It’s hard to tell whether Tyler, the Creator is a complete ass or a total genius. However, it is safe to say he’s probably a little bit of both. Born Tyler Gregory Okonma, the 24-year-old mastermind behind hip hop collective Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All is on the ride of his life, and he’s never been happier. The Los Angeles native released his latest album Cherry Bomb on April 13 and has been on the road in support of the record for the past several weeks. He seems more comfortable on the road than off the road. He gets to skate all over the country, perform for a packed crowd every night and according to him, do “whatever the fuck” he wants. The way he carries himself, it’s clear he’s just having fun. After all, he knows this could all be gone tomorrow. There are several videos on YouTube with titles like “Funny Moments with Tyler, the Creator” or “Tyler, the Creator’s Best Vines,” which showcase his outlandish sense of humor. It trickles into everything he does.
“You gotta keep things fun,” Okonma says. “Laughing is really important to your health, believe it or not, so I guess I just always try to have fun and keep the energy alive.”
During a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he divulged the details of getting fired from his job at Starbucks, which he says is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. His career has been on the upswing ever since. In 2009, he self-released his first solo album, Bastard, followed up with 2011’s Goblin and continued the momentum with 2013’s Wolf. The latter album stepped up his game thanks to collaborations with fellow Odd Future members Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt, Erykah Badu and Pharrell Williams. On Cherry Bomb, Okonma expands his musical horizons even more by teaming up with Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick, The Black Lips’ Cole Alexander, Kanye West, Schoolboy Q, and Lil’ Wayne.
“A lot of good things have happened this year,” he says. “I guess when a lot of tight things happen, you just start enjoying things more. Making money is one of them. I’m not going to lie. That shit is tight. Just so much awesome stuff has happened. No one is dying. It’s all good.”
The creative video for the first single “Fucking Young” tells the story of a 20-something man falling in love with a teenage girl, but it then ends up going into a totally different song. He came up with the entire concept.
“You don’t really have to learn anything to create stuff,” he says. “It’s not a thing you learn. There’s not a set of rules you have to follow to learn. You can learn a recipe,” he says with a laugh. “But ideas are not something you learn.”
However, he is learning some les sons along the way. Okonma has been accused of being misogynistic and homophobic due to the nature of some of his lyrics. But he has backed his friends in the past, including being the first to publicly show support for Frank Ocean when he told the world about his relationship with a man. He’s recieved backlash from bands such as indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara. And also, music magazine The Fader counted 68 uses of the word “bitch” on Goblin. In May 2013, a series of three commercials for Mountain Dew directed by Okonma stirred up more controversy when he was accused of using “racial stereotypes” and “making light of violence against women.” PepsiCo. apologized and eventually pulled the ads. It’s true his music is riddled with graphic violence and endless profanity, but don’t expect an apology any time soon.
“People believe whatever they want to believe, man,” he says. “It’s however they take things. I don’t hate women at all. Just me telling them that won’t change their opinion on things. I’m at a point where it’s like why even bother talking about this anymore. If you’re smart enough, you’ll figure it out, if not, whatever.”
Many people look at Okonma’s life and think he’s at the pinnacle of success, but he doesn’t see it that way. He’s always striving for more. As happy as he is, he knows he can always do better.
“I’m doing some cool shit, but I’m not killing shit,” he says. “I could really be killing it. I can’t buy an Enzo yet so I’m not killing it at all. When I can by a Ferrari Enzo for $3 million dollars, break the windows and flatten the tires like it’s nothing, then I’ll be killing it. Until then, I’m alright.”