Published on November 10, 2021, at 6:36 p.m.
by Megan Murphy.
Before his career fully blossomed with his first solo Grammy-nominated album, “Flower Boy,” in 2017, Tyler, the Creator’s early mixtapes were not made for profit, but simply as an art form of storytelling and self-expression distributed free of charge.
The talented musician has mastered his brand, driven by his immense passion for unconventional music and art. As one of the pioneers of independent artist branding, his use of cohesive album projects and vivid artwork truly reflects his message. He has singlehandedly developed and maintained a loyal fanbase, all while paying homage to his inspirations.
Initially shunned by the rap industry, Tyler’s “not everyone is accepted everywhere and that’s fine” mentality has helped him establish a presence as an activist seeking to change the rap industry’s status quo. Instead of aggressively attempting to gain popularity in his early career, he focused on slowly building his brand by taking the right opportunities over those that would potentially lead him to instant fame. His carefully curated yet simple approach has motivated fans to support his personal brand and music evolution.
His abrasive sound and lyrics in his early beginnings with the group Odd Future gained popularity when his supplemental video to the group’s track “French” gathered upwards of 1 million views on YouTube in 2010, following the release of his first solo mixtape. Since then, he has been able to successfully transition from aggressive horrorcore rap to his current neo-soul sound that he debuted with “Flower Boy.” The album earned a spot on Pitchfork’s top 200 albums of the decade, and his 2019 album “IGOR” won him the Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2020. His most recent album, “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST,” is being recognized as one of his most refined projects to date. The album “embeds his roots” and further amplifies his nonconformist style.
A self-proclaimed walking paradox who leaves fans wondering what he will do next, the artist’s progression over the past decade has led him to independently build his own media empire. By initially creating his own artist content on Tumblr, he allowed fans an inside look — years before most other artists began utilizing social media to cultivate an inclusive fan experience. Tyler, the Creator’s accomplishments include launching his own record label and an eclectic clothing brand. He also bounces from speakers to screens with his acting and comedy endeavors. The artist has enjoyed unwavering support from his fanbase as he has evolved his brand synchronously with his progression of sound, design and artwork.
Despite his rise to superstardom, Tyler, the Creator maintains a strong connection with fans by playing intimate pop-up shows at small venues. He also offers snippets of new songs to those who call his hotline. In 2020, he earned himself a spot on Spin’s list of The Most Influential Artists in the past 35 years. He said he wants his fans to “listen deeper than the music before [they] put it in the box.”
The relationship that Tyler, the Creator has built with his fanbase has paved the way for those embracing nonconformity in rap, putting his records and theirs at the top of the charts. His unique presence — along with the visual continuity in his art form — has created more than just a brand: Tyler, the Creator has crafted a rap culture of his own.