"Too rowdy, cops cancelled it, go home, I tried, the gate climbing nail in the coffin, they got nervous, too bad was a cool idea but hey." That was the glib stream of consciousness tweeted by Tyler, The Creator in the aftermath of an impromptu free gig-gone-wrong in South London last Saturday.
Jerky videos posted to social media showed hordes of fans flooding through the streets of Peckham, clambering over cars with people still inside and vaulting over gates, like a scene from 28 Days Later, except the zombies were wearing Palace. This is the kind of fervour that the LA rapper, producer and provocateur can generate with a single tweet.
Banned from the UK in 2015 after the Home Office alleged that his music “encourages violence and intolerance of homosexuality” and “fosters hatred with views that seek to provoke others to terrorist acts," (accusations he denies) the 28-year-old - the ban apparently lifted - was recently photographed outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, wearing a blonde Andy Warhol-meets-Boris Johnson wig (the horror), black sunglasses and a patchwork pink and red suit finished with white derbies. An intriguing, ghoulish modern mash-up of a look that David Bowie might have worn 40 years prior; an acid trip Bryan Ferry; a Teddy Boy from a pastel-hued parallel universe. The latest style evolution from (arguably) internet youth culture's most influential celebrity.
With his sixth full-length album, 'IGOR', Tyler has moved away from the childish provocations of his past and created a spooky, woozy, reverb-heavy wall of synths, manipulated vocals, Japanese City Pop-inspired keys and layered, distorted soul samples. Less a rap album than a 39-minute-long expression of sound and faint summer longing. The titular Igor appears to act as both the album's unrequited narrative foil ("I want your company, I need your company, I want you to want for me") and his heightened alter ego ("If the cop says my name, bitch I'm Igor.")
Along with writing, performing and producing all of his own material, Tyler is skilled at creating an aesthetic to accompany each of his releases, one that is inevitably riffed on by the global 'fit pic brigade, his every look pored over in the comment sections of Instagram and Reddit. His ongoing series of collaborative trainers with Converse are a guaranteed sell-out whenever they drop, while his own-line brand, Golf Le Fleur, has evolved from a cheerful side hustle into a legitimate streetwear operation, with off-kilter lookbooks, a store in LA's Fairfax and a runway show.
This flare for style has been evident since the group 'Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All' crashed onto Tumblr pages and teenaged playlists in 2009. Here was a nihilistic crew of black skate kids in chino shorts, knee-high socks, torn up Vans and Supreme caps with the brims flattened out, overseen by a 17-year-old with a Barry White from the bottom of hell voice, wearing novelty socks and a t-shirt with a cat on it: Tyler Gregory Okonma. It was LA skate and surf mixed with punk, mixed with Wu-Tang, mixed with a subverted kind of New England prep.
Most importantly it was - in a rap world that had spent the better part of two decades dripping diamonds and Rodeo Drive designer labels - new. Strange and compelling.
White socks, bucket hats, Vans Old Skools, bright t-shirts with graphics emblazoned on them; sweater vests, cropped wide leg trousers and, most pertinently, Supreme, that high watermark of the Hypebeast generation. Much of modern streetwear's base principles can be traced back to OFWGKTA and Tyler's take on Los Angeles skate culture.
"There’s money to be made [from streetwear], and it’s not a secret anymore," the former brand director of Supreme, Angelo Baque, told the New York Times in a recent interview. "That’s why, for me, I think about that moment when Odd Future started blowing up and it all started blowing up."
Baque goes on to claim that the term “streetwear” had barely existed before 2010. "Prior to that it was urban-wear, which was just a nice way of saying these were clothes that blacks and Puerto Ricans wear."
According to the inaugural Streetwear Impact Report published by Hypebeast, which surveyed 40,960 people about the impact of streetwear on their style and buying habits, only a third of people found influencers, that scant-understood and much-maligned internet species, actually influential. This despite the fact that brands typically spend between a quarter and three quarters of their annual marketing budgets on them. The vast majority of those surveyed claimed, instead, that they took more serious inspiration from "musicians" and "industry insiders."
"The speed of hype fashion now is out of control and someone always wants to be the first to do it," says Jez Hunt, assistant menswear manager at Goodhood, the East London emporium of good taste that stocks the rapper's Converse collaborations. "Tyler is often the person they look at to replicate."
"He [Tyler] has a massive impact on the street and youth culture today," Hunt adds. "His look sometimes mirrors other style icons of the past, for example you see nods to Kurt Kobain in what he does and wears."
Like Pharrell and Kanye West before him, Tyler has evolved from a flash kid with a singular vision to a cultural figure with legitimate influence over what the 'youth' wear. Don't be too surprised if you see teenagers sauntering about in pastel patchwork suits and white shoes this summer. Teddy Boys from Tyler, The Creator's parallel universe.
Source: Esquire UK