Tyler, The Creator isn’t just a rapper but an unparalleled multi-hyphenate. The 29-year-old is responsible for multiple solo and group albums, an Adult Swim cartoon (The Jellies!), a streetwear brand (Golf Wang), and an annual festival (Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival), just to name a few things.
He even has his own ice cream flavor courtesy of Ohio-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Snowflake, a peppermint and spearmint combo with white chocolate, is an accurate representation of the artist: cool, complex, and a bit crafty.
It makes sense that he chose a two-toned concept. Over the years, the self-proclaimed “walking paradox” has been hard to peg. His mysterious reputation extends to his sexual orientation, leaving many to wonder if Tyler, The Creator is gay. Let’s take a look at his career for any hints that might confirm whether or not he’s out.
Who Is Tyler, The Creator?
Tyler, The Creator, born Tyler Gregory Okonma, had an atypical upbringing that perhaps informs his eccentric character. A self-trained pianist raised by a single mother, he attended 12 different schools throughout his childhood.
He got his start in 2007 with the LA hip-hop collective Odd Future. Sometimes described as a West Coast alt version of the Wu-Tang Clan, Odd Future didn’t just make music. They also starred in the Adult Swim series The Loiter Squad.
But it was “Yonkers,” his 2011 single as a solo artist, that took him to the next level. Despite its graphic nature (as well as the fact that that it was intended to mock New York’s hip hop style), the track was loved by critics and helped Tyler break into the mainstream. “Yonkers” earned him the 2011 MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist.
Why Is Tyler, The Creator So Controversial?
Tyler’s prestige among millennial cool kids was once based on his penchant for provocation. His lyrics were vulgar, and at times, unapologetically homophobic and violent; his aesthetic was a marriage of grotesque and bizarre. He was (and still is) unafraid to be “weird”—the kind of guy who would appear as a coked-up satyr without hesitation.
But for the same reasons he blew up, he was poison to others. In 2015, he was banned from performing in the United Kingdom for lyrics that “encourage[d] violence and intolerance of homosexuality” and “foster[ed] hatred with views that seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.”
But Tyler can rep an entirely different character on any given day, and not all of them are angry or offensive. If Tyler, The Creator is his everyday persona, the late-ego “Wolf Haley”—who dominates his graphic album Goblin—is his primitive id. “Ace”—the name he uses as a producer—is his superego. There’s also Dr. TC, Ace the Creator, Tron Cat, etc… it’s an exhaustive list that would require an expert in multiple personality disorders to break down.
His resistance to being labeled makes it all the more tricky to figure out whether he has a sexual preference for men or women.
Speculation About His Sexuality
Questions about Tyler, The Creator’s sexual orientation peaked during an April 2015 Twitter spree.
“I TRIED TO COME OUT THE DAMN CLOSET LIKE FOUR DAYS AGO AND NO ONE CARED HAHAHHAHAHA,” he wrote on April 12.
I TRIED TO COME OUT THE DAMN CLOSET LIKE FOUR DAYS AGO AND NO ONE CARED HAHAHHAHAHA— Tyler, The Creator (@tylerthecreator) April 13, 2015
NOT POSSIBLE, WE'RE BOTH GAY https://t.co/xoCXLyThPv— Tyler, The Creator (@tylerthecreator) August 16, 2016
Tyler added to the confusion later that year in a November Rolling Stone profile. At one point, he tells journalist Ernest Baker that he’s the only person on his tour bus who is straight. Later, he tells him, “I’m gay as f-ck.”
Baker asks if he’s being serious and Tyler responds, “No, but I am in love with ’96 Leonardo DiCaprio. I one hundred percent would go gay for ’96 Leo. Oh, and Cole Sprouse.”
His 2017 album Flower Boy marked the first time he rapped about sexual experiences with men. “I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004,” he reveals on the track “I Ain’t Got Time.”
His first number one album, Igor, followed in 2019. The songs collectively explore a turbulent relationship (real or imagined) between the artist and another man who is dating a woman. Take “A Boy Is A Gun,” where he raps, “Take your hoodie off, why you hide your face from me? / Make your f-ckin’ mind up, I am sick of waitin’ patiently / How come you’re the best to me? I know you’re the worst for me / Boy, you’re sweet as sugar, diabetic to the first degree.”
Tyler confronts the lover on “Running Out Of Time,” singing, “Take your mask off, I need her out of the picture / Stop lyin’ to yourself, I know the real you.”
Both albums are a marked shift from his earlier work, which is chock full of homophobic slurs and violent imagery aimed at gay people. At the very least, his comparatively tame lyrics, “I’m not gay, I just wanna boogie to some Marvin,” from “Yonkers” is enough to leave you confused about whether he’s in denial about living his truth.
His Relationship With Jaden Smith
In November 2018 at Tyler’s Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival festival, Jaden Smith appeared on stage and made a shocking revelation.
“I wanna tell you, Tyler doesn’t want to say, but Tyler’s my mother [expletive] boyfriend!” Smith told the crowd. “And he’s been my [expletive] boyfriend my entire life! It’s true!”
He also doubled down on Twitter, writing “Yup @tylerthecreator I Told Everyone You Can’t Deny It Now.” The tweet was since deleted, but Smith revisited the claim again in January 2020, posting “My boyfriend just won a Grammy” after the Igor artist won the award for Best Rap Album.
Tyler never commented on the incidents, nor has Smith ever officially come out. In fact, Smith’s family went out of their way to release a statement that said there was no truth to any rumors that Jaden is gay. All the world has to go in is a vague tweet from Tyler that reads, “hahaha you a crazy n** man [sic].”
So, Is Tyler, The Creator Gay?
To this day, Tyler, The Creator has not openly come out as gay.
What we do know is that he is a master at concept albums and alter egos, both of which sow confusion about who he really is. One day he’s a homophobe, another day he’s out of the closet. And it seems he’s happy to be a walking contradiction. From the very first line of his first big single, “Yonkers,” he tells the world, “I’m a f-cking walking paradox, no I’m not”—a blatant confession that defining him is a pointless exercise.
Tyler has never been seen with a girlfriend, and on an episode of the Koopz Tunes podcast, he reveals that he had a boyfriend at 15.
“If that’s not open-minded, I don’t know what the f-ck that is,” Tyler tells the host. But in keeping with his chaotic style, he then turned to Twitter and wrote, “Figure of speech to get Koopz ‘open minded’ point across, I was single at 15 haha.”
He also told GQ, “I like girls—I just end up f-cking their brother every time,” But the writer Carrie Battan makes an observation that many others share: that Tyler, The Creator is often so over-the-top with his comments, that it’s hard to judge what’s true and what’s for shock value. Perhaps that’s the point. If the world can’t put Tyler, The Creator in a box, he can continue surprising us with great new material.