Band: Tyler the Creator with special guest Taco
Date: Saturday, July 18 with doors at 9 p.m.
Venue: Soul Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St.,
Tickets: $15-$30 (front and center for $55), available at Soul Kitchen, its website or by calling 1-866-468-7630
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Tyler the Creator (born Tyler Okonma) is one reaction to the stagnation of hip-hop in recent years. As both a solo artist and a founding member of the Odd Future collective, Tyler the Creator is unrestrained. Controversial lyrics and otherworldly beats have earned him both respect and disdain in the industry. But in spite of harsh criticism at times, he continues to expand his audience with apparent ease. In a recent interview with Lagniappe, Tyler the Creator opened up, discussing the various facets of his musical career as well as his latest release, “Cherry Bomb.”
Stephen Centanni: There are a lot of things I admire about you. One of the things is that you’re hardcore DIY for a hip-hop artist. A lot of DIY hip-hop artists limit themselves to recording on their own and putting out albums or mixtapes. You were writing, producing and recording as well as doing graphic design for both your albums and your merch. Why do you think more up-and-coming hip-hop artists aren’t going all out with DIY?
Tyler the Creator: Sh*t, I don’t know. Not everyone does everything. It’s not that weird. Some people are good at rapping, and some are good at making beats. I just had my hand in everything. I have a clear vision of what I want, and I’d rather do it myself. I was able to do it myself. Not everyone has that [ability]. I can’t build my car when someone else can do it. You know what I mean?
Centanni: A lot of people focus on your lyrics, but one thing I and other people have talked about is your beats. “Tamale” is one song that comes to mind. I’ve never heard anyone lay out rhymes so neatly on a beat like that. Where do those beats come from? Do you start with a beat in your head?
Tyler: I’m a fan of music first. I think a big difference between me and other rappers is that I’m a fan of music and not just rap. You have a lot of people who like hip-hop, and that’s all they care about. Me, I like every aspect of music, whether it’s dancing or playing the drums or playing the guitar or punk music. I like everything. When I’m making music, I’m not making rap music. I’m just making music. I just so happen to rap, so I decided to put raps over these things. Even the way that I structure my instrumentals and things, that comes from the different soul and funk music that I love. So, I guess that’s what makes me stand out.
Centanni: One thing I’ve noticed about some of your fans is that they have this love/hate thing with you. It’s almost the same conversation every time. People will be like, “Yeah, Tyler’s cool and everything, but he talks about raping pregnant women and stuff. I just don’t know.” But they still love you. What’s your reaction to people who say things like that?
Tyler: I don’t know. I guess I’m that guy people love to hate. I guess I’m interesting enough that they watch whatever I put out or like to look at it, just so they can say something about me that they don’t like, which is kind of cool. Deep down inside there must be something that keeps them coming back. So, I guess I’m doing something right.
Centanni: You’ve earned a lot of respect in the hip-hop scene. On your latest album, “Cherry Bomb,” you’ve got guest spots from Kanye West, Lil Wayne and even Charlie Wilson from The Gap Band. When you think back to the early days of your career, like the “Goblin” [debut album] days, how does it feel to feature big names like that on your album?
Tyler: It’s crazy, you know? I’m fans of everyone that I work with. There was a time when I hated Kanye and Wayne. I was a fan of them, but I was annoyed by them. It’s crazy that all those artists that I grew up listening to respect me enough to even speak to me. So, to even work with them on my project on what specifically I want them on is amazing, and I’m grateful. It still shocks me, and it makes me happy.
Centanni: One thing that the critics are saying about “Cherry Bomb” is that you have these hardcore critiques about the modern hip-hop scene. To me, you’ve done that since the beginning. What changes would you like to see in modern hip-hop?
Tyler: I mean, man, I personally don’t care what they do, man. I’m just gonna do my thing, man. I don’t even pay attention enough to really know what’s going on in this world. I’m not as aware as I could be, but whatever. I focus on what I’m into and what I like. Yeah, I just keep it going.
Centanni: This is your first album without Odd Future collaborations. What was it like working without them?
Tyler: I view every album like a scene from a movie or a painting. If a certain color isn’t needed to make it perfect or if a certain actor isn’t needed in a scene, don’t put it just to put. We’re going to make more music and sh*t, but for this particular album, my boys weren’t really needed for this one. I personally picked every person that I collaborated with on specific songs. My boys weren’t really needed this time around.
Centanni: You’ll be making your Mobile debut at the Soul Kitchen, and you’re bringing along Odd Future member Taco. You mentioned your interest in punk. I’ve only seen videos of your live shows, and they have the rowdy vibe of a punk show. For those who have never witnessed a Tyler the Creator live show, how would you describe it?
Tyler: I mean, I don’t know. It’s free. It’s just free there. It’s some cool guy on stage. There’s nothing rehearsed. It’s just being free. We jump around and have no cares in the world. I just feel like it’s free there, and you don’t care about anything. You can be 100 percent who you are for that hour and a half.