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Kanye The Creator

Kanye West & Tyler the Creator, Kardashian Family Christmas Party 2018

Kanye West’s sheer pageantry would put him at the top of the list for most creative rapper. After a brief hiatus from rap and a failed 2020 presidential campaign, Kanye West graced the hip hop world in August 2021 with his long anticipated tenth studio album, DONDA. The roll out for DONDA was incredibly unique in nature. The first was an announcement for a listening party scheduled to be held in Atlanta, GA, where Kanye West was born. Kanye West sold out not one but two shows at Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz stadium. Much like a Marina Abramovic exhibit, Kanye performed on a simple set with a bed, some weights taken from the room in the stadium where he has been living while finishing his album over the past two weeks.

Kanye West, DONDA Listening Event, Mercedes Benz Stadium

After two listening events in Atlanta, Kanye West hosted a DONDA listening event in his hometown of Chicago. Kanye West had an exact replica of his childhood home built to serve as the stage for this event after the city of Chicago denied his request to move the actual home to Soldier Field. He premiered a remix to his song, Jail, featuring Marilyn Manson and Da Baby–both of whom are challenging the ideal of “cancel culture.” As the show began to reach its conclusion, Kanye West sets himself on fire, walks out of the home to renew his vows with wife, Kim Kardashian-West. Symbolically representing a fresh start for him, much like a phoenix rising from the ashes. This the not the first time Kanye has used this imagery.

The album release for DONDA, however, is not the pinnacle of creativity for Kanye West. As an artist, he has exemplified the artistry of Rap in Hip Hop culture. In just his early production and use of soul samples, such as in his album The College Dropout. We also observe his creativity in genre expansion with incorporating and even introducing techno in his collaboration with Daft Punk for his single Stronger from his album Graduation. It is even in this song he has extremely creative lyrics, in “Stronger” Kanye West writes, “You know how long I’ve been on ya / Since Prince was on Apollonia / Since O.J. Had Isotoners/ Don’t act like I never told ya.” His metaphors and using the analogy of time to mention the brand of gloves by famous by the OJ murder trials is just *chef’s kiss*. After these albums, his fusion of R&B and hip hop and mainstream introduction of the usage of autotune influenced an entire sub-genre of hip hop and midwifed the career of several other rappers. Kanye West’s magnum opus is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. His elaborate video, well short film, RUNAWAY, to accompany this album was a clear indication that he was not just fulfilling us with music, but overall artistic genius. (Watch for that phoenix reference)

In addition to being friends, Tyler the Creator is one of the artists that has been heavily influenced by the artistry of Kanye West. So, it is no surprise that this once dark, offensive, and problematic rapper is my second choice when discussing creative rappers. Tyler, like Kanye West, often directs his own music videos including my favorite and his first mainstream single, YONKERS. The song itself is considered horrorcore which is a sub-genre of rap as it is filled with a slew of insults towards other celebrities and musicians. The imagery of the music video is just as disturbing. Filmed in black and white video there is a lack of actual imagery. It is only Tyler in an empty room on a sitting on stool, playing with a cockroach, who he ultimately eats – causing him to vomit. At the end of the video Tyler the Creator actually hangs himself. This outrageous display was the world’s introduction to Tyler the Creator and won him MTV Best New Artist Music Video Award.

Tyler the Creator’s lyricism and word play is in my opinion top tier comparative to other rappers who premiered during his introduction with music collective Odd Future (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All or OFWGKTA) in the late 2000s/early 2010s.

Creatively, Tyler the Creator seems to lean heavily into his Piscean characteristics, whether it is intentional or not. His various projects seem to be accompanied by visual aesthetics that he is engulfed in or expressing–as Pisces tend to change their physical appearance A LOT and are typically creative in nature. For example on the 2015 album, Cherrybomb, we see a very playful Tyler. His aesthetic being lots of animation and fruit and flower patterns. It was a shift to a more optimistic and mature Tyler. It’s Tyler’s personal favorite. In his next album, Flower Boy, it is full of introspective lyricism. Tyler raps about his sexuality and is a vibrant storyteller. In his widely known song, “Who Dat Boy” featuring rapper A$AP Rocky, Tyler raps, “It’s runnin’, nigga, I’m runnin’ shit/ That cherry be the bomb like he ran in Boston/ Won’t stop ’til the cops surround him/ One nigga jiggy and the other awesome/ With his fuckin’ face blown off, that’s how they found him. Tyler’s metaphors and word play not only refers to the Boston Marathon bombing, but also one of his own older projects.

More recently with projects IGOR and Call Me If You Get Lost, Tyler also did a Kanye-esque approach in hosting “secret” pop-up listening events in smaller intimate settings. In the last decade, Tyler has matured and seen exponential growth in his career. Like Kanye West, Tyler expanded into fashion ushering his own GOLF WANG fashion line as well as sneaker collaboration with Converse. He even ventured into the world of television with his own variety comedy show Loiter Squad, short series The Jellies and various guest appearances.

Both Kanye West and Tyler the Creator are extraordinary artists who have exceeded the expectations of rap and assisted in defining Hip Hop culture for Gen Xers, Millennials, and now Gen Zers. No matter the controversy encountered they were able to persevere and develop themselves into something spectacular. Creativity can be defined in several different ways depending upon the context. The beauty is that no matter how you define it, both Kanye and Tyler have challenged and transformed their respective industry.

One thought on “Kanye The Creator

  1. This is one of the most comprehensive looks at the connection between Tyler, The Creator and Kanye West I’ve ever read. You’re inside so welcomed look forward to reading more of your work.


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