How Tyler, the Creator Stole Christmas

Graphic by Patrick Timmer

Fun fact: Tyler, the Creator’s fourth studio album, Scum Fuck Flower Boy, was originally intended to be a concept album centered on gardens and flowers. As one can tell from the title, or even the track list, the final product didn’t drift too far from Tyler’s initial plan. The songs are replete with botanical imagery. You may have noticed this when listening to his radiant hit, “See You Again,” singing along about “rose-tinted cheeks” and “dirt-coloured eyes”.

However, what is more impressive than Tyler sowing these floral lyrics across the album is his ability to capture a theme sonically. The staticky synths on the off-kilter intro, “Forward” could be emanating from the bees flying across the album cover. Their buzzing gets closer and louder until they zip away and the sweeping strings of “Where This Flower Blooms” spiral up. Tyler has a knack for orchestrating these triumphant build-ups that often blossom into songs with hard-hitting drums and sinister-sounding vocals, making it easy to overlook the pretty chords planted beneath the surface.

Vibrant colours characterize everything in Tyler’s dream world and this is what makes him the perfect fit to score a children’s movie.

In an hour-long interview Tyler shared about the Flower Boy creation process, he said, “I wanted this album to sound like a Disney score, very magical, my perfect little indie movie.” Tyler has voiced this aspiration to score films in many interviews throughout his career, but never has this desire shined through like on Flower Boy. Perhaps this showcasing of his rich soundscapes is what grabbed the attention of folks over at Universal Pictures. On September 18th, a trailer was released for the upcoming animated remake of The Grinch and music publications and fans rejoiced to discover that Tyler had been chosen to write original music for the soundtrack.

Nothing felt weird about hearing Tyler’s rendition of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” playing throughout the trailer. One could argue that if it was any other rapper, it certainly would have, but that’s the thing about Tyler, the Creator – he isn’t just a rapper. It has become quite common to see hip-hop artists eschewing the label of “rapper” (most notably Childish Gambino and Kanye West), claiming it erects barriers that limit them in their pursuit of other creative opportunities.

Tyler hasn’t just been one to dream bigger, though. He has repeatedly proven his power to manifest his fantasies in reality. He has shared drawings from his sketchbooks, where he conceptualizes designs for clothing, furniture and music video shots – all of which we have had the pleasure of seeing come to life, in all their colourful glory. Vibrant colours characterize everything in Tyler’s dream world and this is what makes him the perfect fit to score a children’s movie.

At times, it can seem like Tyler talks about his love for beautiful chords ad nauseam, but Tyler has always been a passionate fan and student of music first and, with each release, we watch him get closer to achieving just the right notes that evoke that magical feeling of your heart growing three sizes.

It’s all the better when hip hop artists are welcomed into these corporate environments of large-scale productions and given the resources and space to stay true to their own visions rather than their style being diluted or names being exploited for relevancy.

Considering hip-hop has become the most popular genre in the US, surpassing rock in 2017 for the first time in history, it also makes sense that an updated Grinch movie would feature an updated soundtrack that reflects the changing times with music from Tyler and even Brockhampton (yes, there’s a scene with the Grinch getting down to “BOOGIE”). It’s all the better when hip hop artists are welcomed into these corporate environments of large-scale productions and given the resources and space to stay true to their own visions rather than their style being diluted or names being exploited for relevancy. After hearing the two songs that Tyler contributed to The Grinch, one can tell that he did not have to sacrifice his sound to suit this new context. These songs could appear on a Christmas edition of Flower Boy, sharing similar motifs and arrangements, while throwing in some jingle-bells and kid-friendly, Whoville-inspired lyrics.

Poor choices of Tyler’s early career have often caused him to be cast as a Grinch-like figure (reminder that Tyler is still banned from entering the UK), reduced to that disturbed teen with evil thoughts, who rapped about rape and dismemberment. While these choices don’t have to be entirely excused, it is clear that these dark curiosities no longer occupy Tyler’s imagination. It now overflows with flowers. Tyler has grown, but he still possesses a youthful spirit that seeks to spread seeds of cheer and wonder. The more we support Tyler, in whichever medium his mind tends to wander towards, the more colourful a world we’ll live in.  

The Grinch is now playing.

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