Words: Dylan Murphy
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella
February is Love Month on District and we’re exploring the highs and lows of relationships and celebrating love in its various iterations. Tyler, The Creator and A$AP Rocky’s friendship is the most wholesome of the internet era. We’ve examined how they went from rivals to one of pop culture’s most iconic duos.
Hip hop has long been associated with beef, bravado and violent outbursts, but as social media has lifted the veil on our favourite artist’s lives we’re increasingly being given a glimpse into their relationships with others.
One friendship that has captivated the timeline since its turbulent inception is that of Tyler, The Creator and A$AP Rocky.
While the chemistry of duos like Outkast and Blackstar is clear to hear on record, there was always a mystique to just about everything that wasn’t explicitly vocalised over a beat. Whereas, with the emergence of the internet, it often feels like little is left to the imagination. Whether that’s speaking live from their homes on Instagram live, putting people on blast on Twitter or sharing their snaps on holidays with friends, Rocky and Tyler haven’t been shy in sprinkling some wholesome vibes on the timeline.
Their relationship formed in the midst of an increasingly welcoming environment that owes a lot to acts like Kid Cudi. The Cleveland native largely avoided hyper-masculine tropes in favour of creating more vulnerable records.
The result of this was a wave of acts comfortable espousing their emotions and in the bigger picture, it’s part of the culture becoming more welcoming to acts from all walks of life.
Speaking about having feelings for other men would have been unthinkable for a male rapper just ten years ago, but Tyler was one of the first to buck the trend. Simultaneously, thinly-veiled words like ‘bromance’ and phrases like ‘no-homo’ are (slowly) leaving people’s vernacular.
While these are welcome developments, it’s worth saying it’s still far from perfect. Hip hop still has its issues with toxic masculinity and Rocky and Tyler are far from innocent in that regard, but over time they’ve become poster boys for platonic love in the internet era.
We’ve charted the development of their relationship from the days their respective collectives were beefing to celebrating each other on podiums.
“People don’t know this, but when we came into the rap game we didn’t even like each other, our crews didn’t like each other. Now being in hip hop I don’t identify with anybody but my real true family and friends. It’s an honour to present this award to my best friend today…”
That was A$AP Rocky speaking about Tyler, The Creator when presenting him with the Musical Innovator Award at the Wall Street Journal Awards in 2019. You have to hop back nearly ten years to get a picture of what the pair thought about each other.
In the early 2010s, Odd Future and A$AP Mob burst onto the scene as the Supreme-donning hip hop collectives from opposite sides of the States. In predictably hip hop fashion, they engaged in east coast vs west coast beef and it resulted in Tyler throwing shade at Rocky after he directed Danny Brown’s video for ‘Blunt After Blunt’. He said on Twitter, “The term video director is thrown around very loosely now days” with A$AP Ant responding by saying “ill smack the shit outta you.”
It was a case of two rival upstart crews competing against each other for the top prize of most exciting group on the scene. Certainly not unheard of in hip hop.
However, as time moved and the pair complemented each other in numerous interviews, relations between the two crews thawed and Rocky and T went on joint headline tour together in 2015.
In an interview with Kerwin Frost, Tyler said, “He hit someone up on my side and was like, ‘I’m going on this tour, and I don’t want to tour without Tyler… It was when I put out Cherry Bomb and he put out his second album.”
Once the friendship was solidified, collaborations came in droves and after the tour, the pair released ‘WHAT THE FUCK RIGHT NOW’ – a flip of Kanye West’s ‘Freestyle 4‘.
In the same year, Tyler provided a guest verse on ‘Telephone Calls’ which featured on Cozy Tapes Vol. 1 Friends. This was quickly followed up by Rocky’s inclusion on Tyler’s album Flowerboy on the track ‘Who That Boy’.
Showing no signs of slowing down, it was beginning to feel like a bit of an informal duo and Rocky raised fan’s hopes of a collaborative project after dropping ‘Potato Salad’ with Tyler. The video ended with a graphic that said, “WANG$AP” suggesting a project between the pair.
Though, Tyler, did quickly shut this down.
Shortly after A$AP Rocky was imprisoned in Sweden in 2019, Tyler tweeted in support of him:
Circling back to 2019, the Wall Street Journal awarded Tyler The Musical Innovator award and on the podium, he gave thanks to Rocky for his influence on him and for pushing him to innovate. He doubled down on his love for him in a post on Instagram saying:
“RAKIM, MY GUY! WE USED TO HATE EACH OTHER AND I HAVE TO SAY YOU CHANGED THE COURSE OF MY SHIT AS SOON AS WE REALIZED THAT WAS STUPID. THANK YOU MAN”
This isn’t an isolated incident. A quick search on social media or Youtube results in hoards of videos of the pair goofing around and countless fan-made compilations made in admiration of their blunt interchanges.
Their friendship’s stock has risen significantly in recent years and brands are paying attention. Though both have their own distinctive styles, their influence in the fashion world cannot be overlooked. Just last year, Rocky and T starred in a new Gucci campaign alongside Iggy Pop only reinforcing the status of the cultural gargantuan that is their friendship.
Both have established themselves as cultural giants and their standing has only been strengthened by their collaborations. With the pair pencilled in for Longitude headline slots this summer, we’ll be crossing our fingers and toes we see them team up on stage together.