I Did It My Way
Tyler, The Creator lays declare to arguably the perfect hip-hop album of the 12 months, and 2021’s not even performed but. Close to fifteen years in hip-hop at his again and respect from friends and vets alike, the rap visionary has no limits on what he’ll do subsequent.
Words: Georgette Cline
Images: Cam Hicks
Editor’s Note: This story initially appeared within the Fall 2021 concern of XXL Magazine, on stands in October 2021.
Tyler, The Creator likes to deliver house the bacon. While he’s accustomed to racking up loads of bluefaces thanks to 6 critically acclaimed albums, the 30-year-old rapper isn’t centered on the money-inspired idiom for the time being. He’s driving by Los Angeles’ residential streets in his “Green Goblin” Rolls-Royce Cullinan on an overcast afternoon in late August, fixated on his favourite real-deal bacon discovery at Whole Foods. “It’s referred to as Dry Rubbed Black Forest,” he tells his passengers, together with longtime buddies Jasper and Lionel Boyce. Tyler describes the meat with a gleam of pleasure in his eyes, like he simply heard the right tune for the very first time. “It look outdated. That shit is attractive.” He finds pleasure within the unconventional particulars of life, even right down to what he’s consuming.
Sir Baudelaire, the contemporary, fly moniker Tyler adopts on his newest album, Call Me If You Get Lost, can be aggravated by gradual drivers in entrance of him (“I want you’ll drive, bitch”) and amused by a jogger to his proper (“She ran like a fucking dork”) in the course of the journey. Once Tyler arrives at his vacation spot to seize a sandwich for lunch—maintain the aioli or, as he jokingly warns Jasper, who grabs the meals, “I’ma sock you in your dick”—The Creator proves to be swift with parallel parking. The automotive connoisseur owns two Rolls-Royces, two Lancia Deltas, a Fiat, BMW E30 and a McLaren. Tyler, wearing a black ushanka hat, black Lacoste cardigan, blue Golf le Fleur slacks, loafers and a necklace stuffed with pearls the scale of gumballs, prides himself on being a superb driver. He’s the kind to throw his arm in entrance of a passenger when he does two fast U-turns whereas heading again to his Golf Wang workplace. A pure response he picked up from his mom he says. Yet, Tyler takes much more delight in his profession. As he displays on practically 15 years in hip-hop whereas behind the wheel, the multiplatinum-selling artist owes his longevity within the recreation to 3 key issues. “’Cause I’m good,” Tyler insists. “’Cause I care. And I didn’t begin off on the prime.”
He’s accustomed to being on the prime, although. Tyler, The Creator, born Tyler Okonma, began on the backside in 2007, along with his rap group Odd Future and the discharge of their first mixtape, The Odd Future Tape, a 12 months later. They parlayed their exuberant, shock-rap power into an empire that went past music, together with the sketch comedy present Loiter Squad and OF merchandise embellished with Tyler-created pink doughnuts. Simultaneously, Tyler, like different Odd Future members, was branching out on his personal. 2009’s Bastard tape kicked off his solo work. The Creator’s profitable clothes manufacturers Golf Wang and Golf le Fleur, a manufacturing firm, sold-out excursions, headlining music festivals and throwing his personal, plus coveted partnerships like Converse adopted.
The MC has solidified his place as a paramount raconteur on the prime of the charts along with his final two albums locking in No. 1 spots on the Billboard 200 chart: 2019’s Grammy Award-winning lovelorn opus Igor and Call Me If You Get Lost, his nod to rap’s mixtape period and arguably the perfect hip-hop album of 2021. Tyler interprets the anomalous world of his albums to the stage and creates a bizarre actuality in movies which have made him a vanguard on a gradual rise. He peppers various moods, ingenious puns and slick rhymes all through his initiatives whereas evolving from a “they’re them, we’re us, kill all of them” mentality to “a younger, centered Black boy, oh, foolish me.” The rhymer’s musicality is elevated by a lens of escapism and fearlessness, by no means taking himself too significantly and treating his voice like an instrument.
It took Tyler over 10 years to receive his first platinum record, 2019’s “Earfquake”— launched that very same 12 months and now three-times platinum—however success is within the eye of the beholder. The Creator’s profession is a purple chart emoji—getting higher with time. Everyone from 10-year-old children to 50-year-old males, in keeping with Tyler, are turning as much as his music now. “I’m fucking nice,” he says matter-of-factly of his life to date. “I’m blessed.”
Long earlier than Tyler was “talkin’ that contemporary shit, I don’t want gum (No)/Cookie crumbs within the Rolls, by no means no weed crumbs (No),” on his CMIYGL monitor “Corso,” the Hawthorne, Calif. native, who doesn’t drink or smoke, was whetting his music urge for food at age 4 with albums from singers and teams his mother performed: Zhané, Faith Evans, Rachelle Ferrell and Brownstone. Usher’s My Way captivated him—Tyler nonetheless is aware of all of the choreography to the title monitor’s visible. “‘One Day You’ll Be Mine’ is my favourite tune on that album,” he tells. “I imagine that’s monitor 9.” Tyler, who writes, composes and arranges his personal music, directs his movies as alias Wolf Haley and produces for different artists like ScHoolboy Q (“Big Body” that includes Tha Dogg Pound), Westside Gunn (“Party Wit Pop Smoke” that includes Keisha Plum) and, most just lately, Maxo Kream (“Big Persona”), can record off particular songs with their corresponding monitor numbers on albums previous and current in seconds, like an keen child naming each Pokémon character and their particular skills.
In a style the place rappers are sometimes thrown into the music trade hearth to chase a No. 1 with little comprehension of its historical past, his encyclopedic information of music is revered. Tracks 14, “Love Won’t Wait” with Macy Gray, and 16, “Positivity,” from Black Eyed Peas’ first album, Behind the Front, mark the primary songs he wrote raps to at 7. “I’m nonetheless studying genres however like, Damn, that’s jazz,” Tyler reminisces, figuring out the composition of BEP’s tracks as a child. “Then, they kick in and so they’re rapping and I’m like, Wow, that is sick. And the drum patterns kinda skip and stuff and I’m like, This is sick. And then, Dr. Dre’s 2001 comes out. This is like, fourth quarter ’99, and I’m listening to this Eminem man and I’m like, What is that this? And it was this channel referred to as The Box.” Tyler is clearly a scholar of the sport.
Eminem, Lil Wayne, André 3000, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z are among the many rhymers whose artistry has most affected Tyler’s personal. The latter two he additionally calls “actual large homies.” “I’m one of many few who’s actually listening and discovered methods to type of run companies since I used to be 17, due to [Jay-Z],” Tyler shares.
The polymath taught himself to play piano at 12, the identical age his mother put him on to a precious life talent. “On my twelfth birthday, she was like, ‘You’re going to learn to wash your individual garments,’” he says. She raised her rapping son on her personal with the assistance of his grandmother as a consequence of Tyler’s absent dad. At 15, Tyler locked in his first jobs—FedEx and a Starbucks barista. Soon after, in 2007, he fashioned the now-defunct rap group Odd Future and the remaining is historical past.
Christian Clancy, a 25-year music trade veteran who’s managed Tyler and OF alongside along with his spouse, Kelly, since 2010, by their 4 Strikes administration firm, first noticed the then-novice artist by his “French” video that very same 12 months. The clip, displaying teen Tyler rapping with a pitched-down voice whereas surrounded by Odd Future members Jasper, Taco, Left Brain and extra, instantly grabbed Clancy’s consideration. “Things had been all very comparable,” Clancy remembers of different artists out on the time. “Everyone had the identical automotive, wore the identical Air Force 1s, had the identical Scarface poster of their MTV Cribs episode and no matter could also be. And [Tyler] simply kinda, it was kinda like right here was this child who was like, ‘Fuck all that and I’ma do me,’ and it felt rebellious however good and kinda self-contained and kinda fearless. So, it was simply an power, you already know? It felt like an power of the whole lot that I’ve been a fan on or labored with in my life.”
The former Interscope Records advertising government has labored with Eminem, 50 Cent and The Game and located a mentor himself in Em’s longtime supervisor, Paul Rosenberg. The longevity of Clancy’s relationship with Tyler and its success is a byproduct of witnessing artist-manager duos like Em and Paul, and 50 and Fif’s former supervisor Chris Lighty maneuver the music trade trenches collectively. Tyler considers Clancy to be a father to him “100%.” A sentiment Clancy returns. “I owe that man my life,” Tyler conveys. “I’m without end in debt to him. He modified the whole lot. He modified my life, my buddies’ life.”
That transformation got here on the proper time. Around 16, Tyler’s mother went to Sacramento, so he lived along with his grandmother in L.A. for a time. “When she left, I knew methods to deal with myself,” Tyler maintains of the job that ready him. “I knew how to economize. I knew cash administration. I feel [my mom] knew that. That’s why she was like, ‘OK, you stayed along with your grandma, you’re not going to do no dumb shit. You know methods to save and stack and try this.’” But there have been tribulations, which he by no means speaks on. “Mom was within the shelter when ‘Yonkers’ dropped, I don’t say it (I don’t say it)/When I acquired her out, that’s the second I knew I made it (Yeah, yeah),” he raps on the CMIYGL lower “Massa.”
“Certain issues I by no means wished to speak about or glorify,” says Tyler, whose mother beamed proudly beside him onstage when he accepted the Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2020. “Just issues like that. But yeah, that’s simply one thing I by no means mentioned. Man, like, I put out ‘Yonkers’ and my mother…simply got here again to L.A. and was like on this bizarre spot, and it’s like, [how I rap on ‘Massa’], ‘I don’t come from cash, they deny it/Since I don’t mirror the stereotypical merchandise of my setting.’ Then I say, ‘Eight figures…,’ that’s the place that line goes and it’s like, man, that’s why I’m so blessed and grateful to have these things, ’trigger I don’t come from that.”
The flex rap on CMIYGL is so ample as a result of Tyler can lastly boast about his worldly possessions. A big assortment of classic trunks included, which he positioned in place himself for his XXL shoot, photographed at a whimsical Beverly Hills house six days earlier than this interview. Tyler received’t reveal the worth of his Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Goyard assortment, however it’s clearly an indication he’s made it following humble beginnings.
Operating with out concern when he creates can be an emblem of that success. Tyler says and does what he desires with care. The rap doyen is an sudden victor in hip-hop for individuals who stay in a bubble or solely take note of social media. DJ Khaled was witness to that when Tyler’s Igor bested Father of Asahd for the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart in 2019. The We The Best chief took subliminal jabs at Tyler on Instagram after that; Khaled boasted he makes albums “that you simply really hear the songs.” Igor, a whole LP based mostly on the story of a person who’s in love with one other man who’s in a relationship with a lady, signified Khaled’s loss to an unconventional rapper in a time when the tradition is embracing LGBTQ+ artists or associated content material greater than ever. Fans have been cognizant of the dance Tyler does publicly along with his personal sexuality since his specific same-sex lyrics on Bastard. The homophobic rhymes he once received backlash for are not a part of his work. Instead, ladies—and loving them—are prevalent, however so are lyrics like “I’ve been kissing White boys since 2004,” which he rapped on “I Ain’t Got Time!,” off 2017’s Flower Boy. In Tyler’s world, he leaves “folks to imagine regardless of the fuck they need” with regards to his music and private life. Privacy issues. Straight, homosexual, bisexual, fluid or different, he received’t reply. “I’m simply dwelling life, brother,” Tyler says.
Some conventional hip-hop heads could criticize Tyler’s selections to color his nails or put on leopard print as his signature apparel, but this 12 months, he lastly accomplished Call Me If You Get Lost, the rap album he at all times wished to assemble. He collaborated with Gangsta Grillz creator DJ Drama to make that mixtape period palpable once more on what he describes as his private greatest work. Tapes like 50 Cent’s 50 Is Here, Lil Wayne’s Dedication 2, The Clipse’s We Got It 4 Cheap, amongst others, impressed the rapper. In 2022, Tyler may stroll away along with his second Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. After successful one in 2020, he’d observe OutKast, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar, who additionally earned Best Rap Album Grammy wins then got here again two years later to win one other.
Tyler’s odd humor could elicit laughs, however he’s critical about his craft and taking dangers to attain his specific imaginative and prescient. “[Tyler’s] at all times keen to attempt one thing simply to see if it really works or doesn’t work,” says Lionel Boyce, who’s been buddies with The Creator since they had been in twelfth grade drama class collectively. Now they’re artistic companions of their firm, Bald Fade Productions, which has a first-look cope with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Loiter Squad and The Jellies! embrace a few of their writing and performing credit. “There’s no limitations, you already know, when you run an concept by him otherwise you’re like, ‘Man, I wanna do that factor, however I can’t do it.’ He’s like, ‘Well, why not?’ He’s at all times saying, ‘Why not? Just do it, simply attempt it. There’s actually no actual impediment. You’re simply limiting your self as an alternative of simply going for it.’”
Jasper echoes these sentiments. The actor and author, who will seem in Jackass Forever subsequent 12 months, has attended each Tyler present, in keeping with The Creator himself. As DJ and hype man, Jasper witnessed virtually 400,000 folks at Tyler’s headlining set at Lollapalooza this 12 months. “[Tyler] does what he desires and he doesn’t let no one steer him the flawed manner,” provides the Odd Future member, whom The Creator knew since age 16. “When he has his thoughts on one thing, he’s gonna get it.”
Clancy surprisingly has by no means witnessed apprehension in Tyler both. “He simply handles issues as they arrive to him in a really matter-of-fact manner,” Clancy tells. “I don’t know if I’ve seen precise concern in him, which is loopy.”
Meanwhile, Kendrick Lamar retains Tyler on his loafer-covered toes. Hearing Okay-Dot on Baby Keem’s monitor “Family Ties” ruined Tyler. “You know why it ruined me? Because it’s somebody at that degree nonetheless gunning,” The Creator says of his good friend’s expertise. “He’s attempting new voices. He’s attempting new shit. He’s nonetheless studying. You can inform he was off his cellphone for a couple of months.” He admits Kendrick might be sick of him calling each two days concerning the verse, however it burned a hearth in Tyler’s again to “simply keep bizarre and keep tryin’.” Two thriving Tyler attributes.
He’ll apply each to the following chapter of his profession. Tour begins subsequent 12 months and one other album will come when he decides to drop it. “Maybe,” Tyler solutions when probed if it’s already within the works. “I’m at all times engaged on music.” Right now, he’s trying forward as Tyler, The Movie Director. He’s been on the helm of his personal lauded music movies and model commercials for over a decade, since “French,” so a full-length movie is smart. In 10 years, Wolf Haley hopes to have two or three films he’s directed underneath his pearl Fleur belt. Think signature darkish humor and bizarre surrealism, however cute.
Standing outdoors his workplace, Tyler, The Creator is a poster boy for exaltation as a result of he’s by no means dimmed his gentle within the face of restrictions. He’s moonwalked in a wig round them or pushed a ship by the grass proper over them. “I stay prefer it’s no guidelines and I’m OK with fuckin’ up,” he expresses. “I simply brush my shoulders off and get again up.”
Go and brush your shoulders off.
Check out extra from XXL journal’s Fall 2021 concern when it hits newsstands in October 2021.