On 'Igor,' Tyler, The Creator Bet On A Revolutionary Concept, And Won

Tyler, The Creator performs in 2019

Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images


On 'Igor,' Tyler, The Creator Bet On A Revolutionary Concept, And Won

One year since the visionary rapper released his GRAMMY-winning album, the Recording Academy revisits the high concepts and high art of 'Igor'

GRAMMYs/May 17, 2020 - 09:12 pm

Tyler, The Creator lives up to his facetious moniker on just about every one of his albums and multimedia projects. Since Bastard, his 2009 debut mixtape, Tyler, the meticulous creator he is, has always been exceptionally scrupulous in his artistic craftsmanship, working on minute details of production, lyrics, song-sequencing, album art, aesthetics and video direction.

So much of what defined his previous work was artistic provocation, painting chaotic, vulgar, absurdist portraits about his tumultuous life experiences and identity conflicts. On "Yonkers," the lead single off Tyler's 2011 debut album, Goblin, he waxed poetic, "I'm a fking' walkin' paradox / No, I'm not." The song and its provoking lyrics submerged listeners into a provocative yet cathartic deep dive into his psyche, one loaded with suicidal thoughts and perceptions of homosexuality in a heteronormative culture. The track's music video, archetypal of Tyler's youthful, creative radicalism, showed Tyler toying with a bulky cockroach in his hands. He then eats the insect, causing him to immediately vomit violently. The effect of the revolting image was clear: to provoke and challenge the world's perceptions of comfort and beauty.

Tyler's 2017 high-concept album, Flower Boy, was his first compelling body of work, which incorporated sunny, shimmering melodies and saw the rapper shifting away from his incendiary histrionics.

Flower Boy, like a bloomed flower, was Tyler's first head-on confrontation with his sexuality and insecurities. Employing dense, layered tracks like "Garden Shed" and "911 / Mr. Lonely," the latter featuring Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy, Tyler rigorously explored his boredom, loneliness and sexual identity across the album. After progressing through a musical journey toward self-acceptance, on the album's antepenultimate track, "November," Tyler leaves a voicemail to his crush in which he bravely confesses his love. 

The following track, "Glitter," a euphoric outburst, ends with a voicemail system saying, "We didn't get your message, either because you were not speaking or because of a bad connection." All of Tyler's emotional battles preceding his audacious confession fell on deaf ears. This bittersweet conclusion left many narrative questions unanswered: Who was Tyler's crush? Will he further pursue him? Was the love interest mutual? 

Two years later, in May 2019, Tyler dropped Igor. Like a movie sequel, the album continues the loose threads and romantic themes from Flower Boy, examining Tyler's love interest in vivid detail.

On Igor, Tyler is at his creative vertex, crafting a body of work with both alchemical precision and abstract beauty while openly facing and exposing his emotions like never before. Abandoning pretentious hip-hop bravado, he adopts delicious soul hooks, luscious synth-pop tunes and impressionistic lyrics. The album continues the thematic nuances of its predecessor, Flower Boy, orchestrating a multilayered, musically complex vision. It also happens to be one of the best breakup albums of the last decade.

Igor follows a breakup story centered on a love triangle between Tyler, his male crush and his crush's female love interest. The narrative cycles through different stages of this complex, dynamic conflict, which finds Tyler at his happiest and most hostile, sometimes all at once. 

As narrative art expert Chris Lambert exhaustively dissected in a long-form analysis in Forbes, Tyler structured the album's storyline in two phases: part 1 ("Falling In Love": tracks 1-7), wherein Tyler chases after his love interest; and part 2 ("Moving On": tracks 8-12), wherein he crucially realizes his relationship is volatile and a platonic friendship between the ex-lovers is, perhaps, the only alternative. The narrative shift between the two conflicting halves is truly remarkable: Uplifting tracks like "Earfquake," Tyler's self-critical plea to his lover—"Don't leave it's my fault"—spiral downward to the cold-blooded, grating screams of "I Don't Love You Anymore." Igor's notable character development aligns with Tyler's passionate, chameleonic vocal performances.

The storyline becomes as riveting as a "Harry Potter" audiobook when a convoluted love triangle is presented on "New Magic Wand," in which Tyler competes with his lover's paramour for attention and love atop the track's jolting, abrasive bassline and vampiric guffaws. By way of a magic wand, a romanticized version of a gun, Tyler wishes to "Get her out of the picture" "like magic." Later in the track, he portends, "She's gonna be dead," amplifying the album's Shakespearean melodrama to 10. Engrossing moments like these, harmonized by Tyler's grandiose musical architecture, elevate Igor from a concept album to an immersive, multidimensional experience.

While he served as the sole producer and arranger on Igor, Tyler, ever the masterful collagist, pulled from his influences brightly and loudly, expertly weaving together his diverse musical inspirations into his singular vision. The futuristic pop production of Pharrell Williams, one of Tyler's idols and a guest on the album, runs through gorgeous, gleaming compositions like "What's Good" and "I Think," while the iridescent dreamscapes of Tame Impala's Currents bear influence on Igor. Kanye West, a featured guest on "Puppet," is both physically and spiritually present across the album, too. His signature soul samples directly influenced tracks like "A Boy Is A Gun," which features a gorgeously knitted sample of “Bound" by Ponderosa Twins Plus One, a track also sampled on "Bound 2," the finale of West's 2013 opus, Yeezus.

Aesthetically, Tyler fleshed out the titular Igor character into a full-on persona via theatrical, dazzling live performances and a custom costume consisting of a psychedelic-colored suit and a now-iconic blonde wig. In his interview with Beats 1's Zane Lowe, Tyler discussed his meticulous process of engineering the musical and visual identity of Igor. "I've been drawing that character for three years now," he explained, justifying his radical ambitiousness with, "This is the first album where I didn't want to be cool." 

The breakout success of Igor—in the U.S., the album topped the Billboard 200, his first No. 1 entry on the chart—earned Tyler high status and top accolades. Last November, Tyler won The Wall Street Journal's 2019 Music Innovator Award, which encompassed his work across music, TV and fashion. 

Igor's most monumental moment came at the 2020 GRAMMYs this past January, where Tyler delivered one of the most memorable, melodramatic performances of the night. He opened with "Earfquake," assisted by legendary R&B crooner Charlie Wilson, later transitioning to an explosive, vehement performance of "New Magic Wand." Tyler performed in full Igor character, complete with an ornate, colorful set filled with houses in flames, which symbolized the album's romantic turmoil. 

Read: Tyler, The Creator Gives A Fiery Performance Of "NEW MAGIC WAND" At The 2020 GRAMMYs

Later that night, Tyler won the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album, his first-ever career GRAMMY win. In a revealing and touching acceptance speech, he expressed gratitude toward his family, fans and managers for trusting his "crazy ideas." "I never fully felt accepted in rap," he said, delivering words straight from the heart. "So for y'all to always stand by me and get me here, I really appreciate that."

Tyler's radicalism, those same "crazy ideas," have been largely unwelcomed and misconstrued by the pop mainstream. But with Igor, his craziest idea yet, Tyler took his biggest shot—conceptually, artistically and musically—and won.

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards


Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Brittany Howard

Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images


Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2020 - 04:13 am

This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.

“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”

Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.

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Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Doja Cat

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images


Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December

GRAMMYs/Oct 2, 2019 - 12:11 am

Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.

This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the RapperLil Uzi VertJuice WRLDYoung Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.

L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.

The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.

Tickets for Rolling Loud L.A. go on sale this Friday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. PST. The complete lineup and more info on this event and their other fests can be found here.

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DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images


DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 09:05 am

DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.

"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."

After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.

DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle." 

Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.