Omar Tyree Retires, Blames Audience.


Self-proclaimed “Street Lit” pioneer Omar Tyree is retiring.

We guess your reaction to this news depends on your opinion of the Street Lit genre in general, so we won’t delve into any diatribes on the issue.

Besides, Tyree’s done the work for us, in really arrogant, preachy, and suspect detail:

For the record, I never called my work “street literature” and I never will. When I began to publish ground breaking contemporary novels with Flyy Girl in 1993, and Capital City in 1994, I called them “urban classics.” They were “urban” because they dealt with people of color in the inner-city or “urban” population areas. They were “classics” because I considered myself one of the first to start the work of a new era. But now, after sixteen years and sixteen novels in the African-American adult urban fiction game, I feel like the man who created the monster Frankenstein. Things have gotten way out of hand. So it’s now time to put up my pen and move on to something new, until the readership is ready to develop a liking for fresh material on other subjects.

A few things strike us as eyebrow-raising about this opening paragraph of Tyree’s open letter to both his loyal reading audience and the retailers who’ve been primarily responsible for the sale of 1.5 million copies of fifteen of his arguably mediocre serviceable books.

  1. He’s calling his work “classic.” It isn’t. To prove it, find me ten teenage girls still reading and recommending Flyy Girl, fifteen years later. Right. By and large, the shelf life on Street Lit is only as long as its ubiquitous pop cultural references. And every time a new fashion trend, rap artist, or sexual position nickname emerges, so does a newer and more relevant book in the Street Lit genre.
  2. Tyree’s likening himself to Dr. Frankenstein? Brilliant. It’s just this kind of clever, original, “fresh” analogy that makes for great, timeless literature, right? Right?
  3. Tyree is insulting his readership by assuming that, because his readers complained about the content/quality of the fourteen books following his first two, they’re unwilling or unable to “develop a liking for fresh material.” Dude, you just admitted to writing sixteen novels in the “urban fiction game.” How can you gauge what other kinds of material audiences may prefer, when you’ve deepened the ridges of your own one-track rut for close to two decades now?

Isn’t it pretty foolhardy to pat yourself on the back for “breaking ground” and being “one of the first to start the work of a new era,” then complain about the successors to the era and heirs to that new genre?

We really wish we could post Tyree’s letter in its entirety without things getting to be too long and unwieldy, but here are few more choice gems, for your smirking pleasure:

This new form of “street lit” began to remind me of a similar destruction of hip-hop, where the same ghettocentric stories began to take precedence over the creative perspectives and multi-faceted voices and subjects of our urban music. All of a sudden, you could not succeed as a rapper unless you had sold drugs, committed violent crimes, and claimed to be an unruly gangster, who had done hard time in prison. You couldn’t rap about the normal joys of life anymore. These new kids on the block rejected how Ice Cube had had a good day, while preferring to hear how dark in hell it was for DMX.


That hardcore fact — of an urban audience’s preference for denigration — remains to be our most pressing issue here.

And our personal favorite:

So with my publishing contracts running out, I wrote my final adult fiction novel to be published in September, entitled Pecking Order, which is all about the innovation and hustle of making legal money. That’s what it all comes down to, folks. Either the product makes money like “street lit” and sex novels do, or it fades into obscurity like a VHS video tape machine. But if the only way I can earn a living now in African-American adult fiction is to sell my people the same poison that they’ve become addicted to, then I quit with my artistic integrity still in tact, while moving on to a more progressive mission.

Isn’t it cute how he thinks his artistic integrity is still ‘in tact’?


slb (aka Stacia L. Brown) is a writer, mother, and college instructor in Baltimore, MD. Check her out here: and here:
  • Holy shit. Omar Tyree is actually Kwesi Mfume.

  • That hardcore fact — of an urban audience’s preference for denigration — remains to be our most pressing issue here.
    wow. that is so very Bob Johnson of him. One would think that this sort of awareness would result in writing above a 9th grade reading level. Retire away, please.

  • I thought writers were supposed to write, not babble on about bullshit. only rappers and athletes retire.

  • Grump

    Gene, I thought the same thing!

  • Aw, poor guy. Sigh. I believe he’s a Howard alum, so I’ll try not to laugh too loudly.

  • Lemu

    Do you think Tyler Perry might have this very same epiphany ten years from now?

  • rakia

    $10 says he’ll continue writing under a pseudonym. He’s already got one: The Urban Griot.

  • rakia

    And might I add, I’ve always thought Omar bore a strong resemblence to the Mon Chi Chis. Remember, they had a cartoon back in the ’80s:

  • cinemaempress

    Rigggght… rather than playing the victim in the situation he should be the solution to the problem and write some ish that is classic but he can’t and the ghetto urban classic novelists have surpassed him by making money off of selling their low budget novels on the street instead of having deals… and this has gotten him to thinking that maybe he is not EXTRAordinary lol. Omar is making it seem like his life’s purpose is soooooo conflicted… he wants to be Dave Chappelle. Later on for him and his “timelessly classic” urban novels. The true feat of a writer is to take those “marginal” urban problems and write them into universal immortal humanistic situations that will constantly reinvent themselves. His writing is wack, his characters are not memorable, and his situations are mundane… he is not an insightful artist… he is a hustler who writes… READING IS FUNDAMENTAL:)

  • lemu: one can only hope!

  • Madame Z

    I can’t stomach MOST street literature. All I can say is that most of his works have very colorful covers.

    Do you think Tyler Perry might have this very same epiphany ten years from now?

    @ lemu,

    😆 Too funny. He might, but as long as he doesn’t compare his films to those of say a Scorcese or Coppola I won’t give him too much of a side-eye.

  • I am not surprised by this open letter. I used to work at a book store and a co-worker/friend of mines said he was a cocky son of a gun. I only read flyy girl once when I was 14. I’m 23. It’s not a classic buddy. Get over yourself.

  • Hmm, he sounds quite a bit like the character in the last novel by him that I read called The Last Street Novel…I think is giving himself waaay too much credit, he is not the originator of urban fiction nor is he the Urban Griot? WTF?? His latest novels have been mediocre at best so instead of just bowing out gracefully due to his obvious inability to write anything worthwhile he decides to get on his high horse and judge his reading audience as well as authors that have come after him…it is all so very arrogant and deluded of him…..

  • i don’t really dig dissing other writers in public, but this dude sounds a little crazy. it always makes me laugh when people think they’re “the first.” chester himes is classic, this dude is just about his own ego.

  • Dawn M. Knight

    OMG, this is awesome! Back in 2000, “Mr. Tyree” who was generous enough to allow me a phone interview just after publishing my debut novel, Kismet. I had just read “Flyy Girl” and admired his work. At the time was seeking out mentors for my own fledgling career and an author friend referred me to him. I remember being so excited and feeling so honored to have been granted the opportunity to speak with him one-on-one. But, wow, did he deflate those feelings with a quickness. He was cocky, arrogant and just plain mean. The details are pretty sketchy to me now, but impression he left with me is forever stained. I remember that he berated me and called me “naive” after sharing with him my excitement about my upcoming in-store book signings. By the end of the conversation, I thanked him for his time (with tears streaming sliently) but I was so angry I vowed to never again read, let alone buy, another one of his books. Even today, my heart sinks just thinking about it. There were no words of encouragement, no real “tips” about writing or the business in general– just Omar’s unbelievable ego attempting to crush whatever dreams I held of being an author with a following. I had since self-published and successfully promoted and sold all 1,000 copies to book clubs and individuals accross the country with rave reviews. And, after I sold out (even still today) I received requests from book clubs for bulk orders s well as inquiries about the sequel and other works. But after spending some quality time with authentic, talented African American authors of fiction such as Eric Jerome Dickey, Lolita Files and Jewell Parker-Rhodes to name a few, I decided to go back to school and finish my college education before moving forward with publishing more any of my works. Well, I am happy to say that I earned my degree in English from LMU (with honors), and I’m writing again– and better than ever if I must say so myself. And to top it all off, 8 years after my encounter with Omar, I look him up on Amazon to not surprisingly I find lack-luster work with scathing reviews. Next, after googling him, I stumbled upon this hilarious article about his “retirement”. I love it! Justice prevails! Though, I’m not hating on him for the 1.5 million in sales. However, I’m sure if some of those readers had the opportunity for a refund that number would probably not be so grand. Thank you Mr. Tyree! You’ve been a great mentor! Lesson learned: don’t be an arrogant, pompous jerk. Especially, when your skills can’t back you up. You were obviously in it for the money and not for the love of it, which will show up each and every time. Happy retirement, Mr. Tyree. I hope you find truth and fulfillment with your “more progressive mission”.

  • Dawn M. Knight

    First line should have read, “Mr. Tyree” WAS generous enough. . . Forgive me (and any other typos) it’s 1:30am!

  • Wow! I stumbled across this site and find myself quite informed. Do they not publish any alternating views on this site, or did the title already spin all of the readers. Or maybe I just don’t havd any love left! Life moves on and shit happens to all of us, I only wonder if the subjects of at least 5 of my books were on point for our community and culture. For as journalist, I do believe I felt too strongly about the need to examine certain current issues in our community, more than others cared to read about. And for that, I do apologize. Also, I apologize for the media training that we must all have for any and all comments as a public figure. So you deal with it and wish that you could have been more tactful. But thanks for the views. I do understand all of your points.