Tyler, the Creator: the musical pioneer. Building character, trying new sounds, dipping his toes in a variety of music production from rap to jazz to soul, there are few able to match Tyler’s creativity and ability to entertain such a wide audience. Starting from the times of the OFWGKTA, when Tyler’s music was considered cultish, Tyler fans never know what to expect in the next release, and that was especially apparent during his release of Flower Boy. Tyler takes musical risks, and his fearless approach toward music production is why he is one of the most successful rappers out there. The very apparent soul in Flower Boy is a far step from the much more aggressive and synthesized Cherry Bomb, which itself is a great step away from Wolf and Goblin. Tyler transitions from his rapping to focusing more on his musical production. Tyler’s path in music parallels the path of an angry adolescent into a mature adult. His journey starts out with premature backbeats and loud, obnoxious verses and his style slowly starts to introduce new musical features, creating melodies and adding vocals. Those vocals then become the majority of some songs, and before you know it, IGOR appears.
IGOR, the fifth release by Tyler, was another huge step for him, delving into different styles, reintroducing synthesizers and adding a mix of soul and rap. IGOR is a glimpse of a much more vulnerable and open Tyler as his audience follows him through his love life, breakups and all. He introduces a new side of himself: Igor, the cold, destroyed lover. In songs such as “PUPPET” and “WHAT’S GOOD”, Tyler’s persona of Igor comes out in full as he opens up about his love insecurities. IGOR, in its essence, is a love story. A rapper, previously famous for aggressive songs like “Yonkers”, using harsh and violent verses, who became cool because he insulted everyone, now releases a romantic masterpiece. Different moods and tones between songs and carries along a running story about his insecure persona, and Tyler shows his ability to diversify and mature.
About a year after IGOR’s release, Tyler’s fanbase has grown to include an audience with a varied appreciation for music. Tyler, the Creator is a creative genius, but looking deeper into his music, I found major influences from one artist in particular: OutKast’s André 3000.
September 23, 2003, the highly acclaimed Atlanta rap duo OutKast released their 5th studio album called Speakerboxx/The Love Below. The album was a combination of two separate tapes produced by Big Boi and André 3000 separately. Big Boi’s Speakerboxx was a much more traditional hip hop release in the early 2000s. While still keeping up with OutKast’s wild and unique sense of music production, Big Boi’s Speakerboxx was a little closer to many other gangster hip hop records of its time. The record’s focus is quite obviously on the flows and rhymes that Big Boi so eloquently displays. The second half of the record, André 3000’s The Love Below, is quite a journey from the conformist style of Speakerboxx and is easily one of my top records of all time.
Ever since their first release, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, OutKast reached the top charts consistently for their unique twist on hip hop. Big hits like “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Mrs. Jackson” became hip hop landmarks as they traversed through funk and soul in their music. After OutKast created their name, displayed their unique color of music, and showed how well they work together, they decided to split up and explore their own personal styles in Speakerboxx/The Love Below. The Love Below produced some of OutKast’s major hits like “Hey Ya!” and “Roses”, but that is not why it is one of my favorites. In The Love Below, Andre opens up to his audience, telling a story about his love life on the record. It is the story that makes the record incredible. Andre talks about finding a lover, but then he opens up about his commitment issues on Hey Ya! asking, “Nothing lasts forever! Then what makes love the exception?” Similar to Tyler’s tone on IGOR, Andre opens up and contemplates. The rapper from Atlanta created a love story.
André 3000 takes risks in The Love Below. He doesn’t have many rap verses, and prioritizes production and storytelling over verses. Andre blows right through hip hop normalities, creating a hidden gem. Tracks like “My Favorite Things” and “Take Off Your Cool” don’t have any raps, just music to keep the feeling going. André 3000 dedicated himself to this record, taking risks musically and denying hip hop norms.
Listening to IGOR again after The Love Below, I can see some quite obvious similarities. The lack of rap verses within the records and the focus on creating a specific feeling are both key features of both records. The track, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” has very few vocals by Tyler and seems to kind of just close off the story with its repetitive background melody. It’s quite similar to “Take Off Your Cool”, which does something similar. Though there are no verses on “My Favorite Things”, the aggressive drums on the back of a piano melody sounds eerily familiar to the drums on “WHAT’S GOOD”. “Dracula’s Wedding” is kind of a turning point on the record, similar to “A BOY IS A GUN*” and “PUPPET”. In the end, it seems like there is a beauty in the music’s simplicity yet deeper meaning.
IGOR and The Love Below continue to be some of my favourite albums of all time. The style that both André 3000 and Tyler, the Creator delve into is the perfect definition of timeless music: music that will never lose its appeal. No amount of time can forget the greatness of either of these musicians, and their creative risks have made their sound unforgettable.