“Happy ya’ll came man, I fuck with it” nonchalantly stated the Odd Future founder during the first of his two sold-out Melbourne dates. Less of a gig and more of an experience, ‘Call Me If You Get Lost’ has been the highest-grossing rap tour of the pandemic, and although crowds down under love Tyler, The Creator, his relationship with this side of the world has long been an interesting one.

At one point, nobody wanted Tyler to win and for a long while, Odd Future and its members were public target number one. It’s a loud secret that both Australia and New Zealand are light years behind the rest of the world in entertainment culture and the politics that go with it. Banned twice in three years from performing at the NZ Big Day Out (the second time only an hour before their flight), the group were also scheduled to open for Eminem in 2014 as a replacement for Kendrick Lamar, however, were deemed a ‘public threat’ by the Immigration Department after previous accusations of inciting violence at a show. Rather ironically, Shady’s performance went ahead, despite having an arrest history including gun charges (and a far more extreme list of controversies and ‘extreme’ lyrics than Tyler). The following year, Tyler cancelled the Australian leg of his tour after a notable feminist group put pressure on the government to revoke his visa due to those ‘offensive lyrics.’ Not to be outdone, Conservative British Prime Minister Theresa May followed suit, issuing the now openly queer Tyler with a 3-5 year ban. Citing the reason as a perceived intolerance of homosexuality, May accused Tyler of “fostering hatred with views that seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.”

“Internet bringing old lyrics up, like I hide the shit.”

Tyler on ‘Manifesto’

Sure, there was validity in the claims, as the lyrics he was using were extremely offensive. But they were clearly just lyrics. We didn’t see any filmmakers banned at the same time, not to mention the hypocrisy of conservative governments famous for their marginalisation of vulnerable communities. Tyler was just a teenager without a filter, trying to make people mad for fun.

It was a classic case of the “aggressive, dark-skinned rapper” stereotype which was intimidating to the middle-aged folks with the power to ban him. Hip-Hop was once again disregarded as an art form and not allowed the same creative expression as other genres. Doubted his whole life, proving people wrong is in his DNA. What was forgotten in the smoke was the talent Tyler possessed, and how crucial the misunderstanding of his creative expression was.

‘Call Me If You Get Lost’ has been lauded since its release as Tyler, The Creator’s best work to date. It’s an album his fans had been dying for, re-establishing his rap credentials following the experimentation of previous Grammy-nominated albums Flower Boy (2017) and IGOR (2019). Following his signature, two-year creative hiatus, he took inspiration from Charles Baudelaire, a prominent French poet in the 1800s, and in giving birth to the new album, took on the persona of Tyler Baudelaire.

“He goes by the name of The Creator. But you, you call him Tyler Baudelaire.”

– DJ Drama on ‘Corso’

Tyler’s collaboration with DJ Drama on CMIYGL was a bucket-list moment, as he joined the coveted series of Drama’s Gangsta Grillz mixtapes, something he grew up on. After spending his plane ride to Australia in December 2019 listening to some loose freestyles he recorded prior to his departure, Tyler missed rapping. A simple “Yo, it’s time” text to DJ Drama set the stage, and he began to write extensively while on tour down under. Despite his flawless feature run for the likes of Westside Gunn and Freddie Gibbs, people had quickly forgotten that Tyler was a rap veteran; someone able to touch toes with the best both on the mic and on the boards. DJ Drama’s signature commentary on each track was an exciting cross over as Gen-Z was introduced a modernised take on the rap era earlier this century.

The masses were now boarding “Air Okonma”, with the LP deservedly receiving a Grammy for ‘Best Rap Album’, marking Tyler’s second consecutive win. Call Me If You Get Lost was a statement that echoed throughout the hallways and all the way to the bleachers of hip-hop, and the chant was clear: Tyler was THAT guy. In a stacked 2021 that saw Drake, Kanye West and J.Cole all dropping new albums, it was Tyler who took the Grammy and captivated hip-hop fans, once again stretching the possibilities of what a rap album could be.

“Everything thats happened I’ve told people like 12 years ago. people didn’t expect it because they’re looking at face value – they don’t know what I know. They don’t know my full potential. Ya’ll don’t know what imma be doing in 3 years, I know what the fuck imma be doing in 3 years, I know what I’m doing in 6 months! Some people can only judge you based off what you’ve already done.”

– Tyler, The Creator on HOT97, 2021.

As he popped up at festivals and shows around the US following CMIYGL‘s release, the world watched in awe at the extensive set design and unique stage presence, praying it would touch down under. And we didn’t have to wait too long. The world tour kicked off in North America in March supported by names including Vince Staples, Kali Uchis and Teezo Touchdown, who features on ‘Run It Up’, the 8th track of the album. In a great move by promoters, Tierra Whack was fittingly called on as replacement for Kali Uchis as support locally. Seats and merch lines filled unsurprisingly fast around the country, with fans scrambling to spend their savings on something to remember during their soon-to-be highlight reel of a night. At Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, 9 PM dawned, the stage was set, and Tyler marched up the steps and took his place, with a backpack and a hiking stick. As the crowd saw their favourite artist in the flesh, the noise was deafening, and ‘CORSO’ began to ring out.

Tyler’s stage presence and energy are something to behold, casually giving fans the Michael Jackson treatment; often freezing in between songs, staring off into the abyss, and with every slight movement, the crowd erupts. They are always in the palm of his hand. He made it clear that he’s a fan of Melbourne, bringing up old memories in the city and frequently mentioning his fondness of Fitzroy (which he references on fan-favourite ‘Slater’). Such is his fondness of Australian culture, receiving loud cheers of approval (and probably honorary citizenship) when passionately discussing his affinity with Golden Gaytimes, stating “is there heroin in that shit?”, a highlight for any ice-cream lover who might have been in the crowd.

More importantly, though, Tyler embraced Australia, and Australia most definitely reciprocated. It was a fitting eclipse in the beautiful chaos his career has been so far. From being banned from the country for his lyrical content only to return on numerous occasions and have stadiums recite his lyrics back, it’s poetry in motion. And beautiful to witness.

Tyler is fearless with his attitude, stance, and creative ideas, extending an olive branch to every fan and aspiring creative mind willing to listen. He’s now got a catalogue that goes against the grain, yet maintains an impeccable quality standard.

It’s funny, right? For some reason, y’all didn’t really think we was gon’ be here. See, for y’all, the sky is the limit. For us, the sky is just what we stand on to reach the beyond. High above the clouds, as you see us.

DJ Drama on ‘Run It Up’

In a climate where artists are frequently taking extended breaks in between projects (see Kendrick Lamar or Travis Scott), Tyler consistently delivers every two years without fail. And yet the quality never diminishes. He’s successfully bridged the gap between rap fans and nerds, insiders and outsiders, and people like himself who were never taken seriously. He’s faced unprecedented scrutiny, stood the test of time, and has only improved. The world didn’t want to see Tyler win, but he stands tall; a Golden Gaytime in one hand and 2 Grammys in the other, doing what he does best, which, is HIM.

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