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Synesthesia & Charles Baudelaire: How Tyler The Creator Creates Worlds

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

Tyler The Creator just dropped his album ‘Call Me If you get lost’. I'm already a heavily outspoken Tyler fan so you can already assume my opinion about the album but it was fire, it exceeded my expectations & it speaks to broader points about the potential of art presentation with the internet, that Tyler helped shape & continues to revolutionize. Tyler is more of a filmmaker or worldbuilder than a rapper or producer, even though he excels at those things too.

Tyler calls himself 'Tyler Baudelaire' in the album, the music videos & montages accompanying the album are all directed by Tyler's alter ego Wolf Haley. This world is a bit more gritty, grainy & dimly lit than Tyler's usual ultra saturated world, but it's still very colourful. The other albums were usually set in Los Angeles, this was set mostly in Europe, with frequent references to Geneva & Paris. Tyler has always been very fond of Wes Andersons cinematography style and the influence continues to present itself through his stylistic evolution with Tyler using Andersons infamous pastel colours.

I believe the name Baudelaire comes from the French Poet Charles Baudelaire, there were various allusions to French breads like croissants & brioches throughout the album, and in the sketches, possibly an ode to the Parisian poet. Baudelaire is renowned for using poetry as a means of innovation. He fundamentally changed the way that people read, understood, and experienced poetry, & he unwittingly created the pathway for our multimedia world where artists like Tyler thrive.

Charles Baudelaire created elaborate lists of sensory "correspondences". Explaining Baudelaire's system of correspondences, A.G. Lehmann writes:

"On Baudelaire's theory, every colour, sound, odour, conceptualized emotion (love, hate, cf affect), every visual image, even if complex (a ship, a carcass), is in some way bound up with an equivalent in each of the other fields: one only, we may infer. "

Baudelaire's system depends on associations evoked by the content of a word. He would pair ideas together to form a sense of synesthesia. Baudelaire believed "Color... thinks by itself, independently of the object it clothes” He saw everything about an object as independent & giving off their own information.

Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of your senses. People who have synesthesia are called synesthetes.

The word “synesthesia” comes from the Greek words: “synth” (which means “together”) and “ethesia” (which means “perception). Synesthetes can often “see” music as colors when they hear it, and “taste” textures like “round” or “pointy” when they eat foods.

Tyler's music is synth heavy, & his world is saturated, colourful, it even has its own taste, and it does all this while being genuinely introspective & honest.

Tyler The Creator creates art in the digital world, music is no longer just the sounds & the album cover, it’s an all encompassing experience. When kids used to hear Pink Floyd songs in the 70s they used to see colours, the technology limited those artists from giving the full scope of the idea. How many filmmakers existed before film was ever a medium? Those poets expressed the inclination through the tools they had at hand.

Technology limits & expands art, first composers like Mozart & Beethoven had to develop a language for music in order to transcribe it because they couldn't record it, then you could only hear music on a record player, then Walkman's & iPods, then shows with lightwork & staging, now with the rise of the internet, social media & smart phones, & the ever growing virtual reality space, art has to evolve into that multimedia realm, we are all experiencing synesthesia, which is where artists like Tyler The Creator will obviously thrive.

Music doesn't have to be just music anymore, it can be the full idea. We are only 40 years removed from Michael Jackson revolutionizing the music video, Tyler helped revolutionize the full scope presentation of a creative idea, he's one of the first people to utilize social media to create totally refined ideas on a multimedia scale where everything thematically, & aesthetically lines up to create a complete world, and he's gotten much better at it very recently.

Tyler The Creator started off with the Odd Future collective, their story is widely known & heavily documented. Tyler The Creator wanted to create a magazine where he would talk about his favourite movies, shows, songs, colours, photographers, etc. through posting online he met with other eclectic people in those fields, various underground musicians, photographers, skaters and artists that would go on to form the Odd Future collective. They didn't sound like anyone & they didn't want to, they were creating their own world through weird graphic designs, bright, loud obnoxious colourful personalities, clothes & characters, social media videos, vines, shows like loiter squad, YouTube & music.

They would make their own weird documentaries, they would post videos of themselves just being public nuisances, they would create trailers for movies that would never come out, they would show you the world behind the music so you can understand how the artists view the world, they lived creatively & expressed it.

Limiting creatives to one source of expression never made sense, but due to how industries were set up musicians couldn't be filmmakers, comedians wouldn't be accepted as musicians. Tyler & Friends intuitively understood that you could do anything now that you can control the media yourself. If someone loves music, chances are they'll love film, poetry, philosophy, science & art in all shapes and forms, because ultimately it's all the same inclination. When I create music I'm never absentmindedly creating music, I'm in thought about various other aspects of my life, I'm influenced by art, stories, nature, movies, poetry & paintings through history, the music is only part of the idea.

Someone who is naturally creative lives it as a lifestyle, it's not manufactured & its not constrained by a medium, it's in how they see the world, & in the world all of these things are foundations of reality itself. That's ultimately what odd future represented, creativity, youth & authentic expression. They merged all of their interests & talents to create this all encompassing world.

Every member of the group continues to challenge creative boundaries, to this day, none of the members that continue to make music have conformed to industry standards in order to make radio friendly content, they’ve all moved with a level of artistic integrity & cemented their own lanes with original content, that contains more substance than most popular music outside of that camp. Earl Sweatshirt & The SLums collective are keeping grimey, experimental, sample heavy hip hop alive in the lofi rap lane, Syd, The Internet & Frank Ocean are revolutionizing R&B. Artistically, nobody is touching this collective in total.

They were a movement of the people, they could only exist because of the internet. The internet helped fans live in their world. They went direct to the fans, they revolutionized art commerce with things like streetwear, pop up shops, festivals & various things that billion dollar corporations are still catching up to, because just like Baudelaire, Tyler & his generation understand this multimedia intuitively, it's obvious to us that it's all connected. Of course pictures, colours, lights, sounds, taste, humour & storytelling are connected, but that wasn't always so obvious, & now that it's possible, we'll begin seeing it's full potential.

We don't want to just hear a song anymore, I have to watch something while listening to something, I need to be engulfed in an experience when I consume anything now, that's just how our generation takes in information.

Tyler The Creator is the multimedia Baudelaire, he’s actually able to create these experiences & thematic worlds for fans to live inside whenever they go back to the album, because its all one big thing to him, colours, sounds & tastes all exist in his world & always have in some way. Listening to Flower Boy during a sunset just makes sense, the sonics feel like sunsets, it's actually remarkable how accurately he was able to capture those feelings into sounds, because sights & sounds are the same. This album has various allusions to sweetness in all it's forms, sugar, cocoa, butter, he's attempting to evoke all our senses.

Tyler is clearly extremely expressive and it seems like he curates his life & art with his favourite things at that time, favourite colours, poems, songs, chords, & he studies them, then builds a world on those foundations, with items & palettes that become separately meaningful.

The internet world requires people like Tyler. Artists are able to become worldbuilders now, we have to create & curate our own worlds, it only makes sense that incorporating storytelling is the next evolution. Tyler The Creator creates worlds with his rollouts, music videos, music, clothing line, concerts, the themes, colour palettes, foods, sonics, stories & visuals all line up to create this thematic world for every new album.

This album was Tyler bringing all of his refined talents, tastes & perspectives to the forefront, owning his place in Hip Hop, explaining the shift in his music in recent years, and a reminder that Tyler The Creator can’t be boxed in, he’s still hungry & he’s only getting better.

Tyler directed all of these visuals under the pseudonym Wolf Haley, he produced & arranged most of the album himself, he's giving you the full idea like he always does, it's not just music, it's a world he's allowing you to live inside, music is one part of that world.

Igor was probably the most obvious form of Tyler's worldbuilding after a year of method acting with that blonde wig & pink suit, but it’s something Tyler has always done. In this album he tells a continuation of the Igor tale, it seems like Tyler started working on this album almost alongside Igor, if you listen to Best Interest, a song that was left off Igor, it conceptually & aesthetically fits with Tyler wearing the blue nail polish & shirt from the current era. The lyrics continue the themes of adultery from songs like Wilshire, but Best Interest had the Igor high pitched melodic voice, which briefly presented itself once again on this album with dope ass standout songs like 'Sweet/I Thought You Wanted To Dance' featuring the incredible Brent Fiyaz.

Tyler The Creator has had the most interesting growth of any artist for me. As a black kid in 7th Grade when Tyler came out a decade ago, I didn’t like Yonkers, now he's one of my favourite artists. Tyler was seen as a weirdo eating a roach & calling out artists for attention. These last few albums, especially since Flower Boy, have been Tyler's most sincere albums to date, he abandoned a lot of his ironic detachment, & began actually being honest about himself and his life, outside of ironic rage and clickbait. As I got older & heard songs like Smuckers I decided to go back into his catalogue, I was impressed to see what I found, Bastard is not necessarily an album I would play back often, but I could see the spark of what would become Tyler, in hindsight.

You can live inside Flower Boy, Igor & Call Me If You Get Lost. They’re soundtracks to life, a painting of a perspective at a place in time, we understand the setting, we understand what it feels, smells & sounds like, we understand the characters, we relate because we have experienced those emotions, it connects viscerally, we understand the place, situation & circumstance visually, emotionally, through all your senses, things like Flowers & Pink evoke scents, you can even dress like Tyler & ultimately it creates the most genuine artistic connection because when we experience a narrative we experience it in first person. So when you buy merch from Tyler, it's not like you're buying from Walmart, you have a genuine attachment & a character in the clothes because you understand his taste palette. That's why the Odd Future clothing style became so popular with youth & changed streetwear forever. Tyler & crews DIY motto & personalities became an idea to live by, an attitude to carry, a superman cape, a be yourself & love your life mentality.

Tyler was this emotional, artsy kid just trying to tell stories, be original & chase his dreams against the whole world & that resonated because it's universal. The Yonkers music video was a big Fuck You because it was a manifesto, it was Tyler's attachment to this originality & destructive spirit that he maintains to this day, Wolf Haley. Wolf Haley is that gritty sound you hear through Tyler's music, the industrial sounds, dark, bass heavy instrumentals, the imperfectness of his increasingly perfect, soft & colorful world.

‘Call Me If You Get Lost’ is an evolutionary tale, the album is all encompassing of Tyler's journey as a person up to this point in his life. The album was structured like a DJ Drama Gangsta Grillz mixtape, Tyler is rapping like the Wolf days, but he’s actually rapping this time.

Back when Tyler used to rap often, in the pre Flower Boy days, he would mostly rap to piss old white people off. He would say outlandish things for the sake of saying outlandish things. He would sometimes open up about his abandonment issues but he would always have an ironic detachment from anything he ever said.

I understand the inclination, when you’re a Teenager you're 100% sarcasm & you just assume the world understands, especially if you create art & you live in a world that views you as a threat by your mere existence, you transmute your anger into art that is meant to be controversial, without caring what the external world, who would demonize you regardless, has to say about you. It’s the same feeling that inspired NWA to scream Fuck The Police. Odd Future was a postmodern reaction, a black kid in a post Obama world where you can still get Trayvon’d.

Call Me If You Get Lost tells stories from Tyler's life, it's a more thematic concept, it's not as narratively concise as Igor, but it’s all one giant sincere reflection on his own life, from a broader perspective.

The story is, Tyler is getting over this 'break up' in this emotionally complex relationship with this girl & a friend of his. In order to get over this breakup where the girl chose the other man, Tyler travels the world, evolves his tastes, gets on boats with DJ Drama and creates art. I really believe that is exactly how this project came to be, it felt like an extremely organic transition from Igor.

Tyler is still emotional, the album talks about real life, social issues, relationship issues, & growth, in a time that forces us to grow up. Tyler made statements about his evolution, he made political statements, he talked about how at 23 his style changed, he grew up, he looked at the world differently, he evolved, & since then the man has dropped nothing but some of the most incredible music of our generation.

Tyler The Creator tells us that he is now a 30 year old man, he’s not the same kid we met at 19 eating the cockroach, but people are still bringing up his past to try & cancel him, even though he had notoriously already been banned from the entire nation of New Zealand because of his outlandish rhetoric. This entire project was Tyler bringing that evolution into the forefront, and doubling down on the sentiment that you can’t box in Tyler The Creator. Wolf Haley continues to live on despite Tyler's mainstream success & sound refinement. He brought frequent Odd Future collaborator Domo Genesis back. The entire album felt like Tyler channeling that freedom of expression his music had when he was 19, but with the refinement, information and evolved perspective he's developed through the span of his career.

Tyler at this point in his life scores films, makes commercials for Coca Cola & music with Hans Zimmer, but the album has collaborations with NBA Youngboy, Lil Uzi Vert, 42 Dugg, Teezo Touchdown, Brent Fiyaz & Jay Versace, where he takes them out of their comfort zones, ultimately taking himself out of his own comfort zone & you can hear it in the final product. The blend is this strange eclectic world, this album doesn't sound like anything else.

There were no formulaic songs on this album, there were also absolutely no misses, it felt like jazz. It felt like sincere reflection & musical improvisation based off pure energy. Certain moments never repeat, the chords constantly change. The album is a blend of Neosoul, Dillaesque boom bap Hip Hop, reggae, industrial sounds, city pop, Disco, synths, saxophones, it was as musically dense as you could expect from a Tyler The Creator album at this point. There are multiple 8-9 minute songs, on Wilshire Tyler raps for 9 minutes straight in a style that's reminiscent of Outkasts Art of Storytelling. It was honest & sincere to a level I haven't heard Tyler be. He always distorted & hid behind characters & voices, but this was actually Tyler, you're in his world feeling his feelings, looking at the world how he sees it, which is ultimately what every artist is trying to do.

This album is fire, the roll out was fire, the clothes look fire, the DJ Drama ad-libs are instant classics, I’m excited about Tyler The Creator's evolution as an artist and I want to see how his mind evolves. I want to see the film he’s talking about, I want to hear the scores he makes, I'm a straight man & I have sat through multiple Tyler The Creator fashion show videos because his perspective on the world is interesting, I heard the Grinch soundtrack, it has no business being that fire. This guy just gets it.

Tyler is a revolutionary creative that is not slowing down, it’s obvious this was the plan from the beginning & through constant practice his skills just caught up to his talents. He has refined his style, his taste, his palette, he’s in a zone right now & I am willing to experience any experience he is willing to create. This feels like what it would have been like to watch Quincy Jones in his prime.

If you're interested in learning more about Color theory, Synesthesia & Charles Baudelaire's poetry here's a few resources:


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