Since his early Odd Future days, Tyler, The Creator has positioned himself as hip-hop's most gleeful provocateur. Whether it's necrophilia, matricide or just your normal run-of-the-mill homicide, Tyler has rapped about it, and made sure to do it in a way that is specifically designed to cause maximum discomfort.
His latest album, Scum Fuck Flower Boy, is a practice in Tyler-isms. Nevertheless, the one song that seems to have mesmerized both avid fans and staunch detractors makes no mention of copulating with dead bodies or chronic masturbation, as some of the rapper's more outrageous past singles have.
In fact, by Tyler standards, "Garden Shed" is fairly tame. However, one particular stanza still managed to create a social media frenzy: "All my friends lost / They couldn't read the signs / I didn't wanna talk and tell 'em my location / And they ain't wanna walk / Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase / Thought it'd be like the Frank; poof, gone / but, it's still goin' on," raps Tyler.
From there, the world proceeded to lose it's entire cisgender mind. Many wondered if the verse was just another example of the rapper trolling. Some even questioned if he was doing so at the expense of the LGBTQ community, particularly because Tyler has been roundly criticized in the past for his liberal use of gay slurs. According to a Colorlines article published in 2011, Tyler's debut studio album, Goblin, contains the word "faggot" or "fag" 213 times.
Yet despite Tyler's rampant use of gay slurs, many argue that his rhetoric and behavior don't match. Quite a few fans have already pointed out the disparity between what Tyler says and how he feels is particularly glaring given that the rapper may actually have been trying to come out for years.
Whether that's true or not, it is something the "Garden Shed" rapper himself joked about as far back as 2015.
In an era where younger generations are increasingly challenging dated attitudes about sexuality, and where inclusivity and acceptance have become universal rallying cries, should Tyler maybe coming out even be scrutinized the way it has been?
We polled a handful of longtime Tyler fans in the LGBTQ community to get their views on the "Garden Shed" stanza that launched op-eds for days.
Occupation: Digital Marketing Director
I've been a fan of Odd Future and Tyler for years. During that time I've learned that Tyler is a joker and often trolls people. His fans know that. That being said, his new album and new tracks feel more personal and honest. Whereas before he may have joked around with gay stuff, but I chalk that up to him testing the waters.
People often joke about things that they're serious about to test the room. With Frank and Syd both LGBT+, and with Makonnen having come out, I think Tyler feels much more comfortable to embrace things himself. His fans are most definitely supportive and in the corner of the rap world he occupies they're definitely ok with rappers being LGBT+.
I was wary to jump to any one conclusion until I actually heard the music. On "Garden Shed" he says, "Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase. Thought it'd be like the Frank; poof, gone. But, it's still goin' on". You can't interpret this as a joke.
He specifically references Frank Ocean here and says he thought it was a phase. Sure there's the "poof" double entendre, but there's emotional weight in that sentence. He's letting his music speak for him. Also there are kids who are opting to not come out but instead just be who they are.
For them they feel like they shouldn't have to come out because it's not abnormal and it shouldn't be assumed you're straight until proven otherwise. You just are who you are. So who knows.
Quil Lemons a.k.a. "Glitterboy"
Occupation: Photographer/Visual Artist
I've been a fan of Tyler since the early Odd Future cockroach eating days. Tyler does use homophobic slurs in his raps but his feelings towards his gay fans never truly matched. Tyler was very accepting of Frank coming out stating, "Yeah, I was one of the first people he [came out to]. I kinda knew [he was gay], because he likes Pop Tarts without frosting on them, so I knew something was weird. [Laughs] But that's my n-gga."
Personally, I've never found him to be homophobic. I think he says crude things for shock value but is really a sweet boy. Honestly, Tyler is a goofball! I'm happy he's come out because it opens the door for so many more black men to express sexual fluidity without being judged, and it gives young black men of color another figure to look up to.
I'm mostly just happy that he's comfortable with himself and living in his truth now! So much love for Tyler - he's truly a light and I hope this allows him to openly and freely create his art.
While at this point I hesitate to say anything conclusive, as Tyler could be essentially trolling everyone and hasn't expressed his sexuality in what I interpret as a clear cut, irrevocably definitive and straightforward way, I find it all really interesting.
As I wrote in a piece, I think it surfaces a conversation about whether or not LGBT artists can and should employ the term "faggot" in their rhymes. His coming out would position him as the biggest LGBT male hip-hop artist of color, as such it would definitely lead and inform the narrative of a lot of behind the scenes conversations happening with other closeted musicians that fall in that category.
I think Tyler is very creative and part of his approach is intentionally different to make people feel uncomfortable. Doing that brings the attention to his talent and makes people really listen. As far as coming out, if he really did or wants to, it might be hard for him to do so seriously as a Black man in America.
He's cool with artists like Frank Ocean and Syd ( both are out and speak openly about their sexuality). They're also both people who have worked with him since the beginning of his career. Tyler using a bunch of gay slurs in his music goes back to his style and delivery being vulgar, I don't think it's any deeper then that.
Jamont Hanshaw a.k.a. "Hoodrich J"
Occupation: DJ & Creative
I became a Tyler fan because my older sister would share crazy stories about going into the mosh pit at his concerts back in 2010. From there, I fell in love. What I like about Tyler is that he crushes the stereotypes about "Black hyper-masculinity."
His music makes fun of the labels and stigmas surrounding oppressed people. It's important that Tyler doesn't place labels on people; he encourages Black people to feel comfortable about their bodies and their souls. My sister and I are both non-binary, we share each others' clothes and we go everywhere together. We never discriminate based off of gender or sexual preference.
Yet as young, queer creatives we often aren't taken seriously, and sometimes we're even looked as not real just because we are queer. To me, Tyler is a person who has helped pave the way for oppressed youth to be respected.
Occupation: DJ & College Student
Self-love is important. Without it, a person can't succeed in life. Confidence is key, and Tyler's confidence crushes the stereotype of heteronormativity in rap music.
Yes, Tyler uses homophobic slang, which can feel pretty contradictory to some of his fans. At the same time, many people who are part of the LGBTQ community do not acknowledge or go by these names. Some even prefer other pronouns that are more appropriate to their sexuality. For instance, I would be considered more pansexual. I fall in love with people's intellect and emotion rather than relying on physical attraction.
I think it's great that Tyler feels comfortable freely expressing different aspects of his sexuality (even though he's kind of hinted before on social media that he might be queer). I don't know if it was really him coming out, rather than just Tyler being Tyler.
The response, much like the response to Frank Ocean's "coming out," sort of bothered me. People always want to put words into someone's mouth and group them into a category. First they said Frank Ocean was bisexual, now they're saying Tyler is gay.
All I heard was Frank say was that he fell in love with a man, and Tyler said he kisses boys. We spend so much time trying to place people within the binaries of identity that we fail to realize that everything isn't so black and white.