“There’s just a different tone of yellow in the sky today,”
he says. Northern California’s wildfires have given every-
thing a permanent tinge of the golden hour. “It’s been like
this all day. It’s weird. Like, it’s probably me and five other
people who notice it too.”
Tyler weaves between cars and curses at speed-limit-
abiding minivans and a stalled pickup truck looking like
a haute Gilligan while gleefully singing along with every
song that plays on his iPhone. It’s a mix of soul-funk and
old-school hip-hop, plus some lovely contemporary stuff.
Pure Pleasure. Blackstreet. Janet. John Legend. He cues
trumpets with a slick point of his finger, accentuates bass
drops by jutting out his chin. Fans spot him from the side-
walk or nearby cars and shout, “Tyler!”
“There’s a lot of ’70s music on this playlist,” I say, sure
I can almost hear the warm, retro chords of his Grammy-
nominated 2017 album, Flower Boy, somewhere in this mix.
“Oh, it’s just on shuffle,” Tyler says dismissively. He
then flips quickly between a few
tracks, turns the stereo to max,
and I hear the ominous first notes
of “Freeee” by Kanye West and
Kid Cudi. That’s when, as if by his
own will, L.A. traffic drains away,
and Tyler floors it.
The engine crescendos into
a whir that competes with the
speakers, and the world blurs.
With each guitar riff, Tyler yanks the steering wheel
like a mixer, zigzagging the car in an angry staccato.
His face has transformed from L.A.’s charming cruise
director into the mutineer who points the ship straight
into the iceberg just to hear the sound of the crash. With
his eyes wide, he turns to me and shouts along with the
track, “I feel freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
As he pulls the car into a strip-mall doughnut shop, he
confesses, “I don’t get this shit called anxiety. I guess it’s
when someone’s nervous.”
He waits a beat, miming introspection,
pretending he didn’t notice me instinctively
grab the seat in the explosion of g-force.
“But uh, when I was driving like that, were
This is the A side, B side of Tyler Okonma,
aka Tyler, the Creator. He’s high-octane,
high-fructose. The 27-year-old rapper-
designer–festival organizer is a polarizer
and a crowd-pleaser. He’s a human fidget
spinner, and a prolific artist with a keen
attention to detail. He’s a provocateur who
gleefully shares his favorite You Tube clip
of an anaconda eating a vomiting dog, and
an asthmatic with a dog allergy who can’t
help but pet the nearest puppy. He’s an artist
Tyler’s new music
songs that he’s
imagined for Solange
and Post Malone.
“I like getting lost,
I like that shit.
a left turn.”
Wearing a red
sandals of his own
design, and a
bucket hat, Tyler,
cruises his McLaren
675 through Los
the port side.