Sorry, you can’t come in here,” Tyler, the Creator’s bodyguard, Vill, says. “There’s a no pants policy on the bus.”
Vill is a huge guy from a small island off the coast of Samoa. I tell him that I’m not taking off my pants, but he assures me that I won’t be alone. “All of the guys are in their boxers,” he says. “Look.”
Vill gives me a peek behind the curtain that separates the driver’s seat from the rest of the bus. Sure enough, Tyler, Jasper, Taco, even their brisk British tour manager, Tim, are sitting in the leather seats with their pants pulled down to their ankles, boxers exposed. Tyler wears Hanes, in case you’re wondering.
I’m thinking, fuck it: I’m in New Orleans to cover the Rocky & Tyler tour, his 14-date trek through North America with A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and Vince Staples. Tomorrow, we’re in Dallas. If Tyler wants to get weird and hang out in his underwear, then we’ll hang out in our underwear. So I take off my pants. Vill pulls back the curtain. I walk on the bus.
Tyler’s filming me. Everyone’s laughing.
“This nigga really took off his pants!” Tyler howls.
Tyler turns the camera around to review footage on the LCD screen, and, with his pants still hugging his ankles, starts thinking about Ferraris. “You think anybody out here got an Enzo?” No response. He jumps up. “This is gay,” he says, zipping up.
A few minutes later, I’m asking him about the tour. “It fucking sucks. I hate this tour. I hate working with people when I’m superior to everyone,” Tyler says, digging through boxes of Cap’n Crunch and Fruity Pebbles. He holds eye contact with me for a beat. “I’m just playing,” he says, and runs off the bus.
Tyler, the Creator, born Tyler Gregory Okonma, is at a crossroads. Since he self-released his debut album, Bastard, six years ago, he’s been known as a profane artist with an exceedingly juvenile sense of humor. The persona — one associated with lyrics like, “rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” — has simultaneously made him a pop culture phenomenon and seemingly undermined him every step of the way. In 2013, his Mountain Dew commercial, where he voices a goat that beats a waitress only to end up in a lineup of sinister-looking black men, was pulled after critics deemed it too racist. Last year, he was arrested for inciting a riot in Austin, after urging fans to push through barricades at his SXSW show. Following the release of his latest album Cherry Bomb this year, the United Kingdom joined New Zealand in banning him after protesters accused him of promoting violence against women.
If any of this is causing Tyler stress, he surely doesn’t show it. Five minutes after the tour bus prank, we’re cruising through the streets of New Orleans in a white sprinter van. Here are a few things Tyler shouts from the back seat, while scrolling through his iPhone:
- “I want a fucking lizard, but I don’t want the stupid fucking cage that it needs.”
- “Niggas be making weak ass clothes.”
- “That Pinkberry looks nice as fuck.”
- “The last New Orleans show was garbage.”
- “I feel like they’re not as progressive with the architecture out here.”
- “That motherfucking tutu is hard.”
At 24, Tyler’s already been on the scene for over five years. He’s earned millions of dollars — “People make it seem like having money is a bad thing,” he says. “Who doesn’t wanna be fucking rich and wealthy to buy stuff?” — and he now counts Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Jay Z and Seth Rogen among his friends and fans. He’s started an ultra-successful line of clothing and a mobile app for “All things Tyler.” All of which might have supplanted his hell-child image with a more refined entrepreneurial one, but, in person, he doesn’t appear so intent on changing his ways. To be around Tyler, the Creator is to be subjected to a constant stream of lewd absurdity.
The sprinter squeezes through the streets of the French Quarter. I tell Tyler that it’s my first time in New Orleans.
“My parents are from here,” he says.
“No, I don’t know anybody from here.”
The guys decide to eat at the Royal House Oyster Bar, where Frank Sinatra used to go when it was called Tortorici’s. As the driver parks the van, Drake’s “Hotline Bling” comes on the radio, and Tyler purposely fucks up the lyrics: “You used to call me on my. My. My. Fuck! What did you call me on?! Fuck! I always forget the lyrics.”
We start walking. Tyler recalls buying a painting from one of the art galleries around this section of the French Quarter. “I fucked the owner,” he says. We pass a skinny white kid wearing Elvis Costello-looking frames and Tyler yells in his face, “Hey, sick glasses!” A small white dog is barking above us on one of those Bourbon Street balconies as we pass — every time it does, Tyler yells back, “Nigger!” A jewelry store grabs his attention next; he’s at the window, eyes glowing: “That turquoise is crazy.”
Everything with Tyler appears to happen on a whim. He has a hell of a schedule with lots of obligations and places to be, but when you’re around him it’s clear that he just does whatever the fuck he wants, whenever he wants. “Time flies when you’re having fun and doing heroin,” he says at one point. Only Tyler is completely sober, and — even though he jokes about doing drugs almost as much as he jokes about (not) being gay — he always has been. Over the next two days, I’ll see him pretend to fuck a beer bottle, encourage drug dabblers to “stop being a bitch” and “shoot heroin up,” and, no less than twice, scream, “The molly’s kicking in,” while having a fake seizure on the floor. He’s the type of guy who picks his nose in public without a care in the world.
We get to the restaurant, a jaunty space with high ceilings, exposed brick and open windows. At the table, it takes way too long to get service, which I interpret as racist, and definitely not proper famous person treatment, but only Tyler’s bodyguard Vill (sitting at a separate table) seems to notice. Tyler watches car-racing videos on his phone. Taco’s on Instagram. Jasper’s looking months back into his own Twitter timeline. “I’m trying to figure out who I used to be,” he says.
The van driver comes into the restaurant carrying paper bags full of beignets. Tyler and everyone else devour them. Then our orders come. Jasper and I got shrimp and grits. Taco got gumbo. Tyler got alligator. “I feel bad about eating this because I’m a lizard,” he says, then asks me, “Wanna see a crazy picture of me playing guitar?” He shows me his phone — the screen displays a drawing of a lizard playing guitar. “I was 13.”
If there’s anything I learn on the trip, it’s that Tyler wants more. More freedom. More respect. He’s at a tipping point in his career: on his way to becoming a one-name institution like his new friends Jay, Kanye, Pharrell, but also at risk of remaining stuck in cult figure territory forever. “I’m not shit,” he tells me. “Pharrell was on fucking Sesame Street yesterday, bro. I was with Nigo four weeks ago. I make him bring his chains, just so he can shut me up. So when I’m thinking I’m on and I’m fucking flexing, I’m not shit. I like seeing [Kanye’s] backyard so I can know that I’m not shit. ‘What’s up Seth Rogen? Yeah, we’ll come by the office. Oh, you working on these movies? Damn, I haven’t even started my first one. Thanks for telling me I’m not shit.’ That motivates me. I look at that and it makes me go get back on my shit so next time I see them I can tell them about what the fuck I been doing the past two weeks. If it doesn’t work, at least I’m fucking trying.”
Tyler’s directed over a dozen music videos for himself and others under the moniker Wolf Haley; in 2013, he released a mysterious trailer for his still-unreleased, possibly-never-to-exist feature film debut. He designs furniture. He’s just getting started with the clothing line and mobile app. “I feel like I’m about to level up in life like a motherfucker,” he says. “I don’t know how to explain it, but I just feel like I’m gonna be in a different place soon than where I’m at now, which is different from where I was at last year, which is different from the year before.”
After lunch, Tyler takes a picture with a young female fan. “I got black girls and white males,” he says once we’re back in the van. “Can’t go wrong either way.” Then he and Taco make a quick stop to visit Solange Knowles and her husband, who live in the city. “Their relationship so cool,” Tyler says.
When his second album, Goblin, came out in May 2011, Tyler was still sleeping on his grandmother’s couch. Not long before that, he worked at FedEx and Starbucks. He never met his dad, an immigrant from Nigeria, and used the proceeds from Goblin to get a home for himself, his mother and younger sister. Instead of regarding his unpredictable rise as an extremely rare stroke of luck, he believes it’s proof that anyone can achieve their dreams if they’re persistent enough. “I just want everyone to be awesome,” he says. “That’s all it is. I want everyone to be cool in their own way.”
Tyler is aware that much of the world does not exactly consider him a role model. In August, on his way to a string of festival appearances in the U.K., he learned that the British government had banned him from entering the country for three to five years. According to the U.K. Home Office, roughly the equivalent of the Department of Homeland Security, Tyler’s music “encourages violence and intolerance of homosexuality” and “fosters hatred with views that seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.”
This wasn’t the first time Tyler faced a national embargo. In February 2014, he was stopped from performing at an Auckland date on Eminem’s Rapture Tour after immigration officials called him “a potential threat to public order and the public interest.” In June 2013, an Australian feminist group, Collective Shout, pushed to have him banned. In response, during a show in Sydney, Tyler called Collective Shout member, Talitha Stone, a “fucking bitch,” a “fucking whore,” and a “fucking cunt.” Stone, who was present, took video of the rant, and filed a report with police for verbal abuse. After the Australian government declined to act, Stone wrote in the Guardian, “What is the point of a national debate on misogyny if we let the Tyler the Creators of the world spew hate speech against women?” (In August, Tyler voluntarily cancelled his tour appearances in Australia after officials “raised issues with [his] visa application.”)
The provocative nature of Tyler and his music is rooted in humor, not experience. As such, he seems to feel that he should be afforded some of the leniency granted to stand-up comedians, though even they don’t get as much of a pass on offensive material these days. During his Saturday Night Live monologue in May, Louis C.K. was criticized for a joke that surmised the relative risk and reward of being a child molester; Amy Schumer still can’t live down a bit implying that Hispanic men are rapists. “Everyone’s so sensitive,” Tyler says, addressing his own backlash. “Why the fucking parents ain’t fucking raising their kids to not take shit seriously, to be smart enough to know what’s right and wrong?’ Or instead of banning me from a country, why don’t you just make sure the fucking kids don’t go to the show, you dumbass? Is that hard?”
“Instead of banning me from a country, why don’t you just make sure the kids don’t go to the show, you dumbass? Is that hard?”
Tyler emphatically says that the overseas bans aren’t entirely about race, but certainly thinks it’s a factor. He makes it clear that he has never been physically abusive with a woman, which might not be true for all other artists still allowed to play in the U.K., New Zealand and Australia. “It’s other people who’ve actually done things and they’re still allowed in these places,” Tyler says. “Then I start to think, is it status? Is it because I’m not as big as them? And then it’s like, ‘No, that probably can’t be it.’ What could the other reason be? Then the other thing is, like, ‘I guess it could be because of the color of the skin that I have.'”
Despite all the controversey, Tyler says he wants to be a positive influence. “I want kids to look at me as inspiration the way I looked at niggas,” he says. “Like, Eminem’s third verse on ‘Sing For The Moment’ and Pharrell’s whole ‘You Can Do It Too’ song. Dude, if it wasn’t for those songs talking to me, I feel like I wouldn’t have none of this shit. I was the kid that was dumb enough to actually believe it.”
In a phone conversation a few days later, Pharrell returns the compliment, with additional perspective on Tyler. “Tyler is everything we wanted this generation to be,” he tells me. “We wanted kids to be intrigued, and we wanted kids to be independent thinkers, and we wanted them to be pluralists, and he’s all of the above. He’s a shining example of believing in yourself and being loyal to creativity and all that it can give you.”
New Orleans looks magical in the fading light of dusk, a haunted swamp city with a glow both comforting and ominous. Not even Tyler can ignore the setting’s allure. “I wanna spend more time down here one day,” he says, looking out the window, “and go to them big ass houses where they made black people make T-shirts and shit.”
There’s a huge line outside the venue at Champions Square. Dozens of kids are walking down the block. When Tyler raps on “THE BROWN STAINS OF DARKEESE LATIFAH PART 6-12 (REMIX),” that “All my shows no one black in it like Larry David,” he’s not exaggerating that much. White people are out here in droves, and a decent amount of them are wearing Golf gear. A line on the most popular track of his latest album goes, “Ban a kid from the country, I never fall, never timber/But you fucked up as a parent; your child idol’s a nigger.” The van pulls into the backstage tunnel. “I gotta take a shit,” Tyler yells, jumping out. “A thick, dark shit!”
I‘m in the green room with tour manager Tim, who’s typing up a storm on his Macbook and listening to Talking Heads. Vill’s there too, along with the guy who handles Tyler’s merch. I met him at Tyler’s show in New York back in June. We already smoked a joint after lunch, but he’s giving me about a gram for myself now. “You’re a great friend,” I say, with a laugh.
Tyler walks into the room, sees me take the nuggets. “Great friends suck each other’s dicks,” he says.
The comment is so out of place that I can’t help but crack up. No other rapper makes jokes like this and Tyler knows it. “I’m very, very self-aware,” he tells me later. “Sometimes I look at things from out of body and try to see both sides. It’s hilarious just to watch reactions. I do it in a way where people don’t be too offended, but it’s still funny. It’s just fucking with people; sometimes making people uncomfortable is good. Nigga, loosen up.”
Twenty minutes before showtime, a kid from Vince Staples’ crew starts admiring the bus’ interior. “You got mirrors on the ceiling!” he says.
Tyler’s already on his feet, digging into a box of Fruity Pebbles. “Yeah, so when I fuck niggas on the floor I can look up and see it,” he says, pointing a fistful at the ceiling. He sits down again and tries to fart into his inhaler. (He’s severely asthmatic.)
“What’s wrong with you?” the kid asks, his face contorted.
“Why it gotta be something wrong with me?” Tyler snaps back. “Maybe it’s something wrong with what you’re doing. You ever thought about that?”
That response succinctly sums up the message of Tyler’s music, especially on Cherry Bomb, his fourth album, released in April. It’s brash, sometimes to the point of abrasive, but with many fewer moments of the misogyny and gore that characterized his earlier efforts. Acts as varied as Roy Ayers, Charlie Wilson, Toro y Moi, ScHoolboy Q and Cole Alexander of the Black Lips contributed to the project. The opening track, “DEATHCAMP” is inspired by the Stooges; the uplifting message on “FIND YOUR WINGS” is couched in the sound of a 1970s slow jam. “It’s literally the album I’ve been wanting to make since I was 12 years old,” he says. “I’m doing what I wanna do.”
But the reception was tepid. After it came out, one Reddit user started a thread titled “I’m done with Tyler” that accused Cherry Bomb of having “no substance” and said that Tyler’s “gotta realize many of the old fans aren’t big on this new stuff.” Tyler, who believes it’s his best album to date, says he understands that all of the experimentation was bound to alienate some listeners. “I 100 percent get it,” he says. “We get stuck in nostalgia. I wish Pharrell could make In My Mind a million times, but it makes me appreciate him so much that he’s not stuck. 50 Cent was stuck, trying to make the same album three times and now look. When I was fucking finished with Cherry Bomb, I was like, ‘Yo, niggas are gonna lose their shit when they hear these chord changes, and fucking hear these horns that I put here, and hear these bells and all this.’ And then it took me a while to realize that no one gives a fuck about that shit, man. Niggas want hooks.”
On stage in New Orleans, peforming between a stack of life-size building blocks and a Cherry Bomb action figure box, in the same clothes he’s worn all day (though with more jewelry), Tyler gets the entire crowd to sing “Happy birthday, fuck you” to one lucky kid. Later, he tells a group of guys to stop fighting because they’re “not hard, it’s not worth it, and it’s not cool.” When he performs “Yonkers,” still his biggest breakout hit, he intentionally fucks up the lyrics. The opening line is, “I’m a fucking walking paradox.” At Coachella in April, I heard him change the lyrics to, “I’m a motherfucking faggot.” Tonight, he raps, “I’m a motherfucking homo.” It reminds me of the way Nirvana took to playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as the years wore on; once on live television, Cobain switched the opening lyrics of “Teen Spirit” — “Load up on guns, bring your friends” — to “Load up on drugs, kill your friends.”
All of it is testament to the way Tyler continues to propel himself forward — if his fans can’t keep up, that’s their problem. “I’ve just always been really energetic,” Tyler tells me after the show. “I don’t have a brain. I’m a jellyfish. I don’t have a process. I just react.” Calling himself a jellyfish is Tyler’s way of saying that he’s mostly driven by sheer impulse. “The way I work is like, ‘Damn, that would be sick,'” he says. “That’s how I start with everything. Whether it’s a T-shirt or a scene of a video or a fucking certain sound that I enjoy. Then when I focus on it, whatever comes out comes out.”
I’m interested in whether Tyler feels any pain over the response to Cherry Bomb, and he’s very clear that he doesn’t. “Critics don’t fucking matter,” he says. “Give me any of those writers and I’ll give them fucking $500,000 and tell them to make an album and see what the fuck they come up with. They wish they had the fucking talent I have or the vision I have. ‘Get off my fucking dick, bro.'”
Give me that dick, faggot!”
That’s the first thing I hear on Friday morning when everyone starts waking up. We’re just outside of Dallas. Tyler is harassing his tour manager again.
“Fuck me right here, in front of everyone,” Tyler says, then adds, “One day when I stop talking about fucking people in the ass, I’ma go into children’s books.”
We’ve been on Tyler’s tour bus for ten long hours. I’ve been up for the last couple. I saw the sun rise over the vast, seemingly endless landscape of Texas. For miles, it’s been nothing but highway and conservative billboards advertising various messages about God and guns.
Finally, we park outside of the South Side Ballroom in Dallas. Tyler looks at me after a comment about how many dicks he’s going to suck today. “Everyone on this bus is gay except for me,” he says. “I love pussy.”
I step outside to have a cigarette with Vill.
“Don’t make him look like an asshole,” Vill says.
“He’s not,” I say.
Sometimes Tyler does reveal a heartwarming side, but never holds the note for long. After his childhood friend Frank Ocean came out, Tyler told this magazine, “I was one of the first people he told.” Then added, “I kinda knew, because he likes Pop-Tarts without frosting on them, so I knew something was weird.”
In the same interview, Tyler said Ocean has no problem with his frequent use of the pejorative term for homosexuals because “he knows I don’t care about being gay. It’s just another word to me.” Before that, Tyler told NME, “I’m not homophobic. I just think ‘faggot’ hits and hurts people.” This year, he released a “Golf Pride Worldwide” T-shirt, which reappropriates the Celtic cross — a symbol associated with neo-Nazis and white supremacists — with rainbow flag colors. A promotional photo for the shirt features Tyler holding hands with another man. He wore the shirt on the recent video for “BUFFALO” as well; shortly after putting it on, he appears to light a joint. While none of this makes him a crusader for LBGTQ rights, all of it points to some progress — emphasis on some.
After my chat with Vill, Tyler comes off the bus, wearing cut-off overalls. “Howdy, nigger,” he says in his best southern twang. “What you doing on this side of town?”
Tyler used to be much more closely associated with the extremely talented young collective Odd Future, which included his teenage friends Earl Sweatshirt, Syd tha Kyd and Frank Ocean. Back in May, he sent a series of tweets that seemed to confirm the end of Odd Future, one of which read: “although its no more, those 7 letters are forever.” Those seven letters are OFWGKTA, which stands for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. The next day, Earl Sweatshirt responded, tweeting, “TO ALL ODD FUTURE RUNOFF: SAVE YOURSELF YEARS OF EMBARRASSMENT AND STOP DRESSING LIKE AN EASTER BASKET, GO TALK TO SOME BITCHES! TRUSMEDADY.” Soon after, Tyler told The Village Voice, “Everyone is focusing on their solo careers, but we’re still friends.” A month after that, Earl told The Guardian, “Right now, I’m really trying to set my own two feet down as me. The OF thing follows you — it’s viral — even though not one thing I’ve done in the past couple years has been focused on OF. It’s my teenage boy club that got famous that I’m trying to not be defined by.”
Nonetheless, in September, Tyler revealed a lineup for his Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival featuring OFWGKTA, which seemed to cease rumors that the group was disbanding. But at the carnival in November, only three members — Mike G, Domo Genesis, and Hodgy Beats — showed up, and Hodgy Beats lashed out at Tyler on stage. Tyler responded during his own set, saying, “Niggas got me fucked up. I put too many niggas on. I helped too many of my motherfucking friends out. And niggas gonna come foul? And you know who the fuck I’m talking about, nigga. And yes, it’s getting real. I love you though.”
Back in Dallas, before the incident with Hodgy even happens, I ask Tyler how he feels about Earl Sweatshirt’s comments. Tyler doesn’t go into much detail, but the little that he offers is telling, not only of the status of his relationship with Earl, but all of Odd Future. “Niggas grow,” he says. “I just want everyone to shine. And I hope everyone takes the opportunities that they have thrown at them and get out of their head. Sometimes I think people are in their head too much and never take a step back and just look.”
It’s the last day of tour before a month-long break, and the energy level seems higher than usual. A dust cloud is brewing, so Tyler and his friends are on and off the bus every few minutes. Taco grabs his monogrammed Louis Vuitton and pulls out a T-shirt and socks with a taco logo on them. “What’s the easiest way to say, ‘Look bitch, I got socks and T-shirts?'” he says, pulling out his phone to Instagram the items.
The night before, I overheard him saying he had sex with a Sports Illustrated model. “Nah, I fucked her before, though,” he says. “Then she’s like, I’m an SI model now, and I’m like, ‘Oh word? That’s crazy. Wanna go outside and smoke?’ I had your old pussy. I want your SI pussy.'”
More friends show up. One’s name is Mikey. He’s wearing thick black-framed glasses, snug khakis and a tucked-in polo shirt, hauling a huge camera. He works on videos with Tyler, but before filming anything, they have a brief philosophical conversation.
“Do you think life leads up to one moment?” Mikey asks.
“Death,” Tyler says. “Death is the climax, I guess. If you think about it.”
Tyler opens his laptop, puts on headphones, and starts mumbling lyrics to a beat, which, given that a production program is open, I assume he made. Watching artists work on songs is incredible because it’s these little minutes-long creations that are the foundation of their entire empire. The table he’s sitting at is flush with Thomas bagels and Ozarka water, but he’s only focused on the beat and the handfuls of Cap’n Crunch he keeps eating.
Jasper walks up and snatches the box of cereal. “What I tell you about eating all my motherfucking cereal,” he says. “Give me twenty dollars.”
“Okay,” Tyler says. “Give me the box.” Jasper hands him the box.
Tyler puts the box on the floor and smashes it underneath his feet. Jasper shakes his head and walks back to his bunk.
“That’s what I thought,” says Tyler, putting his headphones back in. He looks at Mikey. “We gotta film when I’m back,” he says. “I really wanna boil a hot dog then put it in a glass then pour milk in it and drink that shit.”
Tyler switches into a baseball jacket from his clothing line and black pants, and everyone is back off the bus. In the distance, a girl peeks around the corner of the venue. She waves at Tyler. He waves back. She snaps some photos that she undoubtedly has to zoom in quite a bit for, then disappears. Tyler starts walking in that direction. He gets to where the girl was standing, but now there’s a young white boy there, decked out in Golf gear. Tyler keeps walking to the front of the venue. There’s already dozens of kids waiting outside, and the show doesn’t even start for another six hours.
Tyler takes a selfie stick from one of the fans. “This is stupid,” he says. “Why would you ever buy this?” (Despite his own frequent use, Tyler has a particular disdain for his generation’s addiction to the Internet and smartphones. “Why are you Snapchatting everything?” He asks rhetorically, earlier in the trip. “You should be what people are Snapchatting.”) After enough jokes and enough selfies with fans, Tyler starts walking back to the tour bus. “BYE!” he turns around and yells back at the fans. One yells back, “Bitch!” Tyler just keeps walking and starts doing his fake freestyle rap thing, saying, “Sucking dick until I pass out.”
For the past two days I’ve wondered, is Tyler actually gay? I cannot emphasize how much gay humor plays a role in the atmosphere around him. It’s like a continuous loop of the “You know how I know you’re gay?” scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Never more than a few minutes pass without him saying he’s going to suck someone’s dick or him accusing someone of wanting to suck dick. At one point on the bus, he recalls sending nude photos to a group chat with his friends and no one responded. “My friends are so used to me being gay,” Tyler says, “they don’t even care.”
I finally ask, Why all the gay humor? “Because I’m gay as fuck,” he says, without a flinch. Seriously, are you gay? Are these repressed feelings? “No, but I am in love with ’96 Leonardo DiCaprio,” he says. “I one hundred percent would go gay for ’96 Leo. Oh, and Cole Sprouse.”
Rap superstars never really pay attention to you. Maybe they have this sixth sense that detects your thirst for approval and decide not to indulge you. There’s this thing in every crew where everyone acts cool and does their own thing, but you can tell that the star, in this case either Rocky or Tyler, is always the center of attention. And the star is always lurking in the shadows nearby, partly because everybody wants something from them.
After the show in Dallas, the vibe backstage is kind of sad yet beautiful. You know when trips are so good that it makes you sentimental, but you also know that the trip needs to be over? It’s like that. I don’t really watch Tyler’s set this time. I wander around, first past Vince Staples — who’s with some girl and asks me, “You good?” — then past Rocky, who’s wearing sweatpants and flip flops and holding a Goyard bag. I can hear the crowd chanting Tyler’s name from the catering room. They fucking love this kid.
Outside by the buses, I run into Christian Clancy, Tyler’s manager of six years. He tells me, “There’s more sides to [Tyler] than the one people Google and get scared of.” We talk about how amazing it is to see hip-hop tours be so successful, and the new listeners each artist gains from the overlap of fans in attendance. “They don’t have to compete with each other anymore,” Clancy says. “They’re each their own archetype. These are the new superheroes. They’re replacing the old ones. You come together then it’s fuck the labels. That’s real power.”
Just then, Tyler comes sprinting from backstage, and suddenly Clancy and I are in the middle of a full-blown water balloon war. Jasper has silly string too, for good measure. Rocky and Nast come chasing after them. I don’t know where Tyler got so many water balloons, but he has a lot of them, and he’s launching every single one at A$AP.
Earlier, Tyler tells me that he’s a little more cautious these days. “I’m still me one hundred percent,” he says. “I’ll still run around joking, but I know if I break that window I’ma have to pay for it, and I don’t want to pay for it.” Fucking around too much is only going to cost him the joy of doing what he loves most: creating. “I like making stuff,” he says. “I like being able to buy stuff. I like being on stage performing. I like having good health and seeing my friends and making shows and dumb shit with them. That’s my form of happiness. If I can continue to do that until I’m 130, I’ll be good.”