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Donald Glover, Tyler, The Creator & Black Creatives Building Their Own Worlds
Donald Glover, Tyler, The Creator & Black Creatives Building Their Own Worlds
Photo Credit: Laurent Chevalier for Okayplayer.

Donald Glover, Tyler, The Creator & Black Creatives Building Their Own Worlds

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: Laurent Chevalier for Okayplayer.

The rise of the multidisciplinary black creative foreshadows a future where black people are encouraged to and, most importantly, supported while they depict the world through their eyes.

In recent years, we've seen black creatives expand their artistry into multiple realms encompassing music, fashion, film, movies, and more. Arguably, the main two leading examples of contemporary multidisciplinary black creatives who are creating their own worlds today are Donald Glover and Tyler, the Creator.

Though they're not the only two doing this, the worlds that Glover and Tyler have created are just as necessary for themselves as they are blackness as a whole, with both of them offering refreshing representations of blackness and challenging archaic depictions of black people (particularly black men) that are still present throughout mainstream media, through multiple creative mediums.

Almost a year after its premiere critics and fans alike are still buzzing about Glover's TV series Atlanta. The show, both commercially and critically-acclaimed, explores blackness under the premise of a young black man trying to make his cousin into a rap superstar. For Atlanta, Glover serves multiple roles: he's executive producer, director, writer, and actor. Ultimately, the result is a representation of blackness that feels and looks real where black people are simply able to exist as their whole selves.

In the world of Atlanta Glover has also incorporated other facets of his artistry. Childish Gambino, his musical moniker, has appeared multiple times throughout the series: in episode five, "Nobody Beats the Biebs," and in episode nine, "Juneteenth." For the former, the episode ended with a parody track titled "Forget About It," which is credited as a Childish Gambino song. For the latter, the album art for Glover's Awaken, My Love! was included as a background prop in one of the scenes (the episode debuted a month before Glover announced the third album). Glover bringing his artistic endeavors together like this highlights his attention to detail and shows how they can complement one another, making the world that Glover is creating seamless. Plus, there's a pleasure in acknowledging these connections as a fan. When people realized that Awaken, My Love!'s album art was an easter egg in Atlanta they took to social media, showing side-by-side images of the scene and the album art.

Donald Glover, Tyler, The Creator & Black Creatives Building Their Own Worlds The album artwork for Awaken, My Love! appearing in an episode of Atlanta. Source: FX

With Atlanta, we've witnessed Glover at his most cohesive and direct, but his prior projects foreshadowed what he has accomplished now. Almost four years ago he released Clapping For All The Wrong Reasons, a short film that offered a surreal glimpse into the day of the life of Glover. The video precluded the Childish Gambino album Because of the Internet, which was released with a 72-page screenplay intended to be read while listening to the album. The rollout of Internet was fascinating because Gambino created such an immersive world with it, the short film, screenplay, music, and music videos all overlapping in such a way that showed what he is capable of creating. Fast forward to 2017, and a core group of people that helped Glover with Internet also help him with Atlanta (brother Stephen and Hiro Murai, who directed music videos for Internet songs for "3005," "Sweatpants," and "Telegraph Ave," as well as Clapping For All The Wrong Reasons, for example).

Similar to Glover, Tyler has created his own world since breaking out in the early 2010s. With his Odd Future collective, Tyler not only brought together like-minded creatives but showed what he was capable of as an artist. Goblin, Tyler's debut album, found him continuing the narrative he created on his debut mixtape Bastard, where he was talking to his fictional therapist and guidance counselor, Dr. TC. There's a thematic structure to Goblin with the album ending in a plot twist where it's revealed that Dr. TC is Tyler (along with his many other alter egos). Accompanying Goblin was music videos directed by Tyler himself (he also directed music videos for songs from Bastard too), and although there wasn't any real continuity to them he had proved just how compelling and creative he could be aside from his music.

Now, Tyler has accomplished so much. He's created Golf Media, an app and self-described "network" that includes articles, original shows (TheJellies and Nuts and Bolts, which originally appeared on the app, is now on Adult Swim and Viceland, respectively), live streams, radio selections, and more, all curated by Tyler himself; he has his own annual festival, the Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival; he has his own fashion line, Golf Wang; and he recently released his fourth album, Scum F**k Flower Boy. Regardless of his many creative endeavors, Tyler still manages to bring some of them together when necessary. Last year, when he presented his first-ever fashion show, he not only created music for the event but had live performances and skits (reminiscent of his first television series, Loiter Squad); and with both The Jellies and Nuts and Bolts Tyler provides his own music.

Tyler The Creator's Cartoon Series 'The Jellies' Headed To Adult Swim This Summer Tyler, the Creator's TV show The Jellies. Source: YouTube

Glover and Tyler share a similar sentiment on the importance of building their own worlds. In the first episode of Nuts and Bolts, Tyler says the following:

I wanna just build my own world because it's a safe place, whether it's my room coming up with these imaginary characters and things like that — making a sound that's the soundtrack to this bigger world I feel safe in.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Glover offered a similar response, saying:

I wanted to build my own world because then you get to make the world a little safer.

The beauty of the worlds Glover and Tyler have created is that it also feels safe to people that relate to them, especially black people. Whether it's Glover allowing Atlanta's Darius (brilliantly portrayed by Lakeith Stanfield) to simply exist and distort ideas of black weirdness or Tyler changing the skin color of The Jellies' Cornell Jelly from white to black, the two control and provide these safe spaces that take both themselves and their fans out of the harshness of the real world for a bit.

But it's also empowering. During a Q&A session at this year's San Diego Comic Con, Tyler responded to a fan's question about why he changed Jelly's skin color, saying:

'Why you make him black?' Why can't ni**as have anything, man?...How many fu**in' black cartoon characters is it on TV right now? Name five. I'll give you time. It is none...We don't got shit...So I said f**k that, we about to make this ni**a black, and he ain't got no guns, he ain't shoot no fu**ing basketball, and he a fu**ing goober, and we gon' put him on TV. And he's the lead character, he ain't the comic relief, he ain't the sidekick, he the lead ni**a.

In a world in which black people often feel powerless or restricted in their pursuits, it's inspiring to see someone like Tyler offer such an unapologetic response, and highlight the importance of having Jelly be a black lead character who's unlike most mainstream depictions of black characters. But, most importantly, it's inspiring to see both Glover and Tyler cultivate these worlds in hopes of inciting positive change in the real world.

To have the opportunity to create and invest in your own world is a privilege often not allotted to black people. Glover and Tyler feel safe in their respective worlds because it's their worlds, providing a perspective and representation we need more of. They're living proof of the importance of giving black creatives the control and freedom they deserve to manifest their ideas into reality and build worlds that we've never seen before and inspire the next generation of multidisciplinary black creatives to do the same.