Sound & Vision: Tyler, The Creator's Love Letter to Seattle

Sound and Vision
Mia Imani
photo by Eric Tra

Ahead of Tyler, The Creator's performance at Climate Pledge Arena on April 8, Sound & Vision contributor Mia Imani reflects on the artist's connection to Seattle and how she connects with his music. Listen to or read the piece below.

It’s no surprise that the last stop on Tyler, The Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost tour is in Seattle. He’s named the city one of his favorite vacation spots, even saying he wants to buy a home here (if he hasn’t already). A reality that has always puzzled me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the allure. Even Wallethub recently ranked Seattle number seven in the 20 happiest cities in the United States. Yes, the air is clean. The water is the perfect PH, and the nature is breathtaking. But there are two reasons I had to leave the city I used to call home. 1: Vitamin D deficiency is something that makes you turn into a vampire if you weren’t already one. 2: Being Black in Seattle hasn’t always been a savory experience for me. 

There is some irony here. Tyler’s music has been part of my sonic landscape for almost half my life. His albums helped me feel seen and heard in a place where I felt both invisible and hypervisible. But to him, Seattle is solace. It is nature performing at its highest peak. The city serves as the perfect backdrop for at least two of his favorite things: bike riding and layered outfits. I can understand the interest because it reminds me of my dad's journey. He also chose to leave Los Angeles to experience new things, ultimately a different version of himself outside of the environment that suffocated him (not a smog reference).

Tyler has always felt like a kindred spirit. It could be how we like to engage beyond the surface and plunge into our interests and relationships (we both have our sun’s the 8th house in our natal charts). Maybe it’s the shared reality of being a Black child in an environment that didn’t understand you. As an artist, I create spaces and conversations that aim to heal my younger self. The me that got bullied for having different hair. For listening to “white” music and having dreams to travel the world and being told those visions were delusions. Tyler’s whole existence reminded me that I was not alone in how I was feeling or what I was wishing for.

Tyler’s music heals –– his name says it all. He is an alchemist transforming pain into promise. Dreams into reality. And he doesn’t stop at just one medium. He’s preparing our wardrobe for new heights via Golfwang and Golf Le Fleur. Given us the green light to travel in style with his Globetrotter collaboration and created the fragrance that will help mark your new memories. He creates the worlds he wishes he could have lived in. This is not just a self-serving concept. Tyler makes it a point to share the knowledge he has gained along the way and the spotlight onstage. Even his latest album could double as a self-realization audiobook. Being limitless isn’t just about financial freedom. It’s about finding your purpose and going for it. 

I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t the Tyler we’ve always known. He’s been canceled for controversial statements about the LGBTQ community. Even though his music today references his relationships with both women and men. He was banned from a few countries, including the UK, for “inciting terrorism” because of the violent lyrics included in his albums Bastard and Goblin. Imagine if all the things you said in 09’ were being held above your head almost a decade later. We have had a front seat to watching Tyler, the Creator grow up. He went from an angsty high schooler with a voice that sounded like a thirty-year-old. He transformed into a two-time Grammy winner who talks about loss, love, and the importance of a passport.

I am grateful to have witnessed his transformation because it mirrors so much of my own –– when you’ve been silenced for so long, it has to come out somehow. Where Tyler and his group Odd Future used obscene language to make it through the alienation they experienced from both the white and Black communities. I used writing to construct a world where I was understood. I didn’t realize how angry I was at all the microaggressions, the underhanded compliments, the loneliness as the Black girl who wasn’t Black enough. We both used our creativity to empower and uplift Black expression.

Tyler, The Creator’s journey is a blueprint for owning who you are. A beacon for other self-proclaimed outsiders who want to expand their reality. This is not about becoming his clone. It’s about opening yourself to new energy that inspires you and pushing yourself past your comfort zone. Whether that’s being on a yacht in Switzerland or taking a day trip inside your state. Either way, it’s equal parts play and self-reflection. Let his music be the soundtrack. And don’t forget to call someone if you get lost.

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