The Rocky History Between Tyler, the Creator and A$AP Rocky
"WANG$AP on the bumper sticker..."
Last week at Webster Hall Tyler, the Creator held one of the best live shows in recent memory. With guests like Frank Ocean and Kali Uchis, Tyler’s star-studded performance was truly special. Even with Frank’s surprise appearance, arguably the biggest moment was when A$AP Rocky stepped out in his home town to perform “Who Dat Boy” and “Telephone Calls” alongside Tyler.
— MASS APPEAL (@MassAppeal) August 4, 2017
Rocky and Tyler would both take the mic and shout each other out for being an important part of pushing each other as artists at this point in their career. However, it wasn’t always like this. There was a point where Rocky and Tyler, and their respective collectives A$AP Mob and Odd Future, actually had a beef of sorts.
In the early 2010s, rap was slowly transitioning into a completely new era. As the artists who ran the ’90s grew older and faded back, the new school would start to step in. Rappers like Kendrick, Mac Miller, Schoolboy Q and Big Sean were on the rise, releasing their debut projects. With the new school making a name for themselves, two groups came out and dominated the scene. Los Angeles’ Odd Future and New York’s A$AP Mob would take advantage of the rise of social media and impressionable teens to influence an entire new generation of rap fans.
The Mob’s laid back, “wavy” style fit New York teens in the same way Odd Future’s colorful and wild style fit teenagers in California. The groups’ leaders A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator would go on to release pivotal projects in their career during the same year. In 2011, Tyler would release his debut album Goblin while Rocky would release his debut mixtape Live.Love.A$AP. Both “Yonkers” and “Pe$o,” standouts from their respective albums, would go viral across blogs and YouTube, bringing a ton of new eyes to not only the two rappers, but their collectives as well.
With the history of beef between East Coast and West Coast in hip hop, it was a good bet that eventually tension between the two collectives would come to a head. As young, hungry voices of the new school on each coast, the comparisons between the two were inevitable. But those comparisons weren’t taken well as both cliques had their own identities and didn’t want to be compared to anyone else. There was never any true beef between the Mob and the Wolfgang as there weren’t any diss tracks exchanges or actual fights, the worst it boiled down to were some subtweets.
When Rocky released “Fuckin’ Problems” with Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, Tyler tweeted “So funny when someone releases a new song with the same four people that we expected to be on it with the same shitty ‘Trap’ beat Hahaha.” Especially back in 2012, Tyler separated himself from anything else that people were doing in rap, especially the new focus on trap at the time. In an interview with Life+Times, Rocky responded to the tweet with,“He has his opinions and he’s entitled to them, so it’s whatever. Hell no, I’m not tripping over what Tyler, The Creator said. I’m Jiggy.” The tension between the two collectives wasn’t anything serious and can just be chalked up to two groups of kids in their early twenties just doing what young rappers do.
Later that same year, in a Complex cover story, the writer remarked that “The Odd Future comparisons have gone away.” Rocky’s response was telling: “Thank God. It was just because we were a group. They were out first. I came out with a group. We’re all into the same shit. They wear Supreme, we like Supreme. It was silly shit. We’re nothing alike, when you think about it.”
Fast forward to 2015 and the two frontmen of the respective hip hop groups were going on tour together. In a video uploaded to Odd Future’s Youtube account, Tyler outright says “Why not?” Joined by Danny Brown and Vince Staples, the tour went through the country and had four completely different styles of rap—and is still up there in my favorite live experiences. Focusing in on Rocky and Tyler, the two melded together perfectly. Their sets complemented each other like a ying-yang of sorts where Tyler had his chaotic, moshpit-inducing songs off of Cherry Bomb and Rocky had his laid back tracks off of At.Long.Last.ASAP, both albums releasing within the span of two months. These shows were when you realized how much of an overlap there truly was between the two artists. At the end of the day, if you were a teenager between 2010 and 2015, they were on your radar.
In the months that followed Tyler and Rocky would be seen hanging out together on various social media platforms and it was clear a real friendship was forming between the two. That friendship would turn into the two working together more frequently. After a successful tour, the “WANG$AP” movement continued to live on as Rocky was featured on Tyler’s remix of Kanye’s “Freestyle 4” and Tyler would appear on “Telephone Calls” off of A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 1 project in 2016.
“Tell Tyler, better step his flow up,” Rocky raps on the track before T launches into, in my opinion, one of the best pure rap verses of his career. In an interview with Genius, Rocky talked about his line saying, “Yeah, we had to compete because I bring a certain energy out of Tyler. Tell me if you’ve ever heard Tyler, The Creator rap like that in your life.“ And it seems that Tyler brought the same energy out of Rocky. To announce his fourth studio album Flower Boy, Tyler released the track, “Who Dat Boy” featuring a gaudy Rocky verse that somehow fit in perfectly with Tyler’s style. The sentiment that they push each other was echoed by both artists at the secret Webster Hall show last week. Tyler and Rocky continue to challenge each other to be better and rap is better for it.
At the end of the day, Odd Future and A$AP Mob have done a lot for modern rap music. Tyler and Odd Future came in at a time where there weren’t that many young kids rapping not to mention rapping about ridiculous topics and not giving a fuck. Rocky and A$AP Mob revitalized the youth of the New York rap scene as we moved into 2010s and stepped away from the gritty sound New York is known for. To this day, the impacts of both groups can be seen in not just their respective homes of California and New York, but across the globe. Now, all we can hope for is that one day we get a full WANG$AP project.