Tyler, The Creator credits Eminem, JAY-Z, and Nas as guiding lights for odd future

How the Grammy-Winner reveals the blueprint behind the iconic rap collective

Louis Vuitton : Front Row - Paris Fashion Week - Menswear Spring/Summer 2024
Louis Vuitton : Front Row - Paris Fashion Week - Menswear Spring/Summer 2024 / Pierre Mouton/GettyImages

Tyler, The Creator, the enigmatic artist known for pushing boundaries and defying conventions, recently sat down for an exclusive interview with De La Soul on their Apple Music 1 show, Art Official Intelligence Radio. The occasion? Celebrating the 35th anniversary of De La Soul’s groundbreaking album, 3 Feet High and Rising. But amidst the nostalgia, Tyler dropped some gems about the origins of his own rap collective, Odd Future.

The early 2000s: A crucible of inspiration

In the early 2000s, Tyler was a young kid growing up in Los Angeles. His formative years were marked by the emergence of rap crews that felt like family. Roc-A-Fella, Shady Records, and Aftermath—these names resonated with him. Jay-Z’s empire, Eminem’s lyrical prowess, and Nas’s poetic storytelling were the soundtrack to his youth.

"Man, I grew up in the year 2000,” Tyler reminisced. “I was eight turning nine. So let’s say it’s 2002, 10 turning 11. You’ve got Jay with the whole Roc-A-Fella, you’ve got Shady, Aftermath—these different crews that felt like family. Nas was bringing Queensbridge group like Jungle and them out. N-ggas had this thing. So in my formative years, I’m just watching these crews."

Odd future: The black sheep collective

Odd Future, also known as OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), emerged as a force in the late 2000s. Tyler, along with Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Domo Genesis, and others, formed a collective of outcasts. They were the black sheep of their respective families, rebels with a cause. Their music was raw, unfiltered, and unapologetic.

"When I was making Odd Future,” Tyler explained, “it felt like family for a bunch of outcasts. Everyone in Odd Future was the black sheep of their family. So us coming together was like, ‘Nah, f*** y’all.’ Who’s getting the opportunity first? It’s the person right next to me. It’s the family right next to me. And I was really on that for a while, and a lot of that is just because of growing up with the idea of rap crews."

Emulating the sentiment

Tyler’s admiration for rap crews like Roc-A-Fella and Shady Records influenced Odd Future’s ethos. The chains, the camaraderie, the sense of belonging—they all left an indelible mark.

"Seeing people get Roc-A-Fella chains was like, ‘Oh, you’re part of the family.’ So I think just subconsciously emulating the sentiment that they held was easy."

De La Soul: The soil of the sh*t

Tyler also paid homage to De La Soul, acknowledging their impact on his creative journey.

" I’m happy to be a branch of the tree that y’all helped grow because you guys are the soil of the sh*t, actually,” he said. “I’m just a branch off of the tree that’s grown from the soil that you guys have laid down."

Roots and branches

In the ever-evolving landscape of hip-hop, Tyler, The Creator stands as both a root and a branch. His influences—Eminem, Jay-Z, Nas, and De La Soul—continue to reverberate through the genre. Odd Future may have disbanded, but their legacy lives on, a testament to the power of family-knitted bonds and rebellious creativity.