Tyler, the Creator is a megastar – and the BET Awards just gave him a gong to consolidate this. On Tuesday (October 5), the prolific black-fronted media platform hosted its annual Hip Hop Awards in the birthplace of trap music, Atlanta, with a huge of heavy hitters in the building. Hosted by Wild ’N Out alumni Karlous Miller, DC Young Fly, and Chico Bean, the awards were a delight. All of our favourite rap stars, DJs, producers and more came together in one room to celebrate the beautiful amalgamation of styles and subcultures within hip-hop.
Many were awarded on the big night, with Cardi B taking away the most wins with three awards (Song of the Year, Best Collaboration, and Best Hip Hop Video), while others were awarded similarly prestigious, relatively newer awards such as the I Am Hip Hop Award; awarding the rapping innovators that haven’t gotten their accolades as much elsewhere, but are special to BET. This year, — that went to the St. Louis representative with a whole lot of ‘Country Grammar’, Nelly. A man who had solely became one of the hugest rappers of the ’00s and repped a whole region of underrepresented rappers in the Midwest.
Then there’s Tyler and his Culture Influence Award. Here’s a man who has also represented an under-acknowledged section of rappers, but this time all over the world: the quirky, dorky ones who didn’t see nerdy or eccentric figures like themselves reach such heights before. Lil B might have opened the door to alternative personalities in hip hop, but Tyler, the Creator and his once-17 deep collective, Odd Future, set pop culture alight, still playing a vigorous role in the refresh of hip hop and its relevance in today’s culture.
Whilst getting the award endorsed by ROCK THE BELLS, a cultural brand started by hip hop pioneer rapper LL Cool J, Tyler shared some words which were inspiring and continues Tyler’s run of news-worthy award speeches (starting, of course, with his Theresa May shout out at the 2020 BRIT Awards). In his freestyled BET speech, he stated that rap is “opening the doors and throwing the key” for people like him to enter a realm they didn’t feel they had access to before, adding: “just crazy that the things that we were able to see and experience because of this thing called rap and hip-hop.
“With rap, it’s like a pathway for a lot of us to really just go, to leave, to experience… new shit that we’re not usually allowed to see because of where we grew up.” However, what Tyler, the Creator doesn’t give himself credit for is that he has allowed kids all over the world to live vicariously through him, seeing new things and experiencing new aesthetics as a result.
Eccentric skater-type LA residents weren’t always plastered all over the media before Tyler, and definitely not in the world of hip–hop, given how unusual it still is amid hyper-masculine world of hip hop. He’s right in saying that “this thing that’s a hobby, or a pastime or a passion for us – for a lot of people here, that shit kept us out of trouble”.
Endorsed by such a big name as LL Cool J, the award carries a lot more weight than some of the more generic yet big awards of the night. Tyler is the first recipient of this prestigious award that is awarded to “younger, innovative, otherworldly artist that has significantly impacted the culture” to help with ROCK THE BELLS’ ethos of “bridging the gap between all generations of hip hop fans”.
Today’s rappers are always under not only the scrutiny of us critics as well as the ‘oldheads’ of rap; those who assess the scene from start-to-finish. But Tyler’s brute defiance of has, as LL Cool J said during his introductory speech to Tyler accepting the award, “impressive cultural contributions, talent and unbound creativity, that has cemented him as one of the most innovative forces in music.”
Clearly, the ‘IGOR’ rapper wouldn’t get the award without the legends before him, as he acknowledged himsef: “If it weren’t for Q-Tip, the Andre 3000s, the Chad Hugos, the Pharrells, the Kanye Wests, the Missy Elliotts — who no one ever brings up — Busta Rhymes, Hype Williams, who just took it to this different world… I have definitely created my own path but it’s the people who have allowed me to think I can.”
From the start of his career, Tyler Okonma has always been destined to be the creative that he is. After his controversial musical start, which saw him utilise a gothic, grungy aesthetic, to him evolving into a nostalgia-drenched pop star, his legacy will now be a long and lauded one. But his knockout BET Award speech should remind you – or even coerce you into believing – that Tyler, the Creator is your favourite rapper.