How Tyler, The Creator Built a Cult-Like Following - Trapital (2022)

Tyler’s greatest creation is the loyal fanbase that’s been riding with him for over a decade.

Listen to this essay on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Tyler, the Creator’s Grammy victory still feels ironic. The self-proclaimed outcast earned the most mainstream award possible. He did it in rap—a genre he’s repeatedly distanced himself from. He did it with a history of problematic lyrics and a “fuck you, try me” attitude to cancel culture. But his Best Rap Album award was met with widespread praise from both day-ones and new fans.

The 29-year-old’s greatest creation isn’t his award-winning albums, eclectic fashion show, or one-of-a-kind music festival. It’s his cult-like following that makes it all possible. Since he started his career as a teenager, he’s been a symbol for those who were ignored by hip-hop. Those fans have rewarded him with the utmost support.

(Video) Tyler, The Creator's Cult-Like Following

An addressable market that was ignored

In 2007, Tyler the Creator’s Odd Future collective was born. In the early days, the group’sTumblr and YouTube pages were its gateways to the world. Fans got a behind-the-scenes view on the wild antics from Tyler, Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, Syd, Taco, and others.

Here’s a quote from The Face on how Tumblr strengthened Odd Future’s connection with fans:

The genius of Odd Future’s Tumblr page was how it made you feel like one of the family. You had a front row seat and got to watch as the group slept on each other’s floors, dealt with dodgy promoters, and humbly ate French fries together at a diner. This meant that by the time they did their first TV performance, or when Tyler won a VMA and Frank won a Grammy, the day one Tumblr followers felt like they had gone on the same journey, and each had a personal stake in this success.

Backstage content wasn’t new to hip-hop. (Roc-a-Fella’s 2000 Backstage documentary is still a revered classic). But Odd Future spoke to a different group.

Hip-hop was always known for its idolized archetypes. Even in the rap blog era, there was a certain type of artist that got covered by sites like NahRight and 2DopeBoyz, and it definitely wasn’t Tyler. Odd Future was for the people who watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force and played non-sports video games. As Tyler once put it, his brand is for the people who go to Taco Bell or make an illegal deal that they should not be doing. Would that audience get targeted by Vanity Fair? No chance. But it’s still a valuable group.

Businesses often confuse what’s sexy with what’s profitable. It’s often the exact opposite. Trends attract competition, so there’s less money to go around. The best moves are often where others aren’t looking. Tyler has a “not everyone is accepted everywhere and that’s fine” mentality that has served him well in both life and business.

The right opportunities, not the biggest ones

As Tyler’s profile grew, the opportunities did as well. In 2011, Tyler dropped “Yonkers.” The wild music video was a breakthrough sensation that took Odd Future to new heights.

It caught the attention of Rick Ross who wanted Tyler on Maybach Music Group. At the time, Rozay’s MMG crew was on top. The Miami rapper was dead set on growing the squad with the hottest artists possible. But Tyler didn’t even take his call.

Here’s Tyler’s friend and Diamond Supply Co. founder Nick Diamond who told the story to Complex:

Rick Ross called me out of nowhere and was like, “Yo, what’s up with Odd Future? I wanna talk to that Tyler kid. I want to sign him.” It was funny, ’cause when he called me, Tyler was actually in the store, standing next to me. So I was like, “Rick Ross wants to talk to you.” Tyler goes, “I don’t want to talk to Rick Ross.” I was like, “Dude, just fucking talk to him.” He was like, “Nah. I can’t talk right now.” So I didn’t put him on the phone.

If Tyler joined MMG, his popularity could have soared, but it also would have peaked early. And plus, can you imagine Tyler, The Creator suited up, mafioso style, rapping next to a Maybach?! Tyler eventually signed a distribution deal with Columbia Records, where he maintains control and his creative vision.

This mentality extended to his merch strategy. Here’s what Tyler said about Golf Wang in a Billboard interview:

“I don’t want it to be like fucking Rocawear or, I don’t know, a lot of things that come and go. That’s why I don’t give out free clothes to famous people. That actually could be the worst thing possible, if famous people wore Golf Wang.”

He doubled down on this in aVogue interview when he said “…I’d rather sell 20 shirts to people who actually want it. I don’t ever want people over my brand like Ed Hardy or Von Dutch.”

According to Tyler, his Golf Wang apparel company made $17 million in revenue in 2018. It took seven years to get there, but the company’s seasonal drops continue to gain traction. The last place Tyler wants to see his clothes is on a TJ Maxx clearance rack—the home for once-popular brands that get too excited and flood the market.

Brands that rise and fall quickly don’t sell on loyalty, they sell on ephemeral popularity. Their customers buy because they want what’s “in,” not because of the brand itself. Meanwhile, lasting brands take time to build, but the rewards are often greater.

Tyler’s fashion shows are unlike any other fashion show. With people just wearing regular clothes?

Build the community, sell the lifestyle

With his engaged following, Tyler extended the brand quickly. In 2012, he started a show on Cartoon Network’s adult swim called Loiter Squad. That year he also launched his music festival, Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival. In 2013, Golf Wang had already teamed up with Vans. By then, Odd Future had already boosted Supreme’s popularity and had an informal relationship with the streetwear brand.

Tyler’s 2013 plan is an aspirational target that today’s artists still strive for. He had the content, production partnerships, in-person events, and merch. The only thing left was a podcast deal.

But unlike other artists, Tyler’s wasn’t driven by financial gain. He truly enjoys building stuff. “Rapping is so limiting,” he says. “I’m interested in everything,” he told LA Magazine. He’s hands-on with almost everything he does. He writes and produces most of his music. He designs his own clothes. It’s a difficult business to scale, but that’s not the point. His curiosity is a driving force to do what others won’t.

The first Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival only had 2,000 fans. Many musicians wouldn’t put that much work in for an event that could only gross around $100,000 in ticket revenue. But the small crowd was a blessing in disguise. Those attendees were fully decked out in Golf Wang apparel. They set the tone for a crowd that has steadily grown to nearly 50,000 fans.

Community-building is a hot topic for creators. One of the most common tips is to start with a small group, ensure that those members gain value, and slowly scale from there. Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival is a great case study for this.

In 2015, the festival to expand to multiple stages. The next year, it expanded to multiple days. In 2019, the community was powerful enough to boo Drake off the stage! It’s both ridiculous and impressive. Drake wouldn’t even get booed at a Kanye West concert, and Kanye can’t stand him.

Tyler’s fans don’t dislike the Toronto rapper. The crowd wanted Frank Ocean. They thought they were getting Frank Ocean. But the last thing that crowd wanted to hear was “Ratchet Happy Birthday.” It was a rough moment for Drake, but it speaks to what Tyler has built.

How Tyler, The Creator Built a Cult-Like Following - Trapital (1)

Brands like Supreme have benefited tremendously from Odd Future and Tyler’s strong fanbase.

Evolving to reach the next generation

As communities grow, they start to divide. In music, the split happens when day-ones separate from newer fans. For Tyler, the early signs came long before the success of his albums IGOR or Flower Boy.

In 2015, a since-deleted viral Reddit post titled “I’m done with Tyler,” complained that Tyler’s Cherry Bomb album moved away from the darker vibes from his earlier work. Tyler came back with a 900+ word response. He sympathized with fan’s relationship with 2011 Tyler, but stood behind his evolution:

“when you have a favorite artist, you tend to grasp onto an era, trust me i do that with artist that i love but i also know they grow and see new things and change and mature and all of that. im sorry that im not in the same place to talk about those things…”

Most artists would ignore haters or sic their fans on them. Tyler’s nuanced response helped bridge the divide. Sure, he’s lost some fans since the Odd Future mixtape days, but he’s still himself.

Now, he’s officially mainstream. He may hate that designation, but if he’s winning an award from The Wall Street Journal, he’s mainstream! This recent wave of success may seem like the antithesis of Odd Future, but it fulfills one of Tyler’s ultimate goals.

Here’s what he said in a 2018 interview with GQ:

It’s still a piece of me that not only wants to be on the radio, but it’s probably some 11-year-old in the middle of fucking nowhere who might hear a song, look me up, get introduced to a whole world—and that could change everything he’s into for the rest of his life.

When Tyler was an 11-year-old in the middle of LA County, he looked up to Pharrell Williams and Andre 3000. Those guys changed him for the rest of his life. Tyler knows he’s in a position to do the same for others. Radio play is a vehicle to reach those 11-year-olds. So is performing at Madison Square Garden, performing at the Grammys, and everything in between. By extending his reach, he continues to grow the fanbase.

Unlike his peers, Tyler’s fans don’t have some cutesy name. They’re not the Ragers or the Barbz. Those are all clever tokens, but that stuff doesn’t make a fanbase.

The fanbase is made by the feeling it creates with the audience. Tylers fans have had that feeling for years, and that’s not changing anytime soon.


What is Tyler, The Creator impact on society? ›

He is a master of the entertainment industry and has slowly evolved into a master of the fashion industry as well. He started his brand GOLF WANG, when he was 23 years old and has turned it into an empire, raking in millions of dollars and changing the fashion industry as everyone knows it.

What did Jadakiss say about Tyler, The Creator? ›

Jada responds to Tyler's crush confession: “Tyler, The Creator better chill out. Nah, I like Tyler, The Creator. That just means that he tapped into our frequency [and] he loved Verzuz so I didn't take it as disrespect.

Why did Tyler, The Creator cancel? ›

Tyler, the Creator: Petersen Events Center show canceled because of production design | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

What made Tyler, The Creator successful? ›

He became a household name after his relatively disturbing 2011 music video for his single 'Yonkers', which won him the title of, Best New Artist, at the '2011 MTV Video Music Awards'.

Who are Tyler the creators biggest inspiration? ›

Tyler has named Washed Out, Beach House and Broadcast as influences. He was also initially influenced by rapper Eminem, calling Eminem's album Relapse (2009) one of his favorite albums in 2011.

Why Tyler, The Creator is inspirational? ›

Tyler, The Creator is talented, passionate, creative, and the number one supporter of being your self despite what anyone has to say about it. He has so much passion and happiness that never shines because of his out there, aggressive, and disrespectful personality.

Who was Tyler the Creator's crush? ›

Jadakiss has a fan in Tyler, the Creator. During The LOX's Verzuz battle with Dipset last week, the Call Me If You Get Lost rapper declared his love for Jadakiss, admitting that the rap legend's stage presence and appearance was a turn on. “Pause I think I gotta crush on Jadakiss,” Tyler wrote in the comments.

Who does Tyler the Creator have a crush on? ›

Tyler, The Creator Admits He Has A Crush On 'Yonkers' Inspiration Jadakiss.

What is Tyler's net worth? ›

Tyler The Creator Net Worth
Net Worth:$16 Million
Date of Birth:Mar 6, 1991 (31 years old)
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Profession:Record producer, Rapper, Actor, Music Video Director, TV Personality, Screenwriter
1 more row

Is Tyler, The Creator vegan? ›

Tyler Okonma is rumored to be a vegetarian Musician, Rapper, Record Producer. Tyler Gregory Okonma is also known as his artistic name Tyler, the Creator. He is an American rapper and record producer. He talks about being a vegan in some of his music, but it is unclear if he follows a vegan diet exclusively.

How did Tyler, The Creator make it? ›

When Tyler was 16, he formed the now-legendary Odd Future collective with many other California rappers, producers, and personalities. Led by Tyler and Earl Sweatshirt, the group was met with immediate positive acclaim. The Odd Future Tape showed a lot of promise to critics and the fanbase exploded overnight.

Is Tyler, The Creator engaged? ›

The rapper's fame has attracted questions from curious followers eager to know Tyler, The Creator's partner. However, he is not married.

How did Tyler, The Creator learn piano? ›

My mom never wanted to give me lessons, so I taught myself to play. But your mother was still supportive, right? She bought me a keyboard when I was 14. At first I was just playin' with four fingers, until I learned and taught myself chords.

What is Drake age? ›

How is Tyler the Creator a role model? ›

Someone that understands their fans and have a connection with them. A person that makes a difference in people's lives. Tyler the Creator is inspirational to his fans because he understands what people have been through and he is a leader and role model in society to the young generation of kids today.

Does Tyler the Creator produce his own music? ›

Through five studio albums, a number of features, mixtapes, and posse cuts, Tyler has one of the most distinctive sounds in the game. He's grown as both a solo artist and producer since introducing himself as the de facto leader of Odd Future, redefining his sound with everything he touches.

What is Tyler, The Creator's style called? ›

The artist behind Call Me If You Get Lost, Odd Future Records, and Golf Wang isn't afraid to experiment with his personal style. Tyler, the Creator is known for his color-infused clothing line, Golf le Fleur, and his Grammy-winning musical style.

How much is Drake net worth? ›

How Much is Drake Worth? Overall Drake's net worth as of 2022 is a massive $260 million which is made up of his global record sales, musical label deals, and concerts.

How much did Tyler, The Creator make from his tour? ›

Tyler did 33 shows in 32 cities for his Call Me If You Get Lost Tour, with New York being the only stop that saw two performances. He earned an average of $1.02 million per gig and 12,155 tickets per market.

Who did Tyler The Creator date? ›

Tyler the Creator's girlfriend is Reign Judge, an IMG model who's starred in recent campaigns for fashion brands like Miu Miu, Gucci, and Tyler's own GOLF LE FLEUR*.

Is Rapper YG vegan? ›

I went vegan. It's hard to stay vegan and eat right when you're moving around so much, but I've been off that alkaline water heavy, though,” he shared.

Is Rick Ross vegan? ›


What does the name Tyler mean? ›

Tyler is a common masculine given name. It is an Old English name derived from the Old French tieuleor, tieulier (tiler, tile maker) and the Middle English tyler, tylere. The name was originally an occupational name for a house builder, one who lays tiles or bricks.

Who is Tyler the Creator inspired by? ›

Other major influences in his work include Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, and Kanye West, who he has also collaborated with. Tyler, the Creator, has won two Grammy awards, both for Best Rap Album. In 2020, Tyler's album, IGOR, won the award, and in 2022, Call Me If You Get Lost followed suit.

What is Tyler's race in turning red? ›

According to director Domee Shi, Tyler is "blasian", i.e. of black and Asian descent. His first surname, Nguyen, implies he is of Vietnamese descent in particular.

What do Tyler, The Creator fans call themselves? ›

If you are an older follower or fan of Tyler, The Creator (before Flower Boy), how do you perceive or look at newer followers or fans (Flower Boy or IGOR)?

Who was Tyler, The Creator influenced by? ›

Yet, the Grammy Award-winning artist has made it a habit of extending proverbial flowers to the creatives who've helped inform and influence his own style, one of them being rapper and producer Q-Tip, who Tyler spoke glowingly of during a recent interview with Nardwuar the Human Serviette.

What song is Tyler, The Creator famous for? ›


Why is Tyler, The Creator called Tyler, The Creator? ›

While speaking with Fast Company about the passing of friend and mentor Virgil Abloh, the rapper briefly spoke about how he got his title as “Tyler, the Creator.” Born Tyler Okonma, he says that his stage name came from his Myspace page the he created when he was 13-years-old, where he gained a following for his ...

How many alter egos does Tyler, the Creator have? ›

Over 80 minutes, Tyler, the Creator spotlighted his duality — the light and dark, the underdog and top dog, the id and superego.

Is Tyler, the Creator vegan? ›

Tyler Okonma is rumored to be a vegetarian Musician, Rapper, Record Producer. Tyler Gregory Okonma is also known as his artistic name Tyler, the Creator. He is an American rapper and record producer. He talks about being a vegan in some of his music, but it is unclear if he follows a vegan diet exclusively.

Is Igor an alter ego? ›

Igor tells the story of a love triangle in which Tyler is slowly losing the person he loves to their ex. He invests so much of himself in this romance that he begins to lose who he is, prompting his alter ego, Igor, to emerge.

Who is Tyler, The Creator favorite artist? ›

At the Adobe MAX 2020 Creativity Conference, Tyler revealed Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP sits at number one. Meanwhile, he also has love for Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun, and N.E.R.D.'s In Search Of… and Pharrell's In My Mind.

Who is Tyler, The Creator in a relationship with? ›

It's a hard act to follow, so all the more impressive that Tyler's currently dating one of the only people whose taste can compare to his own. Tyler the Creator's girlfriend is Reign Judge, an IMG model who's starred in recent campaigns for fashion brands like Miu Miu, Gucci, and Tyler's own GOLF LE FLEUR*.

What is Tyler's race in turning red? ›

According to director Domee Shi, Tyler is "blasian", i.e. of black and Asian descent. His first surname, Nguyen, implies he is of Vietnamese descent in particular.

How many #1 songs does Tyler, the Creator have? ›

Tyler, the Creator notches his second No. 1 on the Billboard album chart this week with “Call Me if You Get Lost,” while BTS remains atop the singles chart with “Butter.”

What is Tyler, the Creator's best album? ›

The best album credited to Tyler, The Creator is Igor which is ranked number 297 in the overall greatest album chart with a total rank score of 6,401. Tyler, The Creator is ranked number 175 in the overall artist rankings with a total rank score of 13,685.

What is an alternative to rap? ›

Alternative Rap refers to hip-hop groups that refuse to conform to any of the traditional stereotypes of rap, such as gangsta, funk, bass, hardcore, and party rap. Instead, they blur genres, drawing equally from funk and pop/rock, as well as jazz, soul, reggae, and even folk.

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Mr. See Jast

Last Updated: 11/20/2022

Views: 6156

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Mr. See Jast

Birthday: 1999-07-30

Address: 8409 Megan Mountain, New Mathew, MT 44997-8193

Phone: +5023589614038

Job: Chief Executive

Hobby: Leather crafting, Flag Football, Candle making, Flying, Poi, Gunsmithing, Swimming

Introduction: My name is Mr. See Jast, I am a open, jolly, gorgeous, courageous, inexpensive, friendly, homely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.