Musical Migration

The evolution of Tyler the Creator
Tyler The Creators musical journey is one of the most unique and intriguing in the modern world of Hip-Hop.
Tyler The Creator’s musical journey is one of the most unique and intriguing in the modern world of Hip-Hop.
image by Ryan Sarapa
Early Days and the Wolf Trilogy
Early Days and the Wolf Trilogy

Tyler Gregory Okonma, better known as Tyler the Creator, is an incredibly well-known name in hip-hop today, with a unique and impressive upbringing. He is most well-known for projects like Flowerboy and IGOR, but where did Tyler’s journey into the world of music start?

In 2007 Tyler co-founded the music group Odd Future alongside his friends Casey Veggies, Hodgy, Left Brain, Matt Martians, Jasper Dolphin, Earl Sweatshirt, Travis “Taco” Bennett, and Syd. A year later in 2008, they released their debut mixtape The Odd Future Tapes.

Tyler was featured in many songs including “The Tape Intro”, “Odd Toddlers”, “Bubble Gum”, and many more. The mixtape is evidently homemade with grainy vocals recorded by a cheap laptop microphone.

The year after The Odd Future Tapes, Tyler released his own debut album, Ba***rd in 2009. This showed the world what Tyler could make on his own, starting his solo music career. The album delves into dark subjects relating to Tyler’s intense mental struggles. 

Ba***rd starts a trio of concept albums called “The Wolf Trilogy”. The trilogy’s story begins with the first song of the album, “Ba***rd”. The beginning of the song is a therapy-like session between Tyler and the fictional Dr. TC. Tyler is represented as a harsh and violent alter ego called Ace. These two characters make numerous appearances on Ba***rd, always having a discussion about Tyler’s state of mind. These talks often lead into songs or end them.

The first line of the song “Ba***rd” “This is what the devil plays before he goes to sleep” describes the tritone playing throughout the song. In the 1700s, this tone was thought to be satanic and evil, which is why Tyler mentions the devil. This connection to evil subjects like the devil makes sense due to the dark nature of the album. 

Ba***rd touches on some very personal topics for Tyler. These consist of his internal battles like the effects of lacking a father or heartbreak.

Though Ba***rd gained some traction, it was his song “Yonkers”, released in 2011, that really got Tyler’s name out there. This is widely considered to be Tyler’s breakout song.

“Yonkers” eventually got Tyler to the MTV Video Music Awards for Best New Artist at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.

Soon after, on May 10, 2011, Tyler made his first studio album Goblin released by XL Recordings. The album featured some recognizable names from Odd Future such as Frank Ocean and Domo Genesis. 

Some of the better known tracks on Goblin are “She”, “Sandwitches,” and most notably, “Yonkers”. These songs helped Tyler and Odd Future explode in popularity at the time garnering them many new fans.

Though Tyler is opposed to the classification, Goblin’s genre is considered “horrorcore” with purposefully distasteful and vulgar lyrics. This would greatly contrast with the more refined and melodic sound later in his career.

Many of the tracks on Goblin feature Dr. TC from Ba***rd using the same therapy format, again discussing Tyler’s struggles.

At the end of the song “Golden” Dr. TC is revealed to have been Tyler’s conscience all along, hence the letters TC in his name.

Dr. TC would make his final appearance on the 3rd album in “The Wolf Trilogy” Wolf. Released in 2013 under the Odd Future label, Wolf was meant to take Tyler’s sound in a new direction away from the dark and harsh themes of his previous two albums.

The change in Tyler’s sound is evident from the first track on the album, “Wolf,” with a light-hearted and floaty feel to it, using breathy vocals and peaceful percussion.

This final installment in the trilogy features the characters Dr. TC, Sam, Wolf, and Salem. 

Similarly to Ba***rd and Goblin, there are short spoken segments at the ends and beginnings of songs. The album starts with one of these segments on “Wolf” between Dr. TC, Wolf, and Sam. In this segment, the setting of Wolf is revealed to be Camp Flog Gnaw, a fictional summer camp for troubled teens.

The summer camp feeling is relayed many times throughout the album, like in the song, “Party Isn’t Over/ Campfire/ Bimmer”. This continues Tyler’s trend of having a multi-song seventh track. The second song on the track, “Campfire,” has themes of a summer camp referencing s’mores and singing around a campfire.

Along with a deep story, the album has some intensely deep and personal songs like “Answer,” a song about Tyler’s desire to meet his father. The track describes the impact that lacking a father had on Tyler and how it affected his youth. Tyler also describes his grief towards his deceased grandmother in “Answer.”

Cherry Bomb
Cherry Bomb

Tyler’s style and sound continued to advance and branch out with his next album Cherry Bomb, released in 2015, again under the Odd Future label.

Cherry Bomb is undoubtedly Tyler’s most diverse album, featuring many different genres and being very feature-heavy.

Everything about this album is unique, from its music videos to the strange pink mask featured on the album’s cover to the large number of contrasting genres featured on it.

In the marketing and music videos for Cherry Bomb, the iconic blue flame pattern from Tyler’s brand GOLF WANG is shown extensively through shirts, pants, and even a go-kart. The pattern is associated with Cherry Bomb and had a limited release, resulting in lots of the pieces being very sought after by fans, some going for upwards of $500.

The genres on the album include vastly differing sounds such as punk, neo-soul, R&B, hip-hop, experimental rap, and even metal/rock on songs like “DEATHCAMP” and “CHERRY BOMB”.

For the song “2SEATER,” Tyler composed a piece for the string section of the song. He looked over a live orchestra at German composer Hans Zimmer’s studio and had his piece performed, marking yet another impressive first by the artist.

Some of the most notable names on the album include Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne, A$AP Rocky, and Pharrell Williams.

Though it was not as critically acclaimed as his other albums, Cherry Bomb was vital for Tyler to find his signature sound. Songs like “SMUCKERS” or “2SEATER” show the clear progression of Tyler’s sound, from dark and distasteful to vibrant and production-heavy.

Flower Boy
Flower Boy

This newfound style of Tyler’s would carry into his next album Flower Boy, released in 2017 under the Columbia Records label.

His previous album Cherry Bomb was purposely not meant to be personal to Tyler. This was the exact opposite goal he aimed to achieve with Flower Boy

There are many deeply personal songs on Flower Boy, such as the album’s first track “Forewood.” This song acts as an introduction to the album. As the song progresses, the subject switches from Tyler’s abundance of motivation for creating music to his complete lack of it. 

Another very personal song on Flower Boy is “Garden Shed,” which delves into Tyler’s internal conflicts. The whole song is a metaphor for being closeted. The line “Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase” expresses how Tyler struggled with this since he was a kid.

The topics of Flower Boy are vast, ranging from nostalgia with “November” to loneliness with “911/ Mr. Lonely” to boredom with the appropriately named “Boredom.”

Some familiar voices are featured on Flower Boy, including Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky, and Lil’ Wayne.

The album achieves many different sounds, such as jazz rap, neo-soul, and of course, hip hop.

Flower Boy was Tyler’s first album to be nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2017 Grammy’s.

The huge success of Flower Boy was a pivotal moment in Tyler’s journey. It showed how far he had come from a teenager recording songs on a cheap laptop mic to being nominated for Grammys.

IGOR and The Grinch
IGOR and The Grinch

After Flower Boy, Tyler’s musical expertise was utilized for the soundtrack of the 2018 animated The Grinch. This was a short and unexpected album, but it was loved by fans nonetheless. Though it was only a 10-minute and 20-second album, it ranked 34th of the best Christmas albums of 2018.

Just one year after his Christmas album, Tyler released his most impressive album to date, IGOR

Released on May 17th, 2019 under the Columbia Records label, IGOR is Tyler’s most praised album. Much like Flower Boy, IGOR is a very emotional album revolving around the story of a love triangle.

The title of the album is also a character in this story, being a different side of Tyler revealed after showing his passion to his desired lover and being met with a cold shoulder. The song “A BOY IS A GUN,” as well as its accompanying music video, shows the audience the emotions and struggles of the love triangle.

Much like Flower Boy, IGOR experimented with a number of different genres including funk, R&B, hip-hop, and neo-soul. 

IGOR‘s feature list contains an abundance of artists like Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, Kanye West, and comedian Jerrod Carmichael, who voiced small segments describing the messages of songs at the end of each track.

One of Tyler’s current most popular songs, “EARFQUAKE,” comes from IGOR. To promote the album, Tyler released a music video to go along with “EARFQUAKE,” garnering 139 million views on YouTube today. 

IGOR gained huge popularity, which was reflected in the 2019 Grammy’s when it won Best Rap Album.

Tyler’s acceptance speech was heartfelt and gracious, describing his tough upbringing and thanking all those who helped him get to where he was in that moment.


Tyler followed his trend of dropping a new studio album every two years with his release of the breezy and vacation-themed CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST in 2021 under the Columbia Records label. 

CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST was greatly influenced by the GangstaGrillz albums with nearly every song featuring adlibs from their creator, DJ Drama.

The promotion for this album was quite extensive, going as far as putting up mysterious billboards all around Los Angeles with the album’s name written on them. Alongside the billboards, Tyler released two singles with music videos, “LUMBERJACK” and “WUSYANAME,” to promote the album.

There are hints of reggae, pop, jazz, soul, and hip-hop on the album, though many of its tracks have a nostalgic hip-hop feel. 

CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST truly dives into the vacation theme, with many songs mentioning beautiful beaches and travel. The music videos and lyrics for many of the album’s songs reference getting away and luxurious destinations.

In the music video for “LUMBERJACK,” Tyler is shown standing on top of a huge pile of luggage, dancing on a lush green mountain, and rapping in a snowy landscape, further emphasizing the theme of travel. 

There is an extensive feature list on the album, including 42 Dugg, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Ty Dolla Sign, Lil Wayne, Domo Genesis, Brent Faiyaz, Lil Uzi Vert, Pharrell Williams, and more. 

The album secured Tyler another Grammy for Best Rap Album in the 2021 Grammys.

The most recent project Tyler released is CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST: The Estate Sale in 2023. It is an extension to CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, adding eight new tracks. Alongside these songs, Tyler released four music videos for “WHARF TALK”, “SORRY NOT SORRY”, “DOGTOOTH”, and “HEAVEN TO ME”.

Today, there are plenty of theories as to what Tyler’s next album will be about and when it will be released, but there is no way to know for sure.

Whether he’s masterfully creating vivid intertwining storylines, pouring his emotions into his lyrics, or showing the world something it has never seen, Tyler The Creator remains one of the most consequential, impactful, and praised names in the modern hip-hop world.

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About the Contributor
Ryan Sarapa
Ryan Sarapa, Staff Writer
Ryan Sarapa is a junior at North Allegheny Senior High. He enjoys listening to and making music. He hopes to create meaningful and engaging articles for the uproar website.

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