Bob Dylan once defined success as getting up in the morning, going to bed at night, and doing whatever you want to do in between. A half-century later, Tyler, the Creator has forced an addendum to that original philosophy: Success is having a trampoline inside your house.
“I put it in my room two weeks ago, and for the first time it felt like I made it,” says Tyler, wearing a mint green Stray Rats shirt, black shorts, checkered Vans, and a Golf Wang hat, and bouncing Tigger-like in the cavernous bedroom of his Los Angeles mansion. The walls are covered with posters of The Neptunes, Eminem, and Madvillain. There’s also a beanbag couch and an arcade-style mini-Ferrari cockpit made for Xbox. DVDs of Chappelle’s Show and Diane Arbus photography books haphazardly line dorm-esque display racks.The whole scene looks like a cross between Moonrise Kingdom and Big. “Who else has a trampoline in their room…with enough space for another trampoline?” asks Tyler, rhetorically, in mid-air.
It’s been less than four years since Odd Future first mesmerized teenagers and enraged Internet moralists with “kill people, burn shit, fuck school” chants. During that span, Tyler, the Creator transformed himself from a teenaged enfant terrible into a multimillion-dollar brand, boasting his own sketch show (Adult Swim’s Loiter Squad), clothing lines (Odd Future and the year-old Golf Wang, worn in these pages), Fairfax Boulevard boutique, an annual carnival (complete with custom rides and cotton candy), and an independent record label distributed by Sony Red.
His idols, Pharrell and Eminem, are now his friends (Odd Future is opening for the latter at London’s Wembley Stadium in July), and Kanye West has called the 23-year-old a mentor. His influence has become pervasive in pop culture, from Miley Cyrus’s space-cat performance at the American Music Awards to Seth Rogen wearing a Golf Wang shirt throughout Neighbors. Fashion trends from tie-dye to the feline- centric tees that clutter racks at Urban Outfitters—Tyler sees his own influence in their ubiquity.
“I was the only nigga in school writing on everything. Now it’s the cool thing to draw on your shoes and be different. I used to get so much shit for that. It’s just crazy how things change and what’s considered cool now,” says Tyler, removing vinyl records from a shelf and neatly arranging them in two columns.
The albums comprise much of his musical DNA. There’s Pharrell, Clipse, French fusion kings Cortex, ’60s psych-rockers Strawberry Alarm Clock, jazz legend Roy Ayers, and Motown mainstay Leon Ware. His shock-value lyrics and riot-starting arrests foment outlandish headlines, but Tyler’s musicality and monastic devotion to craft have quietly made him one of the most realized artists of his generation.
When asked what he’s been working on, he cues up a new beat—a blend of gorgeous jazz-fusion chord changes subverted by sinister tones played over a soundless loop of Napoleon Dynamite projected on the wall. There are rumors of a new album due later this summer. He’s also coy about a screenplay, acknowledg- ing its existence, but refusing to confirm specific details. “I’m secretive,” he says, flashing a toothy grin. “I like to just drop shit and surprise people. I could announce an album next week, and you’d be like, ‘Fuck, why didn’t he tell me?’”
To prove his point, Tyler begins flipping through a notebook containing storyboards for future music videos, commercials, and next season’s Golf Wang line— neatly drawn, colored, and fleshed out—all awaiting execution. His creative streak is instinctive and without filter or block. “I told Jay Z that I had a trampoline in my room and he’s like, ‘Dude, keep that inner child. You’re one of the few who have it,’” recalls Tyler. “Your inner child lets honesty be your main outlet.”
There aren’t many artists who tout their toy collections as evidence of their hip-hop cred, but Tyler’s adolescent whimsy is the connective tissue that binds him to his cultish following. “I love my fans because I am those kids. This ain’t no rapper’s favorite movie,” he says, holding the DVD case of Napoleon Dynamite. “Niggas don’t do this. Look at my home. I have a pet horse in jeans.” He gestures toward a stuffed equine sport- ing denim on only its front legs. “That’s Chancho, by the way.” (A second horse, a bronze statue near the entryway, has been dubbed Stan.)
Tyler’s fun house is also inhabited by his 14-year-old sister and his mother, who stretches out in a pink velour sweatsuit on a downstairs couch. There’s a tennis court in the backyard, along with a half-pipe ramp and a basketball hoop. Today is a Saturday, and Tyler’s friends, including Loiter Squad castmate Jasper Dolphin and photographer Sagan Lockhart, have stopped by to skate and stage raucous kayak-jousting matches in the pool.
“Why? Because we’re into doing shit,” says Tyler. “I don’t want these 15-year- olds to turn into insecure people who only want to re-blog shit on Tumblr and beg people for likes on Instagram. Go play an instrument, go hike, go jog—go do something with your life.”
The irony, of course, is that the same contingent he terrifies would probably agree with the core of his message. He is a self-made millionaire who grew up poor in South L.A. and turned a Tumblr into a small empire cutting across television, music, commercials, and fashion. He doesn’t do drugs, supports his family, pays a mortgage, and implores young people to get off the Internet and play outside.
“I’m trying to tell kids, you can have all of this,” says Tyler, surveying the property that sweat and Odd Future socks built. “I’m not rich yet, but I’m doing OK and still want to get better. Kids need to know that they can do this. They can do everything that I did better than me.”
-words by Jeff Weiss
-photos by Steven Taylor