19. Tyler, The Creator "Yonkers" (2011) (1st Verse)
Producer: Tyler, The Creator
Label: Odd Future Records/Sony
Over that haunting 4/4 beat and an ominously chopped-and-screwed welcoming-"ODD. WOLF. HALEY."-comes in Tyler, The Creator on his first true solo single, which didn't really emerge as one until a few viewings by everyone in the known universe. At the time of its release, though, "Yonkers" was just another wild clip by those crazy Odd Future kids, until Tyler's deep baritone piped through: "I'm a fucking walking paradox/No I'm not/Threesomes with a fucking triceratops/Reptar."
In the opening lines of the first verse, Tyler makes a few things abundantly clear: First, that he will employ obscenities as they were meant to be used, which is to say that he will wield them, like weapons, meant to excite, incite, and assault. For another, that he's going to defy expectations universally, as lesser rappers have traditionally followed up lines about having complexities with anything but. Instead, Tyler makes a joke about threesomes with a three-horned animal, and then flips that animal into a Rugrats reference.
This is only a few lines prior to another line about a kids' cartoon ("Bedrock/Harder than a motherfucking Flintstone") and a line of pure nonsense, the meaning of which even Tyler isn't entirely sure of ("Making crack rocks out of pussy nigga fishbones"). As the words flop into each other, Tyler runs through his list of friends and what they mean to him in terms of identity: Anwar Carrots and his dreadlocks, Jasper Dolphin and his height issues, Syd Tha Kid and her newfound sex life with other women.
By the end of the song, Tyler's talked about his therapist—it takes most other rappers a while to do this—and has likely incited a bunch of 14-year-olds to try the "cinnamon challenge," as it were.
The point is that it's a verse that both primed us for and continues to guide us through the directions of Tyler's career as it grows, as everyone knew it would after this song. This is a rapper who cares deeply about his friends, who is still mired in his childhood, whose psychology is something he wears on his sleeve and takes as seriously as he takes anything else, which really just depends on the time of day you catch him.
Never has one rapper fought to be so disliked in one Big Moment verse and come off so patently lovable regardless. He is, after all, a fucking walking paradox. —Foster Kamer