By Anthony Laverde, Opinion Writer
I remember being in middle school when I first heard the song “Yonkers” by Tyler, The Creator. I was in awe; I was not sure if I was disgusted or amazed, but I could not stop listening. It prompted me to look up some of his other music and that led me to discover two things: He was the founder of a music collective known as OFWGKTA (“Odd Future or OF” for short), the vast majority of the collective’s music was dark to say the least. Fast forward almost 8 years, and I found myself in awe last weekend when I attended the 6th annual Camp Flog Gnaw festival, remembering back when critics and consumers alike labeled their music as nothing more than “horrorcore” and I was happy to see how far they’ve come.
Their journey, one I have been following since almost the very beginning, has brought them to a place where I feel it safe to say Tyler, The Creator and his collective are the most influential modern music collective, with their influence spanning popular culture that mirrors the economic and market influence of Amazon.
The parallels are there: Amazon started as an online company that focused solely on book sales, OF was seen as one dimensional, horrorcore rappers. Their growth and innovation has since has put them both in a position of extreme power and profitability. I remember the utter shock I felt over the summer when I read the breaking news of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. This meant Amazon, the already behemoth online company who has spread its e-commerce and influence into multiple industries, had just added an awesome new distribution network. The same shock I felt when I took a step back during my attendance of Camp Flog Gnaw and took in everything that surrounded me. Tyler had put together one of the best music festivals while also being able to differentiate himself by creating a real carnival experience around the music. There were 50,000 people in attendance last year, a number that can rival that of Bonnaroo, a festival that has been running three times as long. It seems as though things are only going to get better for Camp Flog Gnaw year after year.
The collective has been able to spread its musical influence across genres beyond rap, including RnB, pop, soul, alternative, and indie. Frank Ocean, arguably the most sought after performer today, has influenced new RnB and pop acts like Khalid and Kevin Abstract. His visual album not only influenced his contemporaries, but also got him out of his record deal and allowed him to drop his critically acclaimed album Blonde without a major label, and keep the majority of his profits. The Internet, an alternative OF band, that has 3 albums and a cult following. They helped launch the careers of acts like Steve Lacy and Vince Staples, and influenced a lot of Mac Miller’s experimental projects. The collective itself has even influenced an up and coming collective who is very similar and goes by the name of Brockhampton.
As far as the group’s leader goes, Tyler does it all. He still is, and always has been his own writer, producer, and director. His progression as an artist, producer specifically, has allowed him to work with legends like Roy Ayers, Hans Zimmer, and Charlie Wilson. He is a completely new artist from the one I saw on Yonkers, and he spearheaded the latest trend of jazzy, soulful production in hip-hop today. Beyond music, Tyler has launch 2 clothing lines, 2 storefronts, collaborative projects with vans, converse, and sprite, a mobile app, 2 TV shows (Loiter Squad and The Jellies), a fashion show, and six music festivals (Camp Flog Gnaw).
Jeff Bezos’s ambition to disrupt as many markets as possible has helped Amazon grow into the giant it is today, with a hand in several industries including real estate, home improvement, produce, etc. Similarly, Tyler’s want to express himself and inspire people has helped him reach platforms beyond music, including tech, fashion, retail, event management, and directing. His influence, along with that of OF has impacted popular culture so well that either they, or a byproduct of them is as unavoidable as Amazon is in today’s market. Unfortunately, for Amazon might reach its prime soon, Tyler, The Creator however, can continue to broaden his horizons as much as he desires in an effort to continue to build upon his influence and legacy.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 7th print edition.
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