TAKE #6: What Does it Mean for Tyler to Win “Best Rap Album?”

A month ago, I wrote a piece on Tyler the Creator and his move towards Black Visibility. In that piece I talk about how Tyler has existed within them musical imaginary – as a race-neutral black body that white guys could attach their hopes for blackness onto. Because Tyler hadn’t openly aligned himself with blackness, and at times did the opposite, it was easy for white guys (and white people more generally) to use Tyler’s blackness as their own liberation. However, within the past couple of years, Tyler has been more open about what blackness is for him. He’s frequently seen with a afro pick in his hair, rapping over afrobeats, and offering a level of freedom to black boys and girls that the world tells them they’re not allowed to have.

In his latest installment of doing black visibility, he calls out the Grammy’s for essentially being racist.

In this very short but very beautiful clip, he shares both his excitement for winning the award, but also his irritation around black folks who make something genre-bending (or as DJ Khaled offered, mysterious) only being able to exist in rap or “urban” categories in award shows. Instead of these award shows being open to allowing black artists to fill the spaces of their pop and country categories (a la Lil Nas X), they’re automatically placed into the categories that seem to make the most sense to place them in. Even if the fit is awkward. He likens this to being the little cousin wants to play a video game with the big kids, and instead of actually allowing them to play, the older kids give them a broken controller and let him pretend.

And even though the majority of us can watch these watch these awards and not feel like they have anything to do with the ways that we live our lives, there’s a direct correlation between this box that black folks are put in during awards season and the boxes that we’re put in regularly. There is an inability for people to believe that black folks can exist in other way than those that have been ascribed to them. Blackness is what whiteness isn’t, and because whiteness is given room – or makes room – to be so expansive, Blackness is what’s leftover. And when black folks are constantly bombarded with the idea that they can only exist within this monolith, we police each other. We tell each other what we can and can’t do, based off of the standard that is set by white folks, and it takes brave people to ignore these consistent signs and live a life that is completely self-determinate. That self-determination is where true freedom lives. That’s when folks like Tyler are able to shine the brightest.

But it also takes us as a community to allow each other to exist in multitudes. We have to be open to experiencing each other in ways that allow us to know what true freedom means. Of course, we all have a personal responsibility to be ourselves and grow in the ways that make sense to us, but we also have to make room for the folks around us to do the same. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have expectations of each other, but that does mean that we can see the growth in others as an opportunity to get to know each other better and more holistically.

And that’s really what this whole thing is about. Seeing a person fully for who they are doesn’t mean that they turn into a terrible person; it just means they turn into a PERSON. Idolizing someone to the point of ignoring their flaws takes away the goofy-looking pieces that make us human. The same thing works for non-human beings, things, etc.

“Album Look Back #1: Chance the Rapper’s ‘The Big Day'”

Anyway, I’m so super proud of Tyler. I’m so super proud of him speaking out. I’m just…wow. We really stan.


here’s something else you might like:

Take #5: Tyler the Creator, Odd Future, and a Move Towards Black Visibility

I remember my first time watching Goldlink’s video for “U Say,” featuring Jay Prince and Tyler the Creator. The video, set to the jazzy, afrobeat instrumental and smooth vocals from all three artists, is a beautiful, afrocentric creation as Goldlink, Jay Prince, and Tyler glide clumsily through a party. It’s really a beautiful video. Full … Continue reading Take #5: Tyler the Creator, Odd Future, and a Move Towards Black Visibility

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