Suit and sunglasses GOLF LE FLEUR*, shoes DR MARTENS and jewellery Tyler's own

Tyler, the Evader

Volume 4 Issue 001: Pinning down the pied piper of Fairfax (and the most influential artist of the decade).

Arti­cle tak­en from from The Face Vol­ume 4 Issue 001. Order your copy here.

Is that real­ly him? Nah, it can’t be. But this is exact­ly where you’d expect to find him. C’mon… doesn’t see­ing him walk down Fair­fax Avenue seem just a lii­i­i­it­tle on the nose? Dude, who else is 6ft 2in, wear­ing a mint util­i­ty vest, over­sized khakis and a buck­et hat, being fol­lowed by flu­o­res­cent hordes like he was about to feed the mul­ti­tudes with free socks. Oh fuck, I think you’re right. I told you: there’s only one Tyler.

In the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, 348,612 babies were named Tyler dur­ing the 80s and 90s. But even if you were chris­tened Tyler, there’s a legit­i­mate chance that the Cre­ator is the first Tyler that comes to mind. Con­sid­er how dif­fi­cult that is. We’re not talk­ing a mononym like Madon­na or Prince or Kanye. Even Michael Jack­son com­pet­ed with Tyson and Jor­dan. But Tyler reigns uncon­test­ed. And there he is on Fair­fax in Los Ange­les at 5pm on a sweaty July Mon­day. It’s like see­ing the Pope sun­bathing out­side the Sis­tine Chapel. Bro, you bet­ter get a pic. 

But Tyler doesn’t take fan pho­tos. Peo­ple are fuck­ing crazy,” the erst­while Mr. I Don’t Give A Fuck says, avert­ing his head from the pil­grims not-so-­stealth­ily cap­tur­ing him for their Insta­gram sto­ries. If I did 38 back­flips and bought some kid out there a full schol­ar­ship and his mom a car, he would still say: Yo, can I get a pho­to real quick?’”

The 28-year-old’s mag­net­ism and impact terra­formed this entire block of high-priced Los Ange­les real estate. This used to be the holy turf of black-hat­ted Hasidic Jews until a teenage Tyler skat­ed up from Hawthorne around 2010, became famous as the fig­ure­head of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All and made Supreme’s box logo indeli­ble even for those who wouldn’t know an ollie from a fakie. Supreme might have lured him here, but with­out his pied piper effect, this could’ve turned into a retail ghost town. 

They’re most­ly here for him now: the pasty tourists from the high plains who dragged their fan­ny-packed par­ents, the black skate kids with green hair, the bleach-blonde teenage girls with stud­ded jack­ets and nose rings, the Japan­ese hype­beasts in eso­teric sneak­ers that you can only find on the Silk Road. They’re here not to nec­es­sar­i­ly see him, but mere­ly to sense his pres­ence, soak up the vibes”, bask in this streetwear Lour­des smack in the cen­tre of LA. So when they actu­al­ly catch a glimpse, it’s under­stand­ably hysteria. 

Thank you for your music,” an 18-year-old Asian-Amer­i­can girl giggles. 

Thank you for the album. It was soooooo good,” her friend adds. 

They mean Tyler’s first No.1, the seafoam funk, mon­sters-need-love-too opus Igor, which marked the first time a hip-hop artist topped the charts with an entire­ly self-pro­duced and self-arranged project. If 2017’s Flower Boy earned crit­i­cal adu­la­tion and his first Gram­my nom­i­na­tion, Igor marked a legit­i­mate artis­tic rev­e­la­tion – the enfant ter­ri­ble who once hurled epi­thets and hex­es for shock val­ue rein­vent­ed him­self as the moon­struck con­duc­tor lead­ing hold-me-ten­der teardrop sym­phonies with a blond page­boy bob and bespoke lime suits. He stitched togeth­er 80s British jazz-funk to Stu­dio 54 dis­co to glim­mer­ing Impala-cruis­ing soul to bull­frog-lar­ynx rap. 

It’s the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds for a gen­er­a­tion that pur­chased dis­em­bod­ied cat head Golf Wang hood­ies. OutKast’s The Love Below if Dracula’s Wed­ding occurred at the gold­en hour under an autum­nal for­est canopy with Char­lie Wil­son con­duct­ing the nup­tials. Record­ed at stu­dios all over LA (includ­ing Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La), Atlanta, and Lake Como in Italy, it fea­tures Lil Uzi Vert and Kanye, Solange and Play­boi Car­ti, Cee-Lo Green and Slowthai, La Roux and Phar­rell, but they’re so sub­sumed into his vision that you’d have to first read the lin­er notes to recog­nise most of them. If his low-hiss­ing fre­quen­cy was once most­ly audi­ble to teenagers, it’s become a siren to any­one with well-func­tion­ing ears.

Peo­ple only saw one part of me,” Tyler explains. When Yonkers came out [from 2011 album, Gob­lin] and I’m throw­ing up, they focused on the dark side. But I’m in a kit­ty-cat shirt at a lake in the She video. When Flower Boy came out they were sur­prised, but it’s like, Nah, it’s the same meal, but y’all was only look­ing at the bacon and the eggs and the pro­tein shit.’”

Can I take a pic­ture with you… can I have a hug… I love you… you’re so sexy.” 

I AM sexy,” he tells yet anoth­er group of swoon­ing girls.

Espe­cial­ly when I shave this thing that I’m try­ing out for the day,” Tyler says, turn­ing to me and his friend who works at the McLaren deal­er­ship (Tyler owns three of their vehi­cles). He’s allud­ing to a wispy mous­tache vain­ly strug­gling to annex his upper lip. 

How does this look?” He answers him­self before we can respond. It looks gross.”

Suit and sunglasses GOLF LE FLEUR*

As for him get­ting mobbed, that’s actu­al­ly my fault. Tyler was stay­ing low-key until I dragged him out of the back of the Golf Wang (his cloth­ing line) store for an iced cof­fee. He just got back last night from a friend’s 20-room cas­tle in Tus­cany, where he was eat­ing cook­ies and shit”. Before that, he was in New York becom­ing unlike­ly best friends with New York hip-hop radio icon Funkmas­ter Flex and drop­ping the most viral freestyle of the year (Sam­ple lyric: Me and Flex look­ing in the index/​For buff net nig­gas just for some hot butt sex”).

He awoke at 5.30am in his man­sion near the Get­ty Cen­ter in Bel-Air to work on music, paus­ing only to Face­time his favourite rap­per, Pusha T. 

He answered and I was like: Damn, that’s fire.’” 

Mean­while, every five steps, some­one greets him: TYLER, HOW YOU DOING?”

DRUNK!” he bel­lows back. 

He doesn’t drink or smoke. When I ask whether he’ll even­tu­al­ly do either, he responds with a flat No”, although he admits, mush­rooms might be a future possibility. 

Lean­ing on park­ing metres in front of the cof­fee shop, I press him to con­sid­er this high-water mark of his career, as much as it is pos­si­ble to press Tyler to do any­thing (it isn’t). After his third stu­dio album, 2015’s Cher­ry Bomb, his tra­jec­to­ry could have flat­lined. He could’ve kept churn­ing out albums to a diehard but sta­t­ic con­tin­gent of first-wave Odd Future fans. Warm­ly embraced by Kanye, Jay-Z and Phar­rell, he could have just remained the ring­leader of the Camp Flog Gnaw car­ni­val and a fix­ture on Adult Swim, wor­shipped by mil­lions, but for­ev­er out­side ter­res­tri­al radio, awards show recog­ni­tion and what­ev­er it means to be main­stream in this col­laps­ing century.

Then Flower Boy blos­somed to solve the rid­dle of the old Andy Warhol and Lou Reed koan: Vicious, you hit me with a flower.” Tyler sam­pled Deee-Lite and The Gap Band and rapped that he’d been kiss­ing white boys since 2004”. His fourth stu­dio album had squelchy head-bang­ing rap songs and tree­house jazz fusion. The cock­roach-swal­low­ing bas­tard, once noto­ri­ous for stage-div­ing while scream­ing about school arson, had matured”. But this was matu­ri­ty the Tyler way – with­out the som­bre grav­i­ty and max­i­mal­ist pre­ten­sion that usu­al­ly accom­pa­nies the evo­lu­tion to Seri­ous Artist.

Phar­rell told me once that the secret was to get old­er but not get old,” Tyler says. He was 42 with blond hair and a Chanel jack­et and I was in a fur jack­et that I’d made at home the night before. We both stood out at this Oscar par­ty and I looked around and it all made sense. It meant, just be you; don’t get stuck.”

You can cred­i­bly make the case that Tyler is the most influ­en­tial artist of this decade. His com­pe­ti­tion is steep: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future and Young Thug. But Tyler’s impact extends far beyond rap and even a block of real estate, from the revival of tie-dye to every rap­per hav­ing pop-up shops. After Odd Future came out, sud­den­ly every­one hit the scene with a 10-deep mob of their own. Tyler down­plays how much he changed cul­ture, but offhand­ed­ly men­tions a con­ver­sa­tion where Lil Uzi Vert told him that he paved the way for every eccen­tric rap­per of this gen­er­a­tion. For the entire­ty of this sum­mer, the Amer­i­can Hot 100 has been topped by Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road and Bil­lie Eilish’s Bad Guy; both artists bear the dis­tinct sequences of Tyler’s DNA

Coat and sunglasses GOLF DE FLEUR*, shirt, tie, trousers BURBERRY and shoes PARABOOT

A car with an Ari­zona licence plate honks at Tyler, sev­er­al boys wav­ing out of the win­dow shout­ing: WE LOVE YOU TYLER.” A crowd slow­ly clots. 

I’m a huge fan… I love the new album… Can I get a pho­to?” inquires a cheru­bic and gawky 13-year-old. 

He’s here with his par­ents, a whole­some look­ing pair who look like they work in human resources for a mid­west­ern hospital. 

I don’t do pho­tos, but you have pret­ty eyes though,” Tyler flash­es his gap toothed smile. The kid prac­ti­cal­ly pass­es out. 

He takes after me,” the mous­ta­chioed dad chuckles.

You got pret­ty eyes too, dad­dy,” Tyler quips. You got­ta fine-ass dad.”

The Golf store is down there, right?” The boy asks, eyes bulging. Tyler nods and shoots back.

Where y’all from? 

Mon­tana.”

I fig­ured.”

Real­ly?”

I was gonna joke like Mon­tana’,” he says play­ful­ly. But real­ly, I’ve been there before. We went tub­ing down the riv­er. I’m going to get a vaca­tion home out there.”

We’re from Billings,” the teenaged boy says, try­ing to pro­long the con­ver­sa­tion with his idol as long as pos­si­ble. No one is going to believe it back home. It’s the biggest town out there. It has 150,000 people!”

Well, have fun in LA,” Tyler waves, then smirks. Don’t go past Wilshire!”

Coat ACNE and sunglasses GOLF LE FLEUR*

This is where you’re prob­a­bly won­der­ing what else Tyler had to say. Did I ask about the sub­text behind the boy-loves-boy-who-also-loves-girl love tri­an­gle at the heart of Igor, the wig, his thoughts about final­ly being allowed back into Eng­land after a four-year ban for his ear­ly lyrics that There­sa May claimed encour­aged vio­lence and intol­er­ance of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty” and fos­tered hatred with views that seek to pro­voke oth­ers to ter­ror­ist acts”? Well, sort of. 

I’ve inter­viewed Tyler a num­ber of times over the last decade, enough to know that unless you’ve cor­nered him in front of a cam­era or on a radio show, it’s prac­ti­cal­ly impos­si­ble to get a straight­for­ward inter­view. He’s an open book inside a locked room, an unre­li­able nar­ra­tor by design, a nat­ur­al acidic to every medi­um. Ask about dis­cov­er­ing Zhane’s Sweet Taste of Love as a child, chord pro­gres­sions, cars, or his lat­est 70s and 80s funk dis­cov­er­ies (Heat Wave, Savan­na, The Style Coun­cil) and he’ll nerd out all day. But if you think you can lull him into a safe zone where he’ll get Oprah couch-con­fes­sion­al with you, it just won’t hap­pen. Unless, of course, he decides that’s exact­ly what he wants to do. In which case, he’ll do it immediately. 

So here are some things that you may want to know. Inside his sketch­books right now are ran­dom words that he finds inter­est­ing, movies he wants to see, the rough drafts of new songs that he wants to send out to peo­ple, and the next sea­son of clothes for the Golf line. He’s always read­ing (“not the 7 Laws of Pow­er or the books that peo­ple say you should read, but books about [artist] Jane Dick­son and the work she was doing in 1985, and how ral­ly rac­ing got start­ed”). Today, he took his flat white 92 BMW to his mom’s house in the Val­ley and that was fun”. His ide­al pas­time is rid­ing his bike in the for­est at the gold­en hour. 

He’s neu­rot­ic enough to have bought a tread­mill because he was wor­ried about get­ting fat, but still loves waf­fles and any­thing bread­ed that you can dunk in syrup. The more you know Tyler, the more obvi­ous it becomes that he’ll nev­er assign a deep­er mean­ing to any­thing. The wig and the suits? Was it his ver­sion of the Thin White Duke, a nod to Grace Jones, an attempt to access the secret char­ac­ter that he’s always want­ed to be? Nah, he just thought it would look tight.

What inspired Igor – I noticed there was a lack of the Odd Future mem­bers on this album,” Tyler says to me in a fake reporter’s voice.

By now, we’re safe­ly ensconced in the park­ing lot of the Golf Wang store, an area only acces­si­ble to store employ­ees. No more pho­to requests. Just oth­er banalities.

Inter­views are fuck­ing stu­pid,” he says matter-of-factly. 

Tyler has a very keen eye for colour,” he con­­tinues in his scholas­tic jour­nal­ist voice. He noticed the dif­fer­ent hues of brown on his shoes.

I can’t lie. The guy cer­tain­ly does have a dis­cern­ing palette.

You can tell that work ear­ly on paid off, or how about the Tamale video where there was three oranges,” he mocks a typ­i­cal line of questioning.

Oh my god, fuck my mouth,” he scoffs.

What about the title Igor? Is it a tren­chant com­men­tary on per­son­al alien­ation or per­haps an allu­sion to Frankenstein’s mon­ster? LOL.

No, I don’t feel like a mon­ster,” Tyler rolls his eyes. Every­one on Red­dit and the mes­sage boards with their the­o­ries… it’s fuck­ing weird! You be your­self, do your fuck­ing thing, but no, it’s noth­ing at all. [Igor] is just a sick word.”

Did you ever see any of the Franken­stein movies?”

No,” he paus­es a beat. I wish I was lying.”

What about There­sa May? Does he har­bour any enmi­ty towards her?

That was then. I’m back in the UK. What now?”

Your pub­li­cist told me to ask what you were excit­ed to do now that you can re-enter the UK,” I tell him. 

I’m going to fuck some people.”

He points out that even the famed Flex appear­ance wasn’t real­ly a tra­di­tion­al ques­tion-and-answer. I just want­ed to go on Flex and freestyle and we end­ed up being best friends for two hours,” he says. I didn’t even come pre­pared with a verse.”

What Tyler’s say­ing is reveal­ing but only on his own terms. There is anoth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty where you approach a con­ver­sa­tion with him by call­ing him on the games, and pin­ning down his incon­sis­ten­cies until he’s backed into a cor­ner. But still, there is no rea­son for an artist of his stature to risk telling the entire truth. Besides, he’s too smart to fall for a cheap jour­nal­is­tic gam­bit and, despite the blus­ter, he’s fun­da­men­tal­ly kind and thoughtful. 

Tyler’s go-to move is decon­struc­tion. When rap felt rel­a­tive­ly safe amidst the Auto-Tune and EDM mash-ups of the late 00s, he ter­ri­fied hip-hop tra­di­tion­al­ists, Top 40 apol­o­gists, and social puri­tans with his rape and mur­der-drenched lyrics that skirt­ed the line between trans­gres­sive irony and poor taste. When his gen­er­a­tion was still addict­ed to Tum­blr, he found­ed Golf, a print mag­a­zine (since dis­con­tin­ued). At a cer­tain point, his abil­i­ty to sur­vive off the back of shock val­ue would have run out, but before it did he sub­vert­ed the 1950s utopi­an ide­al (sum­mer camps, long bike rides, car­ni­vals) to give it a weird mod­ern cur­ren­cy. If the face tatts and Xanax indul­gences of Sound­cloud rap­pers are the trite mod­ern rebel­lion, Tyler coun­tered with some­thing that meld­ed Nor­man Rock­well to Bar­bara Kruger. 

We got a boat and a lake, bro,” he describes his new world. We gonna have a lit­tle dis­co dance par­ty. Everyone’s invit­ed and every­one is fuck­ing what­ev­er they want. Come have a good time.” 

Tyler has a No.1 album, a cloth­ing line that pre­sum­ably rakes in tens of mil­lions and thus no more need to stoke for any more controversy. 

I got can­celled before all these nig­gas,” he exclaims. This ain’t no Twit­ter lit­tle can­celled shit, bro. I got dropped from cor­po­ra­tions. I got banned from coun­tries, I got for real can­celled before that was a Twit­ter hash­tag. That’s why I’m like, Nig­ga, I’m not scared, I’ll say what the fuck I want. What the fuck y’all gonna do? Get 3,000 retweets? You gonna pull up an old tweet?’ Nig­ga, Gob­lin is in stores right now.”

The walk­ing-talk­ing para­dox of 2010 endures. He’s not afraid to say what he wants, but he wants to say as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. I tell him that I think Igor is sad and he reflex­ive­ly coun­ters: It’s not sad. It’s not sad.” 

I respond that it’s all about unre­quit­ed love.

It’s hon­est and I wrote those songs in real time,” he retorts. 

There are things he’s will­ing to dis­cuss. He hates peo­ple on the inter­net who fake care, those seek­ing sym­pa­thy or emp­ti­ly virtue sig­nalling. (“A lot of peo­ple need some pur­pose. Just go the fuck out­side. Take up a hob­by. Can­celling is people’s hob­bies.”) He doesn’t under­stand the col­lec­tive anx­i­ety stran­gling his gen­er­a­tion, which makes sense for some­one who lacks the emo­tion we com­mon­ly recog­nise as fear. 

But real­ly, he just wants what every cre­ative per­son wants in the end: the art to speak for itself.

If peo­ple saw a deer dri­ving a car, moth­er­fuck­ers would still be like: How’s Bam­bi?’” Tyler rubs his head in dis­be­lief. Are you fuck­ing kid­ding me? Do you see what I’m fuck­ing doing? I’m moon­walk­ing in a moth­er­fuck­ing blond wig. What else is there to say?”

Tyler orders an Uber to meet up with a plaid-vest­ed A$AP Nast and his friend, warm­ly greet­ing them with the offer:“I’ll give you $50 grand to eat my ass.” Nast’s homie, a recent British trans­plant to LA, chauf­feurs us to a Bev­er­ly Hills bou­tique that sells House of Pain shirts for $600 and pink Chris­t­ian Dior sweat­bands. A Takashi Muraka­mi Louis Vuit­ton bag is wait­ing for Tyler. Dur­ing the car ride over, he alter­nates between play­ing us eso­teric dis­co-funk dis­cov­er­ies and rap­ping his lat­est lyrics”.

I put the crois­sant in the butt / make the girl wake up / nig­ga it’s break­fast time!

Every­one in the car laughs.

You fuck with that?” Tyler dead­pans. I wrote that in Italy. It took eight weeks.”

Wan­der­ing the haute empo­ri­ums of 90210, Tyler buys a peri­win­kle sweater vest at the Guc­ci store. In the mid­dle of the inter­sec­tion of Rodeo and Brighton, he puts the Louis Vuit­ton bag between his legs and rides it like a horse. 

This fol­lowed by a brief trip to the Grove, a Dis­ney­fied ersatz Ital­ian shop­ping mall just off Fair­fax, where Tyler goes cologne shop­ping for rare scents. Even­tu­al­ly, a half dozen of us wind up back where we start­ed, lin­ger­ing in the park­ing lot of the Golf Wang store. While flip­ping through neo-soul and mid-2000s rap CDs to lis­ten to on the ride, Tyler makes a bunch of ter­ri­ble off-colour jokes that he some­how makes fun­ny through the force of tim­ing, charis­ma and his Howl­in’ Wolf Haley rasp. Then he looks at me, sticks out his hips and demands Grab my ass.”

I pause for a sec­ond and start to call his bluff before he bursts out laugh­ing. You were going to do it!”

I couldn’t resist,” I reply. Don’t tell anyone.” 

Then he address­es the group of us and sticks his palm out: SOME­ONE GRAB MY HAND!”

But no one is will­ing to take the bait. Not this time. Frown­ing, he yells to no one in par­tic­u­lar: WHY DOESN’T ANY­ONE TRUST ME!?”

Suit and sunglasses GOLF LE FLEUR*

Hair Ron­nie McCoy III, Make-up Lot­tie using DIOR BEAU­TY, Pho­tog­ra­phy assis­tance Kevin Cof­fey and Paul Collins, Styling assis­tance Sharon Chitrit and Borys Kor­ban, Make-up assis­tance Nico­lette Fer­nan­dez, Pro­duc­tion Lisa Weath­er­by at M.A.P, On-set pro­duc­tion Vin­cen­zo Car­ra­no and Djose­fi­na Mau­r­er-Soto at Pro­duc­tion LA


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