Born in Ladera Heights, rapper Tyler, the Creator originally became popular as the leader and co-founder of the alternative hip hop collective Odd Future. He embarked on a solo career a few years back and has recently issued Cherry Bomb, a collection of tunes that features his rapid-fire raps. Sonically dense tunes such as "Buffalo" include jazz interludes that suggest Tyler's wide-ranging influences. While Tyler is quite the lyricist, he didn’t elaborate too much when it came to answering our questions, which he did via phone as he drove to a Baltimore tour stop.
Talk about your upbringing. You grew up outside of L.A. Did you have a good childhood like?
Yeah, it was happy. I listened to a lot of music and stayed in the house a lot.
I think you started drawing album covers when you were 7. To what do you attribute your artistic inclinations?
I don’t know. I guess I was just born into liking to draw and to make stuff. It was a natural thing. I don’t think it really comes from anywhere.
Were your parents artistic?
You learned how to play piano at 14. What inspired you to want to learn how to play the instrument?
I was 13. I just started playing keys. I figured out how to do some stuff. I’m not great but I can figure it out. I just like how it sounds. I decided to figure out what was making that sound.
Did you write songs then?
I was writing songs and stuff, just to do it. That was ten years ago. Those are long gone, long gone.
You’ve said Stevie Wonder was the inspiration for Cherry Bomb. Talk about that.
I just like his music a lot. I’ve always been a big fan. I just wanted to start singing more. I like how his voice sounds.
Where’d you record?
It was over the past two years so we recorded at various places.
In “Deathcamp,” you say that you don’t like to follow the rules. Is that song autobiographical?
I was just saying that I just do what I want. It’s like people set rules for males or rappers or white guys and things that like are stereotypical boxes. I’m just saying that I don’t care about any of that.
Do people take offense at your attitude?
They probably do. I don’t care if they do. If they do, good for them.
“Pilot” is really dense. What were you going for sonically with the song?
It was originally an ’80s dance song but the lyrics change the whole tone of the song and made it into that. The beat is still an ’80s dance beat but the lyrics change the tone to some strong whatever the fuck it is.
You collaborated with a number of artists on the album. Who was the most fun to work with?
Everyone was awesome to work with, to be honest. I was happy that I could work with everyone that I wanted to work with on the album.
Are they credited?
They’re credited but just in the booklet. Everybody is credited. Every song doesn’t say feature on it. That’s not the title of the song. That’s where our generation is fucked up. Michael Jackson sings the chorus on [Rockwell's] “Somebody’s Watching Me” but you wouldn’t know that unless you read the credits. Nowadays, niggers want to be credited in the song title and that takes away from listening to the music. I like working with people I admire. I only work with people I’m a fan of.
Have you started thinking yet about what you’ll do next?
Nah. I’m just going with the flow.
What’s the live show like?
It’s me and a DJ. I don’t like rap music with a live band. That’s just me personally. At least the drums don’t sound good when it’s live.
You’ve played Cleveland before?
I played once in Cleveland a couple of years ago. It was cool. I don’t know venue names at all so I don’t know where I played. That is one thing I don’t pay attention to at all. But the show is going to be cool. We’ll be hyped up for it.
Tyler, the Creator, Taco, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 17, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $28.50, houseofblues.com.