Angry rhymes, dirty mouth, goofy kid. This was the headline which accompanied an article on the then 20-year-old Tyler The Creator in 2011.
The intervening years have seen a growing maturity in the man born Tyler Gregory Okonma. The Ladera Heights, California, native still packs a profane-ridden punch or two in the songs on Flower Boy, his smash hit fourth studio album. But most critics agree it is largely the work of an evolved artist and a matured person.
Tyler was just 15 when he founded Odd Future. The indie-rap collective originally consisted of Tyler, Left Brain, Hodgy Beats and Jasper Dolphin. They have since been joined by 11 more artistes, seven of whom are still members of Odd Future.
Their concerts have been likened to punk rock shows in the 1970s and 80s. They regularly featured stage diving, crowd surfing, moshing and group members antagonising the audience.
Odd Future’s activities are not confined to music. Tyler was the driving force behind creating Loiter Squad, a TV series featuring comedy sketches, pranks and music which starred the Odd Future members. He also developed Odd Future’s Golf Wang clothing line and a mobile app, Golf Media, which contains exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes clips and cartoons.
In 2012, Tyler created Camp Flog Gnaw, an annual carnival in Los Angeles which is a combination of fun fair and music festival. Odd Future perform collectively or as individuals with a host of major players from the rap and R&B scenes also appearing on the bill. In addition to the live audience, those with the Golf Media app can watch on their devices.
“The non-music stuff is very important,” Tyler remarked. “The continuing success of Camp Flog Gnaw can open a lot of doors for me that even getting a platinum record can’t. It allows me to talk business with certain people and certain companies. It gives people the chance to see a different side of me other than just saying stuff over a beat.”
Tyler hopes his business acumen will lead to an early retirement.
“I’m trying to retire at a young age and not have to worry about anything financially. Jay-Z is someone I really admire in this respect. The way he handles his business interests is an inspiration to me. There are a good many music stars who have become entrepreneurs but Jay-Z is one of those people who just make things work.”
Tyler’s solo music career began in 2009 with the release of a critically acclaimed mixtape. Odd Future members made guest appearances on seven of the tracks. This was followed 18 months later by Goblin, Tyler’s debut studio album. Many tracks continue the theme established on his mixtape of dialogues with his fictional therapist, Dr. TC. It is a style of song which would cause international travel problems for him in later years.
Although Tyler has so far achieved little success in the US and UK singles charts, his albums have proved hugely popular. Goblin, 2013’s Wolf and 2015’s Cherry Bomb have all gone top five on the Billboard 200 and done well on the UK chart.
Flower Boy now seems set to become Tyler’s biggest album to date. It has already given him personal best chart positions in every country where the record has been released.
The list of guest artistes has expanded beyond the range of his Odd Future colleagues. Roy Ayres, Pharrell Williams and Charlie Wilson appeared on Cherry Bomb. Actor / rapper Jaden Smith, Norwegian singer/songwriter Anna Of The North and multi-talented British artiste Estelle are among the collaborators you perhaps wouldn’t expect to find on Flower Boy.
“The songs on my new album and some of the guest artists reflect an evolution in my music. I got banned from some countries, including the UK, a few years ago for some of the lyrics in songs from the earlier part of my career. I hadn’t even performed them in my live shows for years.
“The authorities said I adopted a mentally unstable alter ego who described violent physical abuse and murder in graphic terms which glamourised this kind of behaviour. One of the songs happened to be about the serial killer, Ted Bundy, and I wrote it from his point of view.
“I grew up in inner city Los Angeles, which wasn’t great. But I don’t drink or take drugs. You could watch any interview I’ve ever given, see my personality, see the guy I am and realise I wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
The suicide of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington shocked and saddened the music world.
Although no-one can know the state of Chester’s mind when he hanged himself, he was a very close friend of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell who also committed suicide by hanging two months earlier.
Chester, who was the godfather of Cornell’s son Christopher, broke down in tears and was unable to finish One More Night, a song performed by Linkin Park in Chris Cornell’s honour. He also hanged himself on what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.
Tributes from fans and fellow musicians poured in after Chester’s death was announced. Fans also did what has now become customary when any significant music star dies. For whatever reasoning, they buy their old records.
Four of Linkin Park’s albums feature among the Billboard 200. But the band’s record sales have been much greater in Britain. Nine of their albums are placed among the UK top 100. Five are in the top 40 and three in the top ten.
Linkin Park have thus become the first American band to have three albums in the UK top ten since July, 1967, when The Monkees achieved this feat. They held the number two spot with Headquarters, number four with More of The Monkees and number six with their self-titled album.
Older readers may well remember Bucks Fizz. Consisting of two girls, Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston, and two boys, Mike Nolan and Bobby G, they won the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest with the UK chart-topping Making Your Mind Up.
Bucks Fizz went on to enjoy a string of big hit singles during the 1980s. These included two more number ones, The Land of Make Believe and My Camera Never Lies.
Troubles within the group led to the departure of Jay Aston in what was to become the first of numerous personnel changes and legal disputes. Three of the latter resulted in changes of name.
Such is the case now as three members of the original line-up, Cheryl, Jay and Mike, joined by Bobby McVay, have recorded a new album under the moniker of The Fizz.
The F-Z of Pop is the group’s first album since Writing On The Wall, which was released in November, 1986. The collection of 15 tracks has been produced by Mike Stock, another big name from the 1980s. Mike was part of the hugely successful Stock, Aitken and Waterman production team.
The new album will be released on September 22. It is being promoted on the back of newly issued lead single, Dancing In The Rain. Initial reaction from fans has been enormously positive. There is no video as yet but an official audio posting can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-aqh6Yh7X8
Nashville might be regarded as the home of country music but an increasing number of rock bands are now emerging from Tennessee’s state capital.
Bully are among those who have made a significant impact in recent times. Their critically acclaimed 2015 debut album, Feels Like, will soon be followed by the quartet’s sophomore set, Losing, which is scheduled for release on October 20.
As with their first album, all songs were written by singer and guitarist Alicia Bognanno. She also engineered and mixed the record using the skills which earned her a degree in audio recording from Middle Tennessee University.
Alicia is the founder member of Bully. After initially performing with Nashville area power pop quintet King Arthur, she formed her own band in 2013.
Spotify users can stream Feels Like in full. For everyone else, a selection of tracks, including live performances, can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl_ow0NSPH4&list=PLKQVwcd42MlG6bVarwIdSoUf4Qv94l0j-
A video for Feel The Same, lead single from Bully’s forthcoming album, is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-I425JAhok
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