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Tyler, the Creator: Horsing Around 

Even as a solo act, the Odd Future leader remains relentlessly absurd

Thursday, Mar 28 2013
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Beyond the non sequiturs, there's a steel-trap mind. Clancy declares him one of the most aware people he's seen. Tyler knows that some people think "I'm a joking piece of shit. ... They don't understand that I'm smarter than them."

You only see the full extent of his intelligence in person. His memory is photographic, and his improv ability equals anyone at Upright Citizens Brigade. Before the do-rag dilemma, he riffed for 45 minutes at his latest creation: a bi-curious, hot dog–worshipping thug rapper from New York. Writers are credited on Loiter Squad, but many characters, concepts and lines spring from Tyler.

"I have so many characters in my head," he says, beaming. "I don't even know their names yet."

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Despite the controversy and cursing, Tyler smiles more than any other rapper I've met. Whereas many of his peers wallow in their success, Tyler's attitude is perennially "so fucking stoked." His biggest complaint is that people take things seriously now.

On cue, a production coordinator interrupts to inform him that do-rags have been procured and he has to return to the shoot.

"I'll be there in two minutes," he replies.

"After you draw that dick?" she points to a paper where he has gone Superbad, drawing "I [heart] D-12," several phalluses and a donut.

"I'm just going to give it a squirt."

The coordinator exits and Tyler flashes the first frustrated look he's shown all afternoon.

"That's the only thing that's changed," Tyler says. "I could've got a 5-D [camera] and shot this like I used to do. It's a funny video, not a music video. If it's too clean, it's not funny."

Then he draws the squirt, stands up and bounces back toward the cameras.

"You're a monster!!" Tyler's eyes bulge and he's fake-sobbing and screaming at the brown and white pony, which vacantly gazes back at him. No do-rag.

Horses can't wear do-rags. The trainer claims that wrapping anything over the horse's ears could make it bolt out the third-floor window. The cameras focus on Tyler, wearing a dirty blond wig and floral print robe, kneeling over the prostrate body of a small girl, who presumably has been murdered by the reckless, would-be do-rag'd pony.

"How could you do this? You're a fucking animal," Tyler roars, extending his middle finger at the placid equine. Someone says cut. People stir and start talking again. Tyler extends his hand to the horse. "No hard feelings."

Between horse whispering and Kurt Cobain wigs, it's easy to forget the significance of this month for Tyler. There's the second-season premiere of Loiter Squad, the release of his second album and a sold-out, first-ever solo tour.

"I'm nervous as fuck," he admits in an office area concealed within the 150,000-square-foot commercial studio. "Hodgy [Beats] not being on tour with me is kind of scary."

Tyler and Hodgy were the stage-diving and ski-masked cavalry leading Odd Future's original attack. It was the closest thing 21st-century rap had to a Sex Pistols moment, a generational shift sparked by Tumblr, YouTube and a devoured roach. So strong was their wave that it washed over everything, from A$AP Rocky's stage show to Lil Wayne's adoption of skateboarding. Even Diddy vainly changed his name to "Swag."

Credit Tyler for knowing when something is dead. "Swag" has left his vocabulary. Nor does he exhibit nostalgia for his days of anonymity. He had to be famous. There's too much restlessness. He's always avoided drugs and alcohol; there's no need when your brain is always firing. At any minute, it feels as if he could bolt out of his chair and shatter the framed photos hanging in this ersatz office.

"The album sucks," he preempts discussion of Wolf. He's not playing it for press — not even his publicist has heard it. I ask if he really believes that, and he mischievously raises his eyebrows.

Tyler wants to make radio pop but on his own terms. Maybe an album with Justin Bieber or collaborations with Tame Impala and Toro y Moi. He plays piano and the drums, and plans to learn guitar. He'd rather sing, but his voice is too low to hit his ideal timbres à la Stevie Wonder, Pharrell or Prince. Instead, it's gnarled and hellish, which makes it perfect for rap.

"The lyrics are the same stupid shit ... still rapping about dicks," Tyler continues drawing. "The only difference is that I brag about how much money I made last year."

This is partially a self-defensive pose. When asked what happened to the furious kid of Bastard, the free mixtape that launched his career in the summer of 2009, Tyler replies: "I was pissed, and then life kinda started getting good. But Wolf is emotional. It's bright and dark. I brag about having a four-story house but being lonely."

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