In 2019, the conversation surrounding Tyler, The Creator’s musical classification flared when IGOR was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Rap Album. The album, snubbed in every other category, was an interesting inclusion given that Tyler preceded IGOR by tweeting: “DON’T GO INTO THIS EXPECTING A RAP ALBUM.”
When the GRAMMY nominations were first announced, Tyler tweeted, “uhhhhh I guess,” seemingly showing his disagreement with the category in which his work was placed. Data backs up his thoughts, too, with HipHopNumbers reporting only 41.5 percent of Tyler’s vocals on the record features him rapping.
Since the beginning of his career, Tyler has been cultivating a steadily growing fanbase of versatile devotees. Those who have tracked him from the beginning of his career have seen him move from deep-voiced shock rap to production-driven, genre-traversing music. Despite moving further and further away from making a traditional rap record, Tyler’s popularity has only grown, spiking with the release of IGOR. The project awarded him his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 and all but three songs of the record charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
Tyler’s fans were pleased the Recording Academy nominated him for a Best Rap Album GRAMMY award—his second following 2017’s nomination for Flower Boy—but the confusion surrounding his nomination in the rap category roared within his fanbase. The phrase “IGOR was not a rap album” flooded Twitter following the announcement, raising a larger conversation about Tyler’s place in contemporary rap.
“IGOR was not a rap album if you ask me,” Ohio superfan Tyler Gardner tells DJBooth. “It was a manifestation of all of his other albums combined while touching upon sounds never heard before by Tyler.”
Each fan who DJBooth spoke with had a different answer when it came to defining IGOR’s genre. Gardner calls it an “alternative R&B” record while Angel Abreu, a self-described “Tyler hype-woman,” labels it “a hip-hop album with pop influences.” TylerUpdated, an Instagram fan account with over 10,000 followers, says, “It’s so many different genres.”
“Tyler would say ‘Genre: Tyler,’ which would make more sense overall,” Abreu continues. Since 2011‘s Goblin, Tyler, The Creator has been synthesizing all his musical interests into one, borrowing elements of dance, R&B, pop, and alternative rock. As he explained to Zane Lowe in an interview for Apple Music, IGOR is inspired, in part, by a fascination with ‘80s soul and pop music—citing Sade, Everything But The Girl, and The Style Council as influences.
While his fans would love to see Tyler claim his first GRAMMY, Abreu believes, technically, IGOR shouldn’t take home the award. “If IGOR isn’t a rap album and it’s nominated for Best Rap Album against actual rap albums, Tyler probably shouldn’t win the GRAMMY…” she says. “Not because he doesn’t deserve it, [but] it’s just not in its respective category, and, to my knowledge, that’s not Tyler’s fault.”
Tylerflowerboy, a fan account on Twitter with over 10,000 followers, believes mainstream award shows have snubbed Tyler because he has an “odd way of presenting his ideas to the world.”
“[His albums before Flower Boy] were all rap based with deeper bass and harsher lyrics,” adds Gardner. “Flower Boy, on the other hand, included more melodic elements and an overall more relaxing and meaningful feel to it.”
A widening of Tyler’s fanbase, TylerUpdated says, is the result of shifting his focus: “[It] grew larger the minute he stepped back from rapping and started producing more,” they say.
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Tyler agrees Flower Boy was a turning point in his career. He told Zane Lowe in 2019, “If I started at Flower Boy, and then [IGOR], I would be a God.” Tyler added that he didn’t realize he should “stop yelling” until he was 24. He’s 28 now.
Flower Boy awarded Tyler, The Creator mass praise. DJBooth named the record the eighth-best of 2017, and it also landed on Top 10 lists by Pitchfork, Complex, and Noisey. IGOR continued this trend of growing praise and popularity, with even Tyler stunned at the response to his most recent tour. “I never thought I’d sell out Madison Square Garden this soon, honestly,” he told his New York crowd last year.
Some fanbases tend to shun such expansive mainstream appeal, but most of Tyler’s fans have embraced his newfound popularity. “His fanbase has been rapidly expanding since IGOR released,” TylerUpdated says. “I’ve seen more people appreciate [the] sound Tyler is going for and respect him as an artist even more than they did before.”
“I think Tyler is plenty enough mainstream,” Gardner adds. “As time [goes on], more and more people will have a deeper appreciation for him and his music.”
This level of comfort doesn’t mean fans don’t miss his rapping. Not one fan who spoke to DJBooth listed IGOR as their favorite Tyler project. Many fans expressed disappointment over Tyler relying on rap less and less.
When Tyler co-founded Odd Future in 2007, he made a name for himself with unique, shocking raps. His early albums featured rap verses from his Odd Future crew members Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy, and Domo Genesis before he expanded on Cherry Bomb, including Lil Wayne, Kanye West, ScHoolboy Q and more on the record. Tyler was moving away from the rap world on Flower Boy, but the album still featured prominent verses from A$AP Rocky, Wayne, and Jaden Smith.
IGOR, however, treats rap features as another instrument in the larger production, from Lil Uzi Vert making a rare singing appearance on “Igor’s Theme” to Kanye West’s unrecognizable ramblings on “Puppet.”
“Some fans care that he’s stopped rapping, I see it on social media all the time,” TylerUpdated says. Abreu agrees, saying she’s seen older fans express how they “wished Tyler rapped more.” Tylerflowerboy adds, “Most of them miss the old Tyler.”
There is, however, a consensus Tyler continues to grow his dedicated fanbase, no matter what creative turn he takes. Beyond his music, Tyler has run his successful Golf Wang clothing brand since 2011, created multiple television shows for Adult Swim, notably Loiter Squad and The Jellies!, and also helms an annual festival—Camp Flog Gnaw. Hardcore Tyler fans buy into the all-encompassing experience.
“To me, Tyler is one of those artists in which his fans stick by his side, mostly due to his consistent personality outside of music,” Gardner says.
TylerUpdated speaks on fans’ dedication to Tyler’s vision apparent at his live shows. Fans show up en masse often dressed in his Golf Wang clothing or wearing his Converse le FLEUR shoes. “People even come dressed as personas and characters Tyler has created within his music career,” they say.
Being a Tyler fan means more than just reacting to his sound. It’s about trusting his vision and following him as he grows, and his style changes. IGOR may not be a rap album, but it’s the kind of album only Tyler could make.
That individuality and creative vision are precisely what the GRAMMYs should be rewarding. Considering IGOR’s critical and commercial success, it’s difficult to accept its exclusion from the Album Of The Year category. There is still a chance, however, that he’ll walk away with his first-ever GRAMMY come Sunday. Even if the award is in a category that doesn’t quite fit, at least there will be some solace in watching Tyler go up on stage and finally receive his gilded gramophone.