Daniel Brito ’23
Tyler Okonma is an extremely versatile musician, songwriter, and director. Originally associated with the rap group OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), Tyler rapped with artists who were his friends, such as Mike G, Earl Sweatshirt, and Frank Ocean. While the music made with this group was amazing and showed what his talent was, it wasn’t until the single Yonkers was released that he would gain more traction within music. The song was written, performed, as well as being directed solely by Tyler himself, which showcased the sheer amount of talent and creativity locked inside of his head. Before making assumptions about Tyler’s thoughts, it is important to try to analyze what he thinks through the discography of albums he put out himself, starting with the first album: Goblin.
Released as the first album out of a total of five in 2011, Goblin is the creation of Tyler’s dark, violent thoughts. The entire album, in the words of Tyler himself, is mostly from a personality named Wolf Haley, which is supposed to be a gritty cool guy that Tyler always wanted to be. While this is kept in mind, the album holds almost a storyline which at first circles around Wolf himself. This is presented in the self titled opening track, which has another voice talking to Wolf which kickstarts the song along with a platter of what is to be expected. After this track plays, which is arguably one of the darkest songs in terms of meaning, where he presents violent thoughts and a flurry of offensive lines while effortlessly gliding over the instrumental. Radicals follows with what’s a seemingly aggressive song, until the breaks in between verses which plays Tyler talking about the group Odd Future and how their reason for the group is “We came together because we ain’t have nobody else”, which is almost a relief that a more peaceful version of himself is presented here. It’s also presented on She which is a more R&B song featuring his long time friend, Frank Ocean. This presents itself as a love song, which is almost nullified by the next track Trannsylvania where Tyler assumes the role of Dracula while using his lyricism in another offensive way to get his point across, the same way he does in Nightmare. For the rest of the album, it follows in dark footsteps.
This album solidified Tyler’s place in the music industry as an amazing artist with a downright unique and well put together style. On here, he reflects back a little bit. That song mentioned on the track Colossus(which told the story of an interaction between a fan at Six Flags that turned weird fast), had the rawest emotion put into one of his tracks. It talks about his rap group, his absence of a real father, as well as how he felt about people and himself, all while supposedly being in a school therapy session for bad behavior. The reason this is important, is because of the fact this showcases this growth of his from being an introverted teen, to being one of the most remarkable rappers using his thoughts in songs. Now even though he does grow, there are still problems that he does not let go, which he attempts to come to a conclusion with such as his father problems explained in Answer. Though there is a change in his music, we still see more of his old style and the character Wolf Haley in the album cover as well as the tracks Tamale and Slater, which features Frank Ocean once more. This album also continues the saga Tyler made, where he goes to camp Flog Gnaw where he meets a character named Sam, whom he falls in loved
As an underrated album, Cherry Bomb acts as a bridge for Tyler finding what will be his definite style of music, as well as the genre he would fit into. Unlike his previous work, this album offers a grungier sound that makes Tyler sound like a one man punk band through the album, along with some jazzier roots. Even though it is argued as one of his lesser works, it still features the likes of artists like Kanye West to work on tracks. There is not much to say about this album as it was more of a filler that lead into the next album, which would be considered one of the best that year.
After a two year hiatus, Tyler comes back ready with more melodies as well as songs to bob your head to and have a good time with. The reason this is one of the best albums of 2017. This is where his ability to glide on instrumentals with lyrics that give you a scowl from the quality of the lines. Many tracks on this album were extremely popular such as See You Again(which features Kali Uchis), 911/Mr. Lonely(which features once again the man himself, Frank Ocean), as well as the emotional track November. This album completely was worth the wait from music brought by Tyler, the Creator. It has some of the aggressiveness from past records, a more R&B feel, along with songs that end Tyler’s emotional problems and frees him from the pain which may have fueled his writing but also tormented his thoughts.
It was completely unsurprising when the “Best Rap Album of the Year Award”, was bestowed upon this album at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. After the amazing growth from a dark minded teen with no thoughts but to prove those that belittle him wrong, to an extremely unique artist with enough potential to cause an EARFQUAKE (see what I did there?). In this compilation of records, Tyler finally takes the form of what he wants with the R&B and soul tracks with a bit of blues that fill the album. This allows him to be free of what once set him back, by using the energy left from finishing what he needed to in his mind.
Outside of his discography, Tyler is a great son, skater, and friend. The only thing that we can say about him is that he is an exceptional artist, and that we need more of him. What we can hope for however, is to get a deeper understanding of and look into the mind, of Tyler, the Creator.