Women in Music 2019

2017 No. 1s: How Tyler, the Creator Reached Rap's Center

Daymon Gardner 
From left: Columbia Records president of A&R Mark Williams, manager Christian Clancy, Tyler, Columbia Records vp marketing Jay Schumer and Columbia Records executive vp/GM Joel Klaiman photographed on Nov. 20, 2017 in The Caribbean Room at The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans.

Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, R&B/Hip-Hop Album Sales, Top Rap Albums (one week each)

During the last five years, Tyler, The Creator has gone from maverick rapper and producer to interdisciplinary star: He oversees the annual Camp Flog Gnaw festival, a destination for trend-savvy millennials; designs streetwear for his own label, Golf Wang; and executive-produces The Jellies, an animated sitcom on Adult Swim. With each of these ventures, Tyler, 26, has grown his fan base and laid the foundation for a leap from hip-hop’s periphery to its center -- which he achieved with this summer’s “Who Dat Boy.” Boosted by a characteristically bold video with a cameo by featured artist A$AP Rocky as a mad surgeon who sews a new face on Tyler, the song became Tyler’s highest-charting entry yet on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. That momentum carried through to Tyler’s fourth studio album, Flower Boy, which in August topped the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and just scored a best rap album Grammy nod.

Tyler, the Creator: You don’t want to put the soft shit out first. Nobody wants to hear that in the middle of summer. I thought “Who Dat Boy” surely will get people to listen to whatever’s next.

Mark Williams, Columbia Records president of A&R: Tyler knows exactly how to reach and speak to his audience. When he said [to release] “Who Dat Boy,” I was like, “Let’s go.”

Joel Klaiman, Columbia Records executive vp/GM​: It’s a hit record for today: It has never seen mainstream radio, but you hear that song everywhere, whether you’re in a coffee shop or a clothing store.

Jay Schumer, Columbia Records vp marketing​: We launched with that extraordinary video that could’ve only come from Tyler’s brain. [During] release week, we kept the momentum building, rolling out offers on the Golf Wang site that were album-centric.

Christian Clancy, manager: A lot of people outside of his bubble were more into the idea of Tyler than they were into Tyler the musician. Without trying to play to them, he made a record that spoke to them. Now they have something to hang their hat on: “This is really fucking good.”

Schumer: Tyler ended up doing double what he had done first week on the previous record.

Tyler: I just do my damn thing. People like it, and I’m grateful.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 30 issue of Billboard.


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