Words: Dylan Murphy
Following the release of CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, Tyler, The Creator is the name on everyone’s lips. His evolution from internet provocateur to festival headliner is really something to behold and we traced his journey through his 30 best tracks.
Tyler, The Creator has made little attempts to hide his status as a “Fucking walking paradox” since he burst onto the scene as a cockroach eating provocateur, but few could’ve predicted his growth from the homophobic slur cannon of a riotous skate crew to the kind of artist that writes hymns for the heartbreakers.
Truly great artists evolve and often develop characters that represent one era before birthing another to introduce a new one. They maintain an air of unpredictability and push sounds that set new trends and most importantly, they make great music.
The Odd Future co-founder ticks all of the above and with a hot streak of three critically acclaimed albums, collaborations with Gucci, his own globally recognised clothing line, LA-based festival and a GRAMMY award in his cabinet before the age of 30 it’s fair to assume he’s only getting started.
With this in mind and following the success of CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST we dipped into the polymath’s catalogue to undertake the difficult task of ranking his 30 greatest songs of all time. We took only solo material into account so no Odd Future Tape cuts made the list or guest features on other artist’s songs.
So sit back and get the Twitter fingers at the ready, here are the 30 best Tyler, The Creator songs of all time.
Screaming “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school” only really feels truly radical as a pubescent teen and for the most part, the angsty tone from Goblin has all but dissipated in Tyler’s post-Wolf era. However, there are some enduring motifs from T’s early discography and in Radicals in amongst the lyrics that aged poorly and the obnoxious delivery, there’s an unwavering self-belief that’s survived to this day.
While not on the same level musically, the ambition of the seven-minute track acts as a blueprint of sorts for the larger cinematic pieces that pervade in the pastel-coloured world of IGOR and Tyler Baudelaire.
Though he laments the comparison, ‘Colossus’ is essentially the 2010’s answer to ‘Stan’. Reflecting on an encounter with a super fan at a theme park, it puts Tyler’s attempts to grapple with fame and the increasingly intrusive claws of stan culture into full focus.
Sonically, it feels like floating on a cloud in a way that makes it feel like a dreamt up moment, but he’s adamant it happened.
Either way, Tyler was often pinned as a left of field weirdo who stood outside of hip hop’s norms, but ‘Colossus’ is a prime example of his ability to use the genre’s key tenet of storytelling to make a totally unrelatable and alien experience feel tangible.
It’s fair to say that some of T’s catchiest hits haven’t made it to any of his albums, we’re just glad he released them as loosies on his youtube rather than letting them rot away on his hard drive.
Tyler could say anything over the bass on ‘OKRA‘ and it’d sound good, it’s just got that indescribable face-scrunching quality that elevates everything it touches.
Arguably, one of the last true Odd Future crew cuts, ‘Rusty’ has Domo, Tyler and Earl passing the mic in one of their last quintessentially antagonistic cuts.
The standout moment of the collaborative effort comes via some clever production that sees Tyler removes the bass and swaps it for a series of jazzy synth chords allowing for an honest albeit confused attempt at defending his antics.
It’s blunt, fun, contradictory and a timestamp of the height of Odd Future’s collective presence.
For sure, there’s a more mature approach to examining cancel culture on ‘MANFIESTO‘ and yes, there’s plenty of self-examination, but really, we’re here for the bars. For all the brilliance of IGOR’s glistening keys and heartbroken melodies, it left a lot of people wanting a return to the arrogant charisma that Tyler typically oozed and boy did they get it on CMIFYGL.
‘MANIFESTO’ sounds like T trying to prove a point. While he’s capable of producing cinematic, GRAMMY-winning love tales for the art hoes he wants you to know can still go toe to toe with anyone and what better way to get people off their seats than reviving a pairing from the Odd Future era.
The video that started it all.
Sure, Tyler had been getting looks alongside the rest of Odd Future before he swallowed a cockroach, but nothing on the scale he was about to experience. After it dropped, Kanye West hosted the video on his website, critics were divided and there was about to be a lot of kids wearing supreme box logos.
While he took a break from playing the song live when he beefed up his discography, there’s no denying the status of the video and song to a host of then teens that swapped hip hop’s chains for skateboards and fronto leaves for mosh pits.
10 years later it’s been certified platinum and while it’s a far cry from the albums of late, it’s a marker of his growth in the last decade.
Sometimes you just need that little push to get out of your comfort zone and ‘Find Your Wings’ is Tyler taking control of his own destiny with a little help from his friends. Quite simply a gorgeous record.
Such is the quality of Tyler, The Creator’s production, it’s easy to get lost in the sound before taking lyrics on board. On the surface, the first half of ‘911 / Mr. Lonely’ sounds almost blissful, but a closer listen reveals a high flyer burdened with loneliness.
The switch on the midpoint of the track feels like the starting shot of a sprint with Mr. Lonely barely taking a breath as he takes his flow up a gear in a relentless finish.
Having proved a winning pair on ‘Gravity’ earlier in 2021, Tyler and Brent Faiyaz teamed up again on ‘SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE’ with Fana Hues joining the party to complete the sugary cut.
Transitioning into what sounds like a bossa nova’s answer elevator music, ‘I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE’ has just that inch more hesitation that’s needed to keep you guessing for what is in essence one big nine-minute long track.
For as long as they have existed, cars have been a lynchpin in modern songwriting. In hip hop, they’ve been weaponised as a status symbol with Cadillacs soundtracking the hydraulic-loving gangsta rap of 90s and rolling in a Range Rover becoming the go-to flex for city-dwelling acts. Whereas, equally as common, is the backseat as a safe space for honest conversations. Think about the security and solace that cars brought Gary Numan and the heartbreak of Frank Ocean’s ‘White Ferrari’.
Likewise, cars have been a staple of Tyler’s music throughout his career and a lot of people will know that T likes to clump two or more songs together on his albums and with that in mind, we’re going to be really nitpicky and choose ‘Bimmer’ specifically from ‘PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer‘ on WOLF.
Recruiting Frank Ocean on vocals is always going to result in a very rich and nostalgic texture and ‘Bimmer’ hits the sweet spot in a way that could have the tightest motorphobe wanting to glide down the highway with the topdown.
The way the singular piano note fills the space the drums vacate on ‘Corso’ feels like a ballet dancer gracefully evading downpours from the clouds above.
This kind of juxtaposition is in line with the potential rationale for the track’s title too. With a cane corso being a common guard dog, it makes sense that Tyler would protect himself from unwanted rejection by showering himself in the finer things in life.
Solange’s hands are all over IGOR and there are few more touching moments than the singer harmonising over Charlie Wilson’s fading vocals. The pair’s gentle touches to the track accentuate the myriad of Tyler’s warped and competing takes in his attempts to convince himself he is over a failed relationship.
Get in loser, we’re exfoliating our skin.
Self-care is sexy and Tyler is letting his potential interest know he’s all about the skincare routines.
It’s fair to say that between his last three full-length releases, Tyler has kept listeners on their toes. Flower Boy was received as a left turn for T at the time, IGOR sounded like nothing he’d done before, while CMIFYL saw a return to braggadocio and straight-up rapping. Being considered an icon often requires a certain elusiveness that can only be achieved by a constant and considered evolution and it’s so far so good for the LA artist.
‘I AIN’T GOT TIME’ is the sonic manifestation of Tyler’s restless mind. Brimming with unpredictable beat switches, quirky adlibs and an aversion to sticking to any one topic it’s the kind of song that keeps you guessing and showcases that aforementioned capriciousness on a microscale. While he admits he’s been “kissing white boys since 2004” it’s the vagaries and what he leaves to the imagination that really hooks you in – a certified shapeshifter of a song.
Bonus detail: Everyone loves an Easter egg and the outro to ‘I Ain’t Got Time’ features a snippet from an early version of ‘SWEET/ I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE’ that now features on his latest album CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST.
Tyler and Rocky’s friendship is one of the most wholesome in modern hip hop and hearing them trade bars under the Eiffel Tower is always a good time.
An eight and a half minute opus about your problematic feelings for a friend’s girl executed in one take? Get outta here.
‘WILSHIRE’ is the only track on Tyler’s Call Me If You Get Lost that doesn’t feature the shouts of DJ Drama. Given the intimate topic matter and diary entry like style, it makes sense. It stands in complete contrast to the brashness and braggadocio of ‘RISE! and forgoes the sugariness of ‘SWEET/I THOUGHT’ to make a point that this love isn’t built out of clout or rainbows or butterflies, and in the end, it sucked.
In another edition of ‘songs we’re glad Tyler didn’t give to other stars’, we have a song that now feels like it could only work for a certain west coast rapper in a blonde wig.
‘Earfquake’ was declined by Justin Bieber and Rihanna and to be honest, we’re glad because it’s unlikely we would’ve got the babbling of Playboi Carti had they taken up the offer.
The first time you hear ‘WHAT’S GOOD’ is a trip. Just when it feels like it’s chugging to an end, slowthai enters the frame like an unforeseen rise on a rollercoaster – you have the feeling that things are about to be taken up a notch and with Tyler behind the boards you are rarely disappointed.
IGOR is an album to cry to but even heartbreakers need to mosh.
Kaleidoscopic, transient and tasteful are just a few of the words that come to mind when listening to ‘Boredom’. Coupled with Tyler’s restless verses and the whistful vocals that dot in and out throughout it nails that fidgety boredom that leaves you at a loose end. In the end, it’s just a really pretty number.
There’s no avoiding the fact the lyrical content of ‘She’ is downright creepy and weird, but paradoxically, there’s something magnetic about the contrast in Frank Ocean’s melodies and Tyler’s gruff and stalkerish lyricism. Moreover, there’s no denying the certain je nais se quois that exists on all of the pair’s collaborations so far and ‘She’ is the best of the bunch.
Memories are strange things. We’ve all romanticised a specific time in our life and wished upon a star that we could return to those idyllic times when the going gets tough. Tyler has always had a knack for cooking up that kind of imagery – warm, sun-kissed imagery of days by the lake, riding shotgun with a girl or skating around Ladera Heights as a teen, you know, life’s good stuff.
However, such is the human race’s propensity for pain, we can all relate to that feeling of preparing for catastrophe when things are going good because we believe it can’t possibly last.
‘November’ captures all this and more as Tyler finds himself stressing over the fickleness of life’s charms before learning to live in the moment. In essence, it’s Flower Boy’s skippy flows and cognitive behavioural therapy-like thought process that talks himself out of an anxiety spiral that started off as the daydream of an escapist and rolled over into a paranoid train of thought.
It’s always a risky move to sample well-known pieces of music, if you miss, it often comes off tacky and a heavy-handed attempt at sponging off a peer’s success. However, when Tyler’s flipped the beat for Kanye West‘s ‘Freestyle 4‘ he did it better.
Going wild in the studio with A$AP Rocky, T channels the sinister energy of the Goblin era into a more developed product that sees him dust off past ills before going hell for leather.
This was built for mosh pits.
Though evidently, the literal and figurative centrepiece of Flower Boy contains some of his most vulnerable and introspective lyricism, period, it’s the shimmering production on ‘Garden Shed‘ that elevates the track to new heights.
Waiting for nearly three minutes to provide a flurry of admissions, much of the power in the track lies in Tyler’s decision to say less, rather than more and let the gravity of the track really seep in. By the time his final verse lands, he ends up confessing what the pensive production hints at.
The word polymath gets thrown about a lot online, but when Tyler produces, writes and arranges all the music on an album and wins a GRAMMY for it the word icon feels a little more fitting.
Sharing the same sample as Kanye West’s ‘Bound 2′ – ‘Bound‘ by the Ponderosa Twins, ‘A BOY IS A GUN*’ is up there with the best tracks from his fifth studio album. The way the loaded clips splatter and coalesce with the despondent lyricism and dusty textures give it a very specific cinematic feel. The kind that Tyler made his trademark and when you hear it anywhere else you know it was inspired by him.
In an interview with Billboard, Tyler revealed that the beat for ‘Smuckers’ was originally made for Jay-Z and Kanye’s Watch The Throne, but he ended up keeping it for himself. Inviting two of the greatest rappers of all time onto the track, Tyler more than holds his own and even admitted that when Kanye heard their verses he had to up his game.
“I played it for ‘Ye at his house literally four days before the album was due. He was like, “OK, I got to step my bars up. Y’all n—-s is spitting.” It was such a sick thing to know that me and Wayne had to put ‘Ye back on his feet.”
Between Ye’s bars about checking Nike, his wailing adlibs and Tyler’s edgy comments throughout, it’s a track where the ridiculous and the astute can co-exist and it’s never sounded so huge.
While the four-count intro to ‘I THINK’ screams Pharrell and the pulsing instrumentation doesn’t sound a million miles from Kanye’s ‘Stronger’, the track lives in a romantic daydreamed world of its own. In Cherry Bomb, much of the influences were very pronounced and verging on derivative, but on IGOR Tyler manages to reimagine his inspirations in a wholly original way.
Short and snappy, ‘I THINK’ embodies this development and glows with a joy that comes with surrendering to the butterflies in your stomach.
In order to really enjoy life’s highs, you have to be willing to put yourself out there and be vulnerable – there’s no risk without reward and WOLF era Tyler captures this perfectly in ‘IFHY’.
Lines like “it’s crazy who makes me the happiest can make me the saddest” still hold up today and enlisting his hero, Pharrell on the cut adds another layer to a genuinely personal effort.
Since day one, Tyler has been all about the extremities of life. For the most part in his early career, it was executed through an approach that had him at odds with much of the internet, whether that’s in the absurdity of stan culture in ‘Colussus‘ or teetering on the edge of suicide in ‘YONKERS’.
In ‘NEW MAGIC WAND’ Tyler is on the precipice of self-destruction and as his vision blurs around the edges the buzzing production only intensifies as Santigold’s metallic and slicing vocals cuts through the rumbling production.
Trapped inside the eye of the storm it’s clear it feels like T has 100 tabs open in his head as he tries to make sense of unrequited love.
‘SEE YOU AGAIN’ straight-up sounds like Kali Uchis is waving Tyler as he goes to war.
You already know anyone within a five-meter radius of any device playing this song can’t help but scream “OKOKOKOKOKOKOK” when T’s vocals kick in. Not only is it immediately infectious, but the songwriting is gorgeous and lyrics like “Wonder if you look both ways when you cross my mind” would make you question why Zayn Malik ghosted Tyler’s offer for the song. Not that we are complaining though, because only he could make it feel like a movie.
Tyler’s long-held desire to sing on record is well documented before the release of Flower Boy and before then his attempts at anything remotely romantic often felt juvenile. However, by the time IGOR came he’d found a way to swap his gravel-throated antagonism for heartfelt melodies and ‘ARE WE STILL FRIENDS’ is the cinematic cliffhanger that closes out an album that confirmed his status as a genuine gamechanger.