10 of the greatest Tyler, The Creator lyrics
© Sam Rock
The enigmatic artist made his name as a provocateur – but he's always been one of the most creative rappers in the game.
Words have defined the career of Tyler, the Creator. They’ve earned him millions of dollars, prestigious awards and a four year ban on entering the UK.
This summer – his arch nemesis, Theresa May, safely out of the picture – he made a triumphant return to the UK. And a lot can change in four years. Odd Future were youth culture behemoths, coming to define the look, sound and manners of large swathes of a whole disenfranchised generation. As the crew’s leader, Tyler’s approach to lyrics and tune was often the punk-rap equivalent of a Jackass marathon. But he’s now six albums deep and his output has become more thoughtful and nuanced in both sound and message.
Tyler, The Creator has been a million things over the course of his career: pest, provocateur, public nuisance, icon, ringleader, trendsetter and revolutionary. But at his core, the Odd Future mastermind has always been a great rapper. Tyler’s wordplay is second to none and he routinely unveils dozens of bizarre, experimental bars that smush into each other like postmodern poetry scribbled into the tight margins of a notepad.
Let's wade through all those words to take a look back at the key moments where his linguistics truly triumphed.
1. “I’m a fucking walking paradox/No I’m not”
Song: Yonkers (Goblin, 2011)
And with that, Tyler the Creator landed. The line that made him famous is also arguably the most iconic opening line in modern rap history. Name one other rapper who has made their mark on the rap landscape with such razor-sharp precision. This is a lyrical statement of intent. In under ten words Tyler brought us the irreverent wit, schizophrenic surrealism and hyper-intelligence masquerading as class clownery that have come to define his career.
Those words teamed with a visually arresting video (that poor cockroach!), ensured that youths across the globe spent the summer of 2011 hunting down Supreme caps and trying to figure out what the hell OFWGKTA stood for.
2. “The devil doesn’t wear Prada/I’m clearly in a white tee”
Song: Bastard (Bastard mixtape, 2009)
This one’s for the die-hard OG fans. It’s one of Tyler’s earliest standouts from his primordial Bastard mixtape and it comes from an era where Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All carried a dangerous, enigmatic reputation; a time when LA’s skate kids still had them all to themselves. Tyler in particular seemed to love being feared and it’s hard to think of anyone who’s married hip-hop bravado with a fly-your-freak-flag sense of intimidation better. Tyler knew from the get-go that it was his adolescent duty to terrify suburban parents everywhere.
3. “Tell these black kids they can be who they are"
Song: Where This Flower Blooms (Flower Boy, 2017)
Flower Boy was the moment when Tyler evolved from playground bully boy to reformed mentor. A full eight years on from his debut mixtape the LP landed and we were introduced to a sort of Tyler 2.0. Here we find him opening up on isolation, boredom and quiet moments of self-doubt. Tyler will always have a penchant for trolling, but here he seems to turn it on himself – the album title alone a nod to the sort of taunt he'd have thrown out previously for such wanton feelings-bearing. And his words for his fans are enough to bring a lump to the throat.
4. “Next line will have ‘em like ‘Whoa’/ I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004”
Song: I Ain’t Got Time (Flower Boy, 2017)
Trust Tyler to wait until track nine of Flower Boy to confirm what rap’s most prolific "faggot"-spitter seemed to be hinting at from the album’s opening. The speculative “them” is probably the music media at large, who’ve (understandably) been troubled by Tyler’s homophobic language for the entirety of his career. This is the moment Tyler comes out on Flower Boy and he does it with grace, poetry and, as is customary for him, a touch of humour.
5. “Ridin’ round town they gon feel this one”
Song: Igor’s Theme (IGOR, 2019)
As we’ve already established, Tyler is a master of the statement of intent. And with these opening words on his most recent LP, he spoke his most successful album into existence. All disco grooves and falsetto croons, it offered up piano chords and sonic experimentalism that's had old and new fans feeling this one across the globe.
6. “You never lived in your truth, I’m just happy I lived in it/ But I finally found peace, so peace”
Song: Gone, Gone, Thank You (IGOR, 2019)
There’s an argument to be made that IGOR is Tyler’s Lemonade. Aside from being brave stylistically, it’s the closest he’s ever come to a soul-bearing break up album. He takes us on a journey through falling in love, right into heartbreak via infatuation and manipulation. He digs deep and shares his emotions for his fans. And it’s telling that Tyler chose singing over rapping for large sections of the album – genuine feelings will always sound better in a croon.
7. “I’m going harder than coming out the closet to conservative Christian fathers”
Song: DEATHCAMP (Cherry Bomb, 2015)
This line obviously got a little more personal with Tyler tacitly confirming his sexuality on Flower Boy. There’s never been a moment in hip-hop where such an abstract concept like “going hard” was tied to something to something as vulnerable as reckoning with your identity. Only Tyler could pull it off.
8. “Fuck a deal, I just want my father's email/So I can tell him how much I fucking hate him in detail"
Song: Bastard (Bastard mixtape, 2009)
As recurring themes go, Tyler’s disdain for his absent father is arguably his most sustained. Recent years have seen him mellow, but this taster from his early output went a long way to explaining all that bravado-tinged teenage angst.
9. “I’m watching Freaks and Geeks/With the trampoline on the floor/I’m trying to cop the new McLaren/With the vertical doors"
Song: SMUCKERS (Cherry Bomb, 2015)
It's hard to picture this scene without it taking place in Tom Hank’s New York apartment in Big. Tyler’s boyish zeal has always been endearing and he does a great job of depicting loose, teenaged daydreams. The joy here - a la Hanks’ Josh Baskin - is that he can actually put his money where his mouth is. This time around, he has the cash on hand to buy a McLaren.
10. “I’m harder than DJ Khaled playing the quiet game”
Song: Rusty (Wolf, 2013)
Every fan knows the Tyler lyric that’ll elicit a LOL every time for them. In our humble opinion, this is the funniest Tyler, The Creator line of all time and also perhaps the most accurate. DJ Khaled would be truly awful at the quiet game. It’s funny because it’s so damn silly. And also because it’s true.