Music Features

Happy Birthday, Tyler, the Creator: 9 of His Most Iconic Moments

The eccentric rapper turns 29 today.

Today, March 6, 2020, Tyler Okonma—best known as Tyler, the Creator—turns 29 years old.

The polymathic rapper first rose to prominence as a founding member of the alternative hip-hop collective, Odd Future, whose debut album was released in 2012. And although multiple members of the now-inactive group have experienced fruitful solo careers—Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt among them—Tyler, the Creator's has arguably left the most recognizable influence. With five studio albums, a clothing line, a music festival, and much more on his resume, Tyler has been cited as a major inspiration to Gen Z icons like Billie Eilish and BROCKHAMPTON's Kevin Abstract.

Occasionally controversial but always a brilliant artist, Tyler has made himself known as not only a masterful musician, but a filterless class clown of the real world. Below, here are nine of Tyler, the Creator's most iconic moments.

A Walking Paradox

With just a cockroach, a noose, and a perspective control lens, Tyler introduced his solo rap career with one of the most unforgettable music videos of the decade (self-directed under his alter ego, Wolf Haley).

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Ameer Vann Proves He’s Still a Misogynist on “EMMANUEL”

The disgraced rapper tries to paint himself as the victim rather than owning his mistakes.

With the release of his new EP, disgraced BROCKHAMPTON member, Ameer Vann, plays out a narrative we've seen too often in the MeToo era: relentless self-loathing.

"It's so hard to say I'm sorry, it's so hard to self reflect," Vann raps on "Emmanuel," the title track off the rapper's first EP since allegations of sexual abuse surfaced against him in 2018. "Make the world a better place, I'll put a bullet in my head." EMMANUEL is rank with self-pity, with Vann using his troubled upbringing and mental illness as a scapegoat to evoke sympathy from those who rightfully dismissed him. "Ain't no little piece of heaven, all these demons that I have," he continues. "I am broken, I am tired, I am lonely and depressed. I am made up of mistakes, I'll start going down the list," he raps before detailing the story of his abusive father, drug addicted sister, and how he's "so sick" he needs a doctor.

Soon, the self-loathing, as is common in the case of abusers, turns to ignorance. "This a new beginning, call me Jesus," Vann raps. "It ain't easy," he repeats over and over again. With an opening statement of this caliber, Vann does what many misogynistic men have done with their MeToo "apologies:" shift the attention away from the victims and contradict accusations by painting themselves as the "real" victim. We've seen it most recently with Ryan Adams and Casey Affleck, both of whom discussed troubled childhoods, and how the accusations didn't paint a genuine portrait of who they are. "Man it's crazy how they deal with you," Vann raps. "Talk about it like they still with you."

EMMANUEL


Vann continues to touch on similar themes throughout: running from his past, being institutionalized, abusing drugs, his bipolar disorder. He never addresses the allegations themselves or mentions the people he's harmed. It's clear he resents the accusers and resents his former bandmates at BROCKHAMPTON. He blames his failed relationships on money disputes and on the temptations of fame. He finds solace in his mental illness, describing how he misses "living at the hospital" and that his Bipolar Disorder makes him "feel like God in a scary way." Vann is painfully aware of his disorders and aware of his issues with ego and control, but rather than hint at any sign of remorse, the rapper sits in a dark corner, and chops up his failed relationships to: "They just didn't understand."

Ameer Vann sounds lonely, he sounds manic, he sounds depressed, and he seems to be in the same headspace as he was in 2017 when he wrote: "I love to watch 'em squirm, I love when bitches bleed, if she's sucking on the barrel, you can't hear her scream." Ameer Vann's actions were inexcusable, and with EMMANUEL meant to be his "comeback EP," it's clear the abuser hasn't learned much. "My depression what I love the most," he raps on "Los Angeles." "I can't seem to let it go." It's the only honest moment of self-reflection we see on the entirety of the project.

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BROCKHAMPTON's "GINGER" Experiments with Grief

"America's Favorite Boy Band" is back with their most thoughtful and mature record yet.

You can hear traces of BROCKHAMPTON's past all over GINGER.

But something different is happening on the rap collective's fifth album, released just shy of iridescence's one-year anniversary and two days before Saturation II's second birthday. The group has always been adept at manipulating a record's pulse, slowing down and spiking up on a whim, but GINGER operates on a single palpable arc, offering an emotional rise and fall that flows through the project. BROCKHAMPTON's central performers—Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Dom McLennon, Merlyn Wood, Joba, and bearface—seem more interested than ever in building a new world for themselves, through their storytelling, their brags, their vocal grit, and their sometimes jarring honesty.

No Halo - BROCKHAMPTON www.youtube.com

"NO HALO" gives off the distinct feeling of a door being slowly opened rather than kicked in. It's a smooth, muted start, meant to be the first step of something more meaningful. Joba's working overtime with his gorgeous vocals and charming lyrics, while Merlyn crafts some of his most thoughtful and mature thematic material. bearface settles well into his role somewhere between BROCKHAMPTON's resident crooner and a syrupy auto-tuned siren (first seen on iridescence), while steadily employing his braggadocio. Abstract and McLennon spend the entire album competing comfortably for the best verse—Dom has become more confident in his poetic turns, and it's become apparent that the quality of a BROCKHAMPTON album is directly proportional to how much Kevin raps. Even Matt Champion, the group's adorable slacker, gets a chance to try out a new vulnerability. His usually laconic verses are bolstered by newfound urgency in lines like, "Tell me, goddamn, what God made me for? / I don't even love no more / I don't even trust no more."

The boys seem like they're throwing everything they have into GINGER from the jump—and the same goes for BROCKHAMPTON's ingenious producers, Jabari Manwa and Romil Hemnani. They craft the album's tracklist into a thrilling tightrope walk that bounces between sparseness and symphonic indulgence. GINGER feels extremely intentional. The album's lyrics oscillate constantly between insecurity and bravado, celebrating how far the band has come while acknowledging what it took to get them there.

It's a testament to just how much GINGER is in BROCKHAMPTON's control, as they flip the same Three 6 Mafia sample on two separate tracks, and both manage to strike listeners differently. "HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU" includes the first interpolation, which comes in the wake of an offhand verse from slowthai, the British rapper and new BROCKHAMPTON affiliate. The iconic call of "Break Da Law" feels like a sonic centerpiece.

The album's hyper-subjectivity falls away on "DEARLY DEPARTED," which directly addresses the biggest blight in BROCKHAMPTON's history: the departure of Ameer Vann. Vann, a founding member of the group and longtime friend of Abstract and Champion, was accused of sexual and emotional abuse by several women in May 2018; within a month, the group let their fans know Vann was no longer a part of BROCKHAMPTON and apologized to Vann's victims. "DEARLY DEPARTED" is shot through with disorientation and fury. It provides the kind of lyrical and sonic gut-punch that defined iridescence, but it remains carefully reined in over the course of its four-and-a-half minutes. "I must keep creatin' truths and hooks to get up out of this hell for myself," Abstract promises, speaking more to himself than the listener. "They stretch the truth longer than the Nile / Eyes full of evil, mouth full of vile," Champion warns, with some anger creeping into his lax flow. McLennon's rage hits the hardest and cuts deepest, as his screams close out the song: "Pass the weight off to your friends and never face the truth / Because you never learned how to be a man...You could talk to God / I don't wanna hear, motherf*cker."

Since Vann's departure, the group's music has been more focused but also far more troubled, as they've been forced to reckon with the meaning of the legacy they've only just accrued.

GINGER is really an album about grief. It's a mess: a self-contradicting, painful grind that falters as often as it moves forward, with Frank Ocean-indebted tracks like the titular "GINGER" feeling a world away from buoyant cuts like "BOY BYE." It's also beautiful and purposeful in its messiness, and that's the point. GINGER understands that growing up—which is what's at stake on this album—is an imperfect and ongoing process, and “America's Favorite Boyband" has a lot to wrestle with. In the wake of fracture and confusion within the band, iridescence was a decisive shock to its system, an overhaul of everything that had come before it. GINGER is the next chapter in that story, a recollection of the past in sound and writing that's brave enough to look towards the future.

I Been Born Again - BROCKHAMPTON www.youtube.com