A lot of people have a lot to say about where Hip-Hop is at right now. There is a redderic that the mainstream is all mumble rap with an insight no deeper than a styrofoam cup. If you can get past the landscape that personalities like Joe Budden are painting, you’ll see there is a lot of exceptional talent hidden in plain sight. Someone I believe to be exceptional is Odd Future’s Tyler, the Creator.
There is a lot that goes into being a great MC. One of those things is being able to shape not only hip-hop culture, but pop culture and the social norm. When I look at Tyler’s career, even though it’s been like less than a decade, he has made a serious impact.
You can start by looking at his 2011 debut album Goblin. And album with almost the same psycho analysis feel as InstitutionalizedXSucidal Tendencies. You get sucked into the concept of a therapy session that spirals into the depths of Tyler’s mind. The album is full of hard hitting songs talking about suicide, romantic obsession, depression and nightmares. But the album has a shade of violence to it that gets over shadowed by the hit single Yonkers. The significance of this album is that it earned him a cult following of angry suburban kids. The same demo that got sucked in by Eminem in the early 2000s, but Tyler did it without major backing (did he have consigners, yea but not to the same degree of being produced by Dre). Goblin, in a way, opened the door for that darker melancholy style of guys like XXXTENTACION.
If you look at Tyler and Odd Future, from even early on, they immediately stood out because of their following. They developed this weird kind of “Island of Misfit Toys” crowd that was ride or die from the start. If you watch footage of the earlier concerts, it is an absolute mad house in the crowd. You have had other groups and bands with hard core followings, if you have ever seen The Misfits you know how many people do the fiend face paint or for ICP the whole Juggalo lifestyle of clown make up and Faygo. Odd future draws the same fanatic and loyal type of following, but differed in the fact that they were able to taste that mainstream success and then keep building on it. I would even go as far to say their following will end up being more iconic than The Greatful Dead’s “Dead Heads”, because of there being more of a focus on the music and performance than the drugs and free love. I’m not judging anyone or any fan base, I’m just saying as some one who has never been full fledged in any group like that, but mingled acrossed the board, there is a different level of authenticity and hardcoreness to The OF following.
The next step in the culture creating comes from the OF branding. We’ve talked about the difference between selling and selling out in How Hip-Hop Stole The Throne. Tyler and the rest of OF definitely sold, not sold out. They took the absolute best possible route. The first deal I want to talk about is the clothing deal with Zumiez. Any successful artist or group can do alright with selling merch on their own website, but OF took it to the next step and basically put Zumiez back in the race against Pac Sun. It was a crucial time for the store also being right at the height of like the second or third big wave of skate clothing being hot. If I had to compare it to anything I would line it up with Kanye’s Yeezys reviving Adidas. The built in Odd Future customer base brought in money to Zumiez, and Odd Future got paid to advertise in every shopping mall across America. Then in a stroke of genius OF found a way to branch out to a multitude of demographics. Combining an immature Chappelle-ish skit show with real life small scale Jack Ass stunts, Tyler the Creator and OF made Loiter Squad. The show ran three seasons on Adult Swim, the late night take over of Cartoon Network. Now the significance of this move is that Adult Swim has so many different kinds of viewers. You got your everyday Family Guy fans, your odd ball guys that love the original programs and even the hard to reach anime fans. That show broke them out into a lot of different groups and expanded their fan base ten fold. Loiter Squad also broke the mold also in the fact that it showed a goofball so over the top dumb kind of comedy that paved way for shows like Black Jesus, that later on kind of filled the slot for Loiter Squad.
So you take a kid who started off making all his own beats, lyrics and artwork with his friends. Then look at a guy who can work with Kanye, Lil’ Wayne and Frank Ocean at a phone call. You take a guy who got Zumiez to sell donut shirts in all their stores, to a guy having a hands in on the fashion world. You got a guy who ran THREE seasons of a 12 minute show with probably a $50 a show budget, and every single episode hit. The guy has been authentic and honest through and through, whether it’s talking about the need for black protagonist in cartoons, or how he knew Frank Ocean was gay because he ate plain pop tarts. Tyler has never had to convince anyone that he is like his fans, unlike Kevin Durant on twitter, but in someways you have to convince yourself that he is really actually famous. If you ever want to see the immediate effects of Tyler’s influence, look at his friend Travis Scott’s concerts and tell me there’s not likeness of energy. Talk to me about how people were strung out worse than heroin addicts waiting for, the guy he came up with, Frank Oceans last record.
I’ll leave you with this. No MC has crafted culture more than Snoop Dogg. Hands down. From fo-shizzle, to that gangsta West Coast rap, to the Nickelodeon specials and even Martha Stewart Colabs. The man shaped two decades in America. I will say, and you can quote me, Tyler, the Creator will have a greater impact on American Culture when it is all said and done. The only difference is it will be from behind the scenes, but still in fact greater. Who knows, maybe one day people can get past some of the odd features of Odd Future and Tyler, the Creator will be known for his contributions.
I Got You,
wikipedia and listening to the albums
photo credit in description