Tyler Gregory Okonma, more commonly known as Tyler, the Creator, was born March 6, 1991, in Los Angeles, California. The 28-year-old may be most known for his eccentric personality and award-winning music, but there is far more to know about him. Whether it is his impact on modern streetwear, his past controversies or the evolution of his music as a whole, it is hard to overlook who he is and what he stands for.
Okonma grew up without ever knowing his father, who abandoned the family early on. Constantly moving homes, he was forced to change schools very often. Because of the continuous readjusting, Okonma came to love skateboarding and making music.
At around 18, Okonma began putting out music with Odd Future, the LA-based hip hop group he formed. The collective had more than 20 members, which included R&B singer and rapper Christopher Breaux (Frank Ocean), and the talented teenage rapper, Thebe Kgositsile (Earl Sweatshirt). Okonma created the group in 2007, with its name being Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA). The group had several different aliases but is more known as simply Odd Future.
The underground rap team released their first record in 2008 titled The Odd Future Tape. The project was filled with jumpy lofi production from their main producer, Vyron Turner (Left Brain) and raspy, boisterous rhymes from Okonma and other members of the group. The California skater rap group continued to drop albums together up until 2012 when they dropped their last record, The OF Tape Vol. 2.
In 2011, Okonma released a music video for the diss-filled rap track, “Yonkers”. The song captured him battling with his other personalities which he commonly referenced in past songs. dissing celebrities, eating a live cockroach and spurting out controversial lyrics, the carefree rapper quickly became an internet sensation.
Okonma’s careless personality that blended into his music caught attention from the mainstream. It even impressed Kanye West, who cosigned it on Twitter. A few months later Okonma released his first studio album, Goblin. The album displayed his creativity as not only a rapper but a talented producer. His raunchy, violent and offensive subject matter made teens latch on to his crazy, out-there personality.
His music continued to carry the edgy, crude subject matter and scratchy, almost obnoxious production with projects like Wolf (2013) and Cherry Bomb (2015). These albums would help build a cult-like fan base that would swarm him wherever he went.
In 2015, Okonma had a busy year. He became involved in some controversies after being temporarily banned from the UK due to his “mentally unstable alter ego” and violent lyrics. Because of the ban, he was forced to cancel his world tour. 2015 seemed to have been an important one for him; because of the controversies surrounding his name, he was seen as more of a misfit than he was before fame.
As Okonma has matured over the years, his music style and subject matter have drastically shifted. The edgy rapper who was once known for his unsettling and rancid lyrics now presents himself in a much more colorful way.
In 2017, Okonma released his most concrete album yet, Flower Boy. The radiant 47-minute album has a calm R&B infused theme, a sound totally different from his past more aggressive projects. The album contains features from The Internet’s Steve Lacy-Moya (Steve Lacy), close friend Jaden Smith, Rakim Mayers (A$AP Rocky), Karly-Marina Loaiza (Kali Uchis) and more. Okonma and Loasiza’s chemistry on the song “See You Again” showed that he was breaking out of his comfort zone, ready to make more feel-good summer songs. With the album’s colorful and smooth vibe, the completeness of Flower Boy would show new listeners his undeniable talent and satisfy long time fans who were waiting patiently on a new album.
In 2019, Okonma dropped his 40-minute critically acclaimed masterpiece, IGOR. The mixed-genre album would end up winning best rap album at the Grammys. Although this album is titled as rap/hip-hop, it has too much versatility to be caged into only one style of music. The 1970’s disco background vocals on “I THINK” along with songs that have an obvious soul and futuristic R&B characteristics make the album unique. On this album, he completely abandoned his brash rapping style, having almost fully adopted a smoother, more abstract sound. Weirdly pitched vocals are nothing new for him, but in parts of this album it is hard to tell if it is actually Okonma behind the mic.
Throughout the past decade, Okonma has developed from the lively and unapologetic teenage rapper he once was, into the boundary-breaking, Grammy-winning icon today. The talented musician has kept day one fans hyped for new music all while expanding his sound and continuing to experiment. Tyler, the Creator does not seem like he will be done creating anytime soon, and nobody is complaining.