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Five Things I Learned From Tyler, The Creator’s ‘Flower Boy’

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Tyler, The Creator‘s new album “Flower Boy” reminds me of how I found his music in an extremely accidental way. It was April 2015. The showers were frequent, I was a grown and insecure 16-year old, my 10th grade year was screeching to a halt, and I had just gotten my first iPhone. With it, my service carrier offered a three-month trial of Spotify Premium.

Playing around with my newborn child with an interface unlike that of my previous Androids, I somehow discovered the “Related Artists” feature on Spotify. I have no recollection of who I searched originally, but when Tyler appeared I was too afraid to listen. Still, I had a feeling I recognized him from somewhere.

The feeling wasn’t very warm. I played a sample and a very unorthodox song, later revealed as “Radicals” came on and about a minute in, my 16 year old self (who was into lighter indie rock bands at the time), turned it off, slightly shaken. Soon after, I found my way to Earl Sweatshirt and allowed myself to fall in love with him, his style, and his discography before stumbling upon Tyler again a few weeks later. Something was drawing me to him. He was different from the rappers my classmates were into. He dressed differently, his lyrics were different, and his music composition definitely sounded different.

Then, album by album, song by song, chord by chord, starting with his 2015 release, “Cherry Bomb,” working backward to 2009’s “Bastard,” I began to work my way into his fan base. I downloaded a free trial of Hulu just to watch episodes of Tyler’s Adult Swim sketch comedy series “Loiter Squad,” I downloaded his then-newly released GOLF app, and I spent nights just completely absorbed with a skinny, dark skin underrated genius from L.A., his music, his friends, and what went on in that mind of his. When I fell for Tyler, I fell hard and fast.

Fast forward to July 21, 2017, I’m 18, have now seen Tyler in concert twice, and was assured that “Flower Boy,” Tyler’s latest album, would save me from the anxiety surrounding my move to college and all the other insecurities in my life at the time. It did, sort of. Here are 5 Things I Learned from “Scum F*** Flower Boy:

  1. If Your Circle Isn’t Fitting You Anymore, It’s OK to Let People Go

On Track #6, “Pothole” ft. Jaden Smith, he expresses that you can’t trust everyone who you think is your friend. You have to find a very small circle that you know has your best interests at heart and will not forsake you and who will support you in your journey. In Tyler’s case, his most trusted allies are his mother, his heart and his manager, Christian Clancy. He also goes on to elaborate on how if people around you aren’t going on the same path as you, it’s OK to go your own way. Even if it might be sad to leave your friends behind and you want to do all you can so that your friends can be successful too, at some point you have to focus on you. “But what you want for some, some niggas really don’t want for themself.” This is actually one of my favorite songs on the album, mainly because it’s painfully relatable as my senior year my “friend circle” was essentially non-existent. It’s still relatable primarily because I’m going into a new environment in less than three weeks and suddenly I’ll be living in a new city, in a new state, with complete strangers and I’ll have to make new friends. This song will always be playing in the back of my head, not just because the music is sick, but also because it will remind me that on my journey through the next four years of unknown, that I have to be very diligent about looking out for “potholes,” whether they are people or otherwise, on my road to joy and peace.

  1. “Keep Your Garden Watered and Stunt”

He originally tweeted this quote in October 2015 but revived the phrase in “Where This Flower Blooms” ft. Frank Ocean, the second track on the album. It has been my motto for a while now but when I heard it on the album, it made my heart do something strange. Musically, the whole song is exceptional. The song allowed me to realize that I needed to focus. Above all else, my priority right now is my growth. My growth as a person, as a creative, as an advocate for creative and intellectual freedom had to be at the forefront of my mind at all times or else I would be allowing myself to be stagnant and idle. Watering my garden meant taking care of my business and making sure that I was in the best place I could be right now to grow to my fullest potential. It meant believing in myself when everyone else did not. It meant trusting my gut and not listening to people tell me what I wasn’t capable of. I realized that I can’t take care of my flowers if I’m all up in someone else’s backyard. Going into a new chapter of my life, this phrase and song will continue to be things I live by as I do my best to mind my business, water my garden and be the best I can be.

  1. Just Let It Happen

Up until I heard Track #4, “See You Again” ft. Kali Uchis, I could have sworn I was the only one person whose love life existed mostly in their imagination. “See You Again” reminded me to never compromise my standards and not to go into college searching for my future husband like everyone expects me to. Firstly, there is no boy on that campus paying my tuition so they will not be my priority. This song has reminded me that I’m going to school to learn and not to be on the college edition of “The Bachelorette.” I just have to let whatever happens happen but always remember my goals and my reason for even being there in the first place. As Track #9 says, “I ain’t got time!”

  1. Be Your Authentic Self

Following Tyler for the past two years has allowed me to see what pure, unfiltered creative freedom looked like. He had no record executive shoving generic, meaningless lyrics down his throat and making him vomit them back up over monotonous, predictable music. He was his own artist making his own music that he enjoyed. His entire album was written and produced by him. He taught me that the most authentic art is not made for the audience, but for the artist themselves. He designs the clothes he wants to wear, writes the music he wants to listen to, and makes the cartoons he wants to watch. A lot of people just happen to like and support and want to be a part of it. He’s not trying to impress anyone or trying to become popular. He just wants to be happy and creative and I admire that very much. I will definitely keep this mindset in the future and give up the idea that I have to fit in someone’s box all the time and fit this prescribed notion people have of me or what I should be doing. I will follow my heart, listen to my gut, and do what makes me happy.

  1. Root for Yourself!

A major lesson that I’ve learned from “Flower Boy” and Tyler’s previous albums is that if you don’t root for yourself, nobody else will. Nobody will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. Confidence is essential to success. As one of the most self-conscious human beings on the planet, I’ve had a really difficult time sharing my art with others and that has been detrimental to my progression because I’m not receiving any criticism. I haven’t learned anything from hiding behind undone projects and I will not do so until I stand up, recognize that my work is super fly, and not let any tell me differently. I learned the importance of believing that I am capable of extraordinary things and even if they may seem absurd, with the right people behind me, I can make it happen.

College is a time for self-exploration and grasping the concept of the universe and your place in it. I’m very grateful to do so with “Flower Boy” playing in the background.

Thalia, 18, is a freshman at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and is very nervous, but also excited, about leaving her beautiful city of Atlanta.

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