 7:00 p.m.
American Studies class, I was in route
to D.C.’s U Street Music Hall – a no
frills basement dance club doubling as a
live music venue come sundown. I
figured the night’s show would undoubtedly be worth skipping that day’s
snoozefest of a lecture. “C’mon, we’re
going. You’ll thank me later,” I said,
handing him his ticket from my
backpack. Outside, the temperature had
peaked at a cool 30 degrees, and the 11th Street cross street was flooded with
throngs of teenagers and twenty-
something’s patiently waiting in line for
a show that promised to be as titillating
as a delinquent’s first joy ride. An interesting flow of characters just as
unique as the bubbling underground
crew, themselves, poured into the venue.
It was a sold-out crowd of mostly
angsty, white kid skate mobs decked out
in Supreme, freckled with black, brown and yellow faces, who all came together
to partake in drunken camaraderie. They
chanted “KILL PEOPLE, BURN SH*T, F**K SCHOOL” at the top of their lungs as the Goblin fictional deep cut “Radicals” brimmed. And as unromantic
as moshing with hundreds of sweaty
people for an hour-long show sounded,
after four beers I was oblivious to the
rabid stench that lingered. That night, I
went back to my dorm drunk and utterly mind-f**ked by the rarity I had
experienced.

That was my first and (unfortunately)
last time seeing Odd Future Wolf Gang
Kill Them All live. Subsequently, it was
their first booked gig outside of their
native L.A., and a precursor to the
fanatic fandom that would soon ensue. If you were down with OF, admission for
entry was breaking all the rules and
leaving all f**ks at the door. In real life,
OFWGKTA’s fittingly odd, on-wax and
Internet-based vigor felt like attacking
grand undertakings you knew could result in near-death experiences, but
will make for awesome stories for your
grand kids. While some labeled their
movement threatening, just witnessing
the crowd feed off of their charismatic,
in-your-face energy was inspiring, especially as a group of young black
kids. Crawling from the crevices of their
obscene, ill-mannered YouTube channel
full of F-bombs and homemade videos
to ascending to full-on magazine
features chronicling their unhinged, anti
movement, Odd Future blossomed into more than just a trend. From inception,
Tyler & Co. knew who they were, what
they represented and where exactly they
wanted to stand in the musical
soundscape: “They are them. We are us.
F**k them all.” That same confidence that resonated in their provocatively
progressive voices resulted in them not
only catching the attention of a more
diverse audience, but reviving and
breaking the mold of rap collectives,
ultimately bringing a raw creativity the industry desperately needed and
audiences willing to listen craved. No
matter how odd and controversial, OF’s
prominence likened them to the new
face of rap. But U Street was just the
beginning of my own good rapport with the collective. Two days later, I’d watch frontman
Tyler and Hodgy Beats introduce the
Wolf Gang to the world and become
unlikely household names thanks to their
Jimmy Fallon TV debut, where they
made the late night show their playground, hopping, jumping, and
hurdling across the stage in full-face ski
masks. I’d then cop a hard copy of T’s
inaugural solo release, Goblin, witness him score his first MTV VMA
Moonman for Best New Artist and
transcend right before my eyes from
awkward and lanky Ladera Heights, Ca.
adolescent no name to unapologetic
twenty-something rap mastermind fronting the coolest rap crew— one
millennials and the world at large never
knew they needed nor expected—in just
the span of one year.

Okay, so maybe Odd Future is over. And
while fans still haven’t gotten over the
fact that people grow up and grow out of
friendships (business partnerships or
whatever you want to call it), it should
be noted that even though the collective has more or less dismantled, OF has
maintained a formidable staying power
in music today, spawning successful acts
like Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean,
Earl Sweatshirt, and The Internet,
reminding us that the future doesn’t look as bad as we thought. In particular, OF ringleader Tyler
reminds us of this. But here lies the
problem: Tyler has yet to receive the
props and credit he deserves as one of
the youngest, most forward-thinking
artists of this generation. However, there are moments when it seems that T likes
it that way – “See me, I don’t compromise, I know my
accomplishments/F**k your
compliments, b**ch I got confidence.” Whether you f**k with his music or not,
you simply can’t deny T’s talent. (Wu-
Tang and Odd Future publicist,
Heathcliff Berru said that Tyler’s ODB
with a hint of GZA). “There’s a lot of
people that don’t listen to his music but love him,” says Chris Clancy, his
longtime manager. “I think he’s become
bigger than just the music because he
represents possibility.” That would mean
denouncing the fact that at 19 he had
already reached multi hyphenate status: rapper-producer-visual artist-video
director. Not to mention, every year
since his 2011 breakout, Tyler further
built upon his riotous foundation rooted
in uncanny ambitions, which makes
other rapper’s hackneyed hustle spiel seem like a cakewalk. Case in point: T
followed up his musical endeavors by
releasing a 196-page Odd Future photo
book, producing three seasons of an
Adult Swim sketch comedy series, Loiter Squad, designing cool merchandise, landing a sneaker
collaboration with Vans, and starting his
own music festival, Camp Flognaw.

But no matter how gifted and no matter
how many dope projects he adds to his
repertoire, it’s the controversy
surrounding him that lingers at large, like
my own priceless reaction when he
explained the meaning behind the title, “THE BROWN STAINS OF
DARKEESE LATIFAH PART 6-12
(REMIX),” or his Technicolor, n****r
inscribed Vans. Sure, he’s said some
crazy sh*t, I won’t shy away from that
truth, but who didn’t when they were teetering on the edge of adolescence and
adulthood? “The irony of it all is that
he’s actually grown out of that. He’s not
the guy that’s going to make some
statement because that’s what you’re
supposed to do nowadays,” Clancy adds. “He’s traveled the world, he’s had some
incredible experiences and he’s applied
that to his own life. He’s always going
to be of a button pusher, but that’s just a
part of who he his.” Even still, a lot of
the racy lyrics that people remember from years back shadow him, as some
aren’t pleased with his equal parts goofy
and potty mouth that spits out obscenities
like universal greetings. Satanist,
misogynist, homophobic, you name it,
Tyler has been labeled it. There have even been multiple articles detailing how
he’s killing rap with how his music that
has no intrinsic value, literally off of
lyrics that he wrote nearly four years
ago. Nevertheless, the unlikely breakout star
has managed to still keep the space in
music he carved out for himself, with no
one being anywhere close in the
rankings of filling his shoes. The loyal
fan base that’s been rooting for him since Goblin, even Bastard, is pure proof, which is also a sure signal that
while he might not matter to some, Tyler
matters. And even though the facts are
on the surface, it warrants a deeper look.
If you comprehend what I’m trying to get
at, there’s a pattern. T continues to add more to his plate, living up to the
proposal of his stage moniker: the sole
proprietor of the word “creator,” but it
goes unnoticed and written off as bat-
sh*t crazy child’s play.

Today, the same perception of T’s
mythology continues with several noted
publications omitting Tyler from year-
end list conversations and rankings –
some of which he covered this year.
2015 alone was one of epically portioned contributions from him while
counterattacking critics aiming loading
ammo straight at him. It’s applause-
worthy, especially after being banned from Australia and the UK indefinitely. Majority rule at VIBE may have crowned Fetty Wap as the most valuable
player, but T’s superb hand job of juggling the rap game in the palm of his
hands for the past four years surpasses
“Trap Queen” territory any and every
day in my book. F**k your feelings. T
wasn’t fully appreciated the first time
around with OF, so it only feels right to crown him low-key MVP this year. Take
it or leave it. To start, Tyler’s highly anticipated
fourth album, Cherry Bomb, which is his most ambitious ever, alone surprised
many—not just because of its
unexpected release but conceptually and
sonically we were introduced to a damn
near grown up T. “It’s the album I
always wanted to make,” he told Billboard. A far cry from the expected sinister and off-kilter narrative of his
previous works, Cherry Bomb treaded whimsical waters reintroducing us to the
T that fancies melodic chord changes,
overdoses on Erykah Badu’s “Time’s a
Wastin’,” and believes Death Grips is a
higher power equating to the remedy for
efficiency. Overall, the 15-track LP, which he produced all himself, is a
quirky gem jammed with stouthearted
jazz ensembles lead by OG Roy Ayers,
ridiculously flavorsome R&B riffs
performed by Boyz II Men’s Wayna
Morris (“BLOW MY LOAD”) and Charlie Wilson (“F**KING YOUNG/
PERFECT”), anchored by a confident as
ever T, who surprisingly rounds out his
usually inky, pitch-dark roar with
intonated warbles. And while most of his
peers complain about not getting so- called rapper friends to drop verses on
their tracks, Tyler managed to snag his
idol Pharrell (“KEEP DA O’s”) for a
second time, and finessed features from
Lil Wayne and Kanye on one track
(“SMUCKERS”)—we haven’t seen such a collabo since Drake’s
“Forever” (2010). Now ain’t that a tough
guest list for a rapper who claims he
doesn’t even f**k with rappers? And
while most OF devotees and some critics weren’t necessarily fans of T’s sunnier side (average rating of 3.5 out of
5), the album served a greater purpose
for him (See: “FIND YOUR WINGS”)
that didn’t need to be comprehended or
even appreciated for that matter by
others, echoing his usual sentiment that as long as he understands what he’s
doing, that’s all that should matter.

As a follow up to the LP, which charted
No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums
without cheesy marketing –just four
various vinyl covers as a thank you to his
fans who still find pleasure in purchasing
physical copies –T trekked across the globe bringing his newest project to life
with a 78-date Cherry Bomb World Tour touching cities between Arizona and
Japan. And then he did the unthinkable.
He teamed up with A$AP Rocky–
another rapper who leveraged a
successful career with the help of the
Internet–for a joint tour, breaking his rapper friend rules. “When they first told
me about this, I was like, ‘Nah, that’s
weird,’” Tyler said in the tour’s official
announcement video. Seemingly, while
Odd Future’s up-in-the-air break up
loomed in the blogosphere and people questioned whether the collective was
even needed in 2015 after the lone
success of most of its members, and the
A$AP Mob recuperated from Yams’
untimely death, things just conveniently
worked out themselves out. “Time went on and I was like, ‘Why not?’” That same carefree energy resonated in
the larger-than-life turn out for his fourth
annual festival experience, Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival, where he cleverly turned the parking lot of the L.A.
Coliseum into an entertaining mash up of
circus-like events and the biggest names
in music. This year, headliner Snoop
Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound shared the
stage with the likes of Jhene Aiko, Willow Smith, A$AP Rocky and more,
bringing out nearly 30,000 attendees –
their largest turn out – without big time
corporate sponsors under-riding the
whole operation. Clancy recalls getting
large sum offers from companies to have people pass out products at the festival
(one company in particular tried to
market beef jerky). “We don’t want
people walking around passing out beef
jerky. We want it to feel like a genuine
environment and sure that takes longer, but it also lasts longer.” Tyler also saw one of his biggest dreams
come to fruition this year: Golf Media
a.k.a. “Tyler and his brain without
restrictions and bullsh*t.” Symbolized
with a black letter G plastered on a
sponge yellow background, the app— which will cost you $4.99—houses
creative content curated by Tyler
himself, including several original
series, live streaming, a 24-hour radio in
which T selects every single song that is
played –I’ve heard everything from Kelis’ “Sugar Honey Iced Tea” to Pink
Floyd’s “Time” in rotation – tour/show
information, random articles on topics
like Brad Pitt and Twitter blindness,
behind-the-scenes photos, and his Golf
Wang clothing line that also lives on the app. And for techies that are into
gaming, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
delivered big with T being a playable
character in the latest edition of the
popular video game. Pretty sweet, right?

And to close out the year on an even
higher note, T received the ultimate
sartorial co-sign from the fashion bible, VOGUE, as they featured him in a Q&A style article about his recently released Fall line for Golf Wang. “I draw everything out before I make it. From
videos to clothes to certain shots for my
pictures, I usually draw everything out.
I’m actually a designer. It’s not a team
of people,” he told the publication, who
billed him in the same hip-hop mogul category as Kanye and Nicki Minaj,
who both balance bars and business-
minded conversations. Leaving me with
one question: Seriously, it took a fashion
magazine to point out hip-hop’s newly
appointed MVP? So alas, how good is Tyler? So good that
in a world of hip-hop where individuals
rant about being marginalized and
succumb to dumb marketing shticks,
Tyler has managed to finesse success in
every lane imaginable: rap, production, design, and tech, without one song in
regular rotation on the radio (for four
years, mind you), staying authentic to
his vision. People don’t have to like
Tyler or understand him. It’s almost
better if you didn’t try. But at least give credit where credit is due. And who
doesn’t love a dude who admits his only
competition is Stevie Wonder (because
the man makes the best music the world
has ever heard yet has never seen his
dick before). “I’m very bright, I’m smart, I’m annoying and obnoxious. I’m
very creative and borderline genius, and
I think other people are starting to see
that too,” T said during a Tavis Smiley
interview. All of this matters, every
single nuance about this creatively restless and adventurous guy. Below, a handful of T’s collaborators
and acquaintances longtime and new –
manager Chris Clancy, video director
Tara Razavi, singer Kali Uchis, and
director of photography Luis Perez –
reflect on his year of MVP title-worthy accomplishments.

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