Tyler, the Creator: new projects, same old gusto
The rabble-rousing rapper lines up a series of gigs and his own internet TV station
One of the last times I saw Tyler, the Creator he was in typical rabble-rousing form, in knee-high socks, swan-diving off a stage and causing pandemonium. It was his, and his hip hop cabal Odd Future’s schtick: new world order demagoguery, chaotic live performances, manic MC-ing. It was a powderkeg combination that routinely overshadowed their music. They were hip hop’s Bash Street Kids, always getting into scrapes, ending up in uniquely juvenile quandaries like being shipped off to military school, swearing in caps lock on Twitter, writing shock/horror! lyrics and generally acting out a kooky kind of contemporary, situationalist numbskullery. Basically, doing whatever the fuck they liked and having lots of fun doing it.
Fast forward a few years and I find a video of Tyler from February with him sitting between two paunchy white guys onstage at some decaf tech version of Davos talking about the rapper’s plans to launch his own Internet TV station. Tyler’s business buddy says it will be ‘a fantastic new paradigm for a lot of premium brands and influencers’. (The fact that the guy is called Lloyd Braun, who also happens to be a nutty recurring character in Seinfeld just adds to the unreality.)
Now this is not a diatribe pointing out ‘Man, he sold out!’. It’s actually a recognition of how savvy an operator Tyler Okonma is. What use is stoking that cult of personality without the necessary platform to share your shamanism with those loyal followers? Tyler has enough whiff of rebellion to carry it off. He also has the talent.
While the energy of that initial incendiary crash landing has dissipated, the shockwaves still reverberate in Tyler’s often angry, bipolar lyrics and Odd Future’s volatile sound. His last solo effort, 2013’s Wolf, saw him mature a smidgen but still revel in the role of provocateur. And on stage he likes nothing more than to throw himself into it, and the crowd, with gusto. Tyler’s still a force of nature, relishing the ongoing cultural climate change.
Tyler the Creator plays Barrowland, Glasgow, Tue 12 May