Tyler, the Creator embodies rap's millennial ethos 

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In the current landscape of pop hip-hop, there are ideas you can depend on. Much like the speed of light, they are constants. There’s Drake, the smooth, sweater-wearing rapper who will always be at basketball’s largest events and whose popularity knows no bounds.

Kanye West is another constant. One can depend on his actions and statements — often about his musical abilities — to overshadow his musical product.

Then there’s Tyler, The Creator. The musician, producer and graphic designer is a polarizing figure. Along with Odd Future, a hip-hop collective comprised by the likes of Frank Ocean, Hodgy Beats and others, Tyler, The Creator brings a sense of millennial weirdness to a genre that rarely steps beyond the bounds of being outlandish.

Tyler, The Creator and Odd Future DJ Taco are performing 8 p.m. May 31 at Diamond Ballroom, 8001 S. Eastern Ave.

Tyler, The Creator, whose real name is Tyler Okonma, was born in Ladera Heights and grew up in Hawthorne, both communities in southwest Los Angeles County. His first musical release was The Odd Future Tape, Odd Future’s 2008 debut mixtape. His debut solo album, Bastard, followed in 2009. It landed at No. 32 on Pitchfork’s list of “The Top 50 Albums of 2010.”

Bastard was followed in 2011 by Goblin, which reached No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard 200 with singles “Sandwitches,” “Yonkers” and “She.” Okonma was named Best New Artist at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.

The video for “Yonkers” also introduced the mainstream music audience to the intense and uncomfortable world Okonma can create. Perched on a stool, Okonma, alone on screen, plays with a cockroach, then appears to eat it and vomit seconds later. Later, Okonma hangs himself in a noose.

Since then, Okonma has released two records — 2013’s Wolf and 2015’s Cherry Bomb — to positive reviews. However, his lyrical content has been criticized and described as homophobic. In an Arsenio Hall interview, Okonma spoke about the subject and his friendship with Odd Future musician Frank Ocean.

“Frank’s gay, and I use that word all the time,” he said. “He doesn’t care. He knows me. He knows when I say that word, I’m not thinking of someone’s sexual orientation. It’s just another word that has no meaning.”

His lyrics got him banned from the United Kingdom. In August 2015, the Home Office, the United Kingdom’s ministerial department responsible for security, immigration and law and order, informed The Quietus, a British rock music and pop culture website, of its reasoning: “Coming to the UK is a privilege, and we expect those who come here to respect our shared values.”

Okonma also is a graphic designer and creates the artwork for Odd Future’s releases, including his own. His work often features bright colors and is best described as bizarre. He also designs a clothing line that dips into the same artistic well.

His work is now mobile; it’s published along with animation and music through the app Golf Media. The description in Apple’s App Store reads “Golf Media is basically my brain in one place.”

The one thing that we know for sure about Okonma is there is no place in rap like his brain.

Print headline: Clever originator, Multitalented artist Tyler, The Creator brings his tour to Diamond Ballroom.

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Adam Holt

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