Fighting for Attention Through Rap Music: Shock-Value, Racial Play and Web Culture in the Persona of Tyler, The Creator


Gustavo Souza Marques

University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

Author’s contact information: :

INSAM Journal of Contemporary Music, Art and Technology, Issue 8, 2022

Main Theme of the Issue: Fighting for the Attention: Music and Art on Social Media

Publisher: INSAM Institute for Contemporary Artistic Music, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina



Abstract: Tyler, The Creator (Tyler Gregory Okonma), is a Grammy-awarded African American rapper, music producer and entrepreneur who has been vigorously challenging tropes of black American masculinity; mainly through his internet savvy and smart use of audio-visual digital platforms such as YouTube. From chattel slavery to blackface minstrelsy, the African diasporic experience in the West is marked by a series of stigmas, contradictions and dichotomies evidenced in the challenge of being black in a white world. This duplicity denounced by seminal scholars such as W.E.B. DuBois and Frantz Fanon informs the theoretical framework of this article but also reflects most of Tyler’s investments in subverting American whiteness and blackness in his audio-visual performances. Not by chance, identity is central in our current digital era and so it is prominent in web culture which is marked by the constant exposition of one’s persona and its ephemerality in the vast ocean of data. Tyler, as one of the first YouTube music phenomena, knew how to expose and at the same time rework his own contradictions as an African American artist by constantly juxtaposing, shifting and remodeling his own discourses and persona in the digital environment. In this article, I discuss his strategies by inquiring into why his early shock-value ethos and persistent racial play are relevant to connect with fans and expose his artistic productions in our current postmodern times.

Keywords: Tyler The Creator, web culture, critical race theory, rap, hip-hop.


6. INSAM Journal 6, Marques

ISSN 2637 – 1898
On the cover: Tiamat by Kim Diaz Holm
Design and layout: Milan Šuput, Bojana Radovanović