Sorry Not Sorry: A Visual Swan Song to Tyler the Creator’s Past
Call Me When You Get Lost: The Estate Sale released March 31st, 2023, as an extension of Tyler’s previous project Call Me When You Get Lost which, apparently, touched on themes about traveling, love, and the ego that Tyler found himself with after his success in music. I say “apparently” because I never actually listened to the album—or any of Tyler’s other albums for that matter.
Before you disregard everything I’m about to say, let me tell you a short story:
Recently, I was at work looking through YouTube for something to listen to while I worked on a project, and I happened to stumble upon a music video for one of Tyler’s songs called “DOGTOOTH”. Anyways, I found myself listening to the track and thoroughly enjoying it (a new concept for me in regard to Tyler’s work). It was short, gripping, and extremely catchy—not to mention the video itself being a very creative addition to the track.
But where things changed is when the video ended.
There was a recommendation for another track/music video by Tyler called “SORRY NOT SORRY” and, after finishing what I found to be a fairly solid track, I decided to explore further—and that’s when I witnessed what may have been the most incredible music video I’d ever, and maybe will ever, see.
It started off like any other music video—the track immediately playing in the background accompanied by some minor scene-setting as it’s revealed that we’re in what appears to be a theater, or something similar to a museum exhibit, with the main “stage” hidden by big red curtains. As the curtains pull back, we’re introduced to a stunning display: Eight “Tyler’s” are spaced out in the scene and dressed as what I immediately recognized to be the characters from his previous album covers—except for one that I couldn’t place.
Tyler’s unidentifiable character (appearing normal, albeit shirtless) opens with a simple but subtly powerful “I’m sorry”, in what can only be described as akin to somebody addressing their abuser—looking down, eyes rolling, palms open, and with a solemn but disingenuous delivery. This Tyler begins apologizing to a bunch of people: his mother, his sister, his old rap group “Odd Future”, and scorned ex-lovers by listing off his transgressions and accepting responsibility for the ways he could’ve been better, while seemingly confessing to his all-but-confirmed bisexuality—a topic that has been (and likely will continue to be) a point of discussion among his fans and critics.
The string of apologies goes on for a while as we constantly switch from “shirtless Tyler” to his more dapper character at the forefront—Sir Baudelaire, the persona linked to “Call Me If You Get Lost”. Where things start to get truly interesting is when we switch to what myself and others have interpreted to be Tyler’s “Goblin” persona, donned in a green ski-mask and pink shirt.
As we switch to this character, several unsettling changes occur: Tyler’s flow switches to a shorter and more aggravated style, the camera shakes rapidly while maintaining focus on Goblin Tyler’s mouth, and the lyrics become much harsher and curter. This Tyler is the voice of what I interpret to be either Tyler’s detractors or his own conscience, telling him to “read the room”, “stay in your pocket”, and that “you ain’t special, everybody has problems.”
We then switch back to shirtless Tyler, who seemingly has had enough of the “show” we’ve been spectating, as he airs some final grievances before wandering out of the frame, turning his back on the culmination of his entire career, and seemingly ignoring the issues he’s apologizing for. We then switch around to the perspective of various other Tyler’s as he continues to list off apologies to his fans for the changes in his music and to his ancestors for the “blood diamonds” he struts around his neck—meanwhile shirtless Tyler passively reappears, catching the attention of several Tyler’s briefly before disappearing offstage once again. As we switch perspectives, we pan out to realize that several of Tyler’s characters are now no longer in-frame, leaving only four of the original eight remaining.
Things start to get crazy from here as we, the viewers, realize something isn’t right… Shirtless Tyler comes back once again, this time catching the attention of “Wolf” Tyler who currently has the spotlight. As he lists off his verse (“Fuck the numbers, fuck a hood…”), we see him glance to his left and stop rapping while a look of shock and mild fear appears on his face before he’s abruptly pulled out of frame by shirtless Tyler—all of this going seemingly unnoticed by the remaining Tylers. Or was it?
We go back to Sir Baudelaire who seemingly looks more distressed, with a layer of sweat forming over his face while his flow begins to mirror that of Goblin Tyler’s, with an air of desperation injected into each word he puts out, almost with a certain level of force.
We remain focused on this Tyler as he seemingly gets more agitated, essentially calling out his “haters” again as he expresses animosity at the grief they give him in the face of his success, wondering why they view his happiness and fame as arrogance and likening their words to bullets, aimed at him (“duck, duck, duck”) while he “shoots” back (“buck, buck, buck”), telling them he has two words for them—shirtless Tyler grabbing Sir Baudelaire from behind before fading to black—“F*ck ‘em”.
We cut back to shirtless Tyler covered in blood, savagely beating Sir Baudelaire to death, and chucking his iconic trapper hat aside, signifying to us that the rest of the Tyler’s have suffered a similar fate.
What’s striking about this revelation is that Tyler, much like how he handles Sir Baudelaire’s hat, seemingly throws away his past—not just symbolically, but by literally beating each of his personas to death in the most brutal and savage display imaginable. This version of Tyler, “shirtless Tyler”, the only Tyler remaining, was never tied to any specific album, making him the true “Tyler” instead of just another character.
I couldn’t believe what I just saw—Here was Tyler, an artist who I always thought to be a bit crude and immature in his delivery and themes, taking that perception of himself and disregarding all of them in a way that can only be described as a vicious rediscovery of Tyler’s values; not to mention the shock value of this reveal. This didn’t just tell me Tyler was changing his image, but that he was announcing it in the most dramatic and heartbreaking way possible by apologizing for his short-comings—all while destroying what he believed held him back.
At the risk of sounding ignorant, I never thought Tyler could be capable of such powerful subtlety and artistry in his music—I mean, how do we go from something as nonsensical as the introduction of “Domo 23” to a deep, intrinsic rap like “SORRY NOT SORRY”? This track, and more importantly this video, proved to me that Tyler wants to reshape his image away from what myself and I wager many others assumed of him and his art. Since the release of “The Estate Sale” I’ve found myself not only listening to more of Tyler’s music, but repeatedly revisiting this video; as every time I watch it, I gain a different understanding of what I saw.
While Tyler’s older music may still not mesh with me, I do have a deeper appreciation for the growth that he experienced with each release; and I wanted to share my perspective, not just in the hopes that you watch his video (seriously though, watch it), but that you discover a similar “awakening” like myself and Tyler, viewing him in a different lens and hopefully giving him a chance to prove himself if he hasn’t already.
Written By: Michael Miserendino