The fans on the front row are the most dedicated. They forgo toilet breaks. They trade bruised ribs for potential eye contact with their fave. But who exactly are they? In our new series 'Faces At The Front', we catch up after a show with the dedicated stans we'd first met in the crush against the barrier.
You really tried it Theresa May, but Tyler, the Creator is back in the UK. Four years since then-Home Secretary May banned the compelling, ever-evolving artist from entering Britain – and four months since a surprise pop-up event in south London ended up being locked down by police – he returned this week to play three sold-out shows at London's Brixton Academy.
A lot has changed since we've last seen Tyler on our soil. He's mellowed out, expressed a love for nature and lakes and stuff and talked a whole lot more about kissing boys; essentially, he's not the hyperactive, balaclava-wearing teenager the world first encountered on debut mixtape Bastard, in 2009. Now he's writing bright, colourful albums with names like Flower Boy, or processing heartbreak with beautifully fluid emotion, as on his recent Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper IGOR.
As such, he's garnered a whole new generation of fans, beyond the hype-beasts who came of age back when T was rapping about stabbing "Bruno Mars in his goddamn oesophagus" on "Yonkers". For our first instalment of new series Faces at the Front, we caught up with a few of them.
Tiana, 18; Marsho, 17
VICE: Hey, what's the story of you two and this show?
Tiana: I snuck out to be here tonight. It’s my birthday; I’m 18 today. Don’t tell anyone!
Do you live in London?
Nooooooooo. We came all the way from Wolverhampton; it took us four hours on the train.
How did it feel being at the front?
Tyler made eye contact with me and I shed a tear. Oh my god!!!!
What time did you get here?
Midday. We woke up so fucking early for this. We dealt with being in the queue by making friends. I kind of like it – you talk to people. It was long but we anticipated it and got more excited as we went along.
Are you going home tonight?
Marsho: No, we’re going out in Camden. We just broke the news to our parents.
Obviously you love Tyler, but what makes you love him so much that you’d queue for seven hours outside, then wait a couple more inside, to be on the front row?
Marsho: He’s so inspirational, in everything he does – so much more than music. What can I say?
Tiana: He’s been original, he’s doing his own thing. There’s a lot of artists and rappers out there and you can differentiate him from a lot of people. He still has his individuality, his own niche that you know him for. He’s great. He can do all of that – he’s so talented. I’d wait two days in line to see him!
How do you deal with waiting at the front for so long?
You don’t go to the toilet. You have to stick it out and enjoy the moment. If you think about it too much, you’ll get stressed out.
VICE: Hold up – did you come here alone?
Jada: Yeah! Quite a few people I know don't like him as much as me, others were waiting for their student loans to drop.
You must be really into Tyler to come by yourself. What d'you like about him?
Just the way he's not scared to go into anything he wants to go into. The way he goes into fashion, then he can draw as well, then he does music and produces it all himself – he's really experimental, and I like that.
When did you get in line?
I was in the line from about 4.30PM.
Is this the first time you've gone to the front for someone?
Yeah! Usually with my friends they're not that aggressive, but today without having my friends there I managed to squeeze my way through.
Do you have a favourite memory of listening to Tyler, the Creator?
I was listening to "Find Your Wings" and I was like, 'Wow, Roy Ayers?' Because my Dad always played his music, but I'd never heard someone get inspired by his music so much and be such a hardcore person in the way Tyler is. That combination, and the video on top of it – it was really impactful. The fashion show he did was amazing as well, with the skatepark in the middle. It was a whole mixture of people; people with curly hair, black men, it was so different from what you normally see in high fashion.
How do you deal with being at the front – any advice? Toilet breaks and drinks?
Oh, none of those. You drink in the line, have water in the line, but when you're in: just be prepared for your ribs to get a bit crushed, so have your bag at the front so the bar can cushion it a bit. Don't be scared to hold your weight.
If you could say anything to Tyler right now, what would it be?
I'd say pick up the book I put on stage – it's a book I wrote and illustrated about London slang. Pick it up and read it and tell me what you think!
Maya, 20; Matthew, 19; Fin, 20
VICE: Where are you lot from then – have you travelled far?
Maya: We're from Uxbridge. We're going back tonight – it's a long journey.
What time did you guys get here?
Maya: I got here at 3PM and saved a space for these guys.
Fin: I finish work at 6PM, innit. And that's in Uxbridge! So I had to rush all the way here. But we went straight to the front row.
How do you deal with being in the queue for so long, Maya?
Maya: I'm like a camel, I retain, so I'm fine with that. Just drink before the doors open and you're all good. I wasn't in the front row, but I was in the front three – if we're being really picky about it.
How did you find the show?
Matthew: Flipping mad, my g.
Maya: Energy! Charisma! Style!
Fin: His stage presence was fucking insane, bro. His dancing was off the chain.
Maya: He was really feeling himself.
What inspired you to come along today and get so far to the front?
Maya: In case he gets banned again! Nah, you never know, isn't it? Seize the moment, you only live once, all of that shit. It's something I enjoy A LOT, so if I have to wait outside for a few hours to get a better view of that, then I'm cool with that.
Do you remember the first time you heard Tyler?
Yeah, it was in 2013. Someone sent me "She". I casually listened to a few songs, but it wasn't until he came out with Flower Boy – and I know that's so stereotypical of, like, 'oh, the girls like Flower Boy' – that I went from casual fan to super fan.
If you could recommend one song to Tyler right now, what would it be?
Fin: Graveyardmob. That's my shit!
Is it? C'mon then bro! What song? Tell me!
Fin: So…. I ain't doing this [laughs]! It's Graveyardmob, bruv.
Fin: The song is called "Glock", it's not out yet but it'll be out soon. Until then listen to "Wasteland".
Nadia, 17; Ciara, 16
VICE: What time did you get here?
Nadia: We started queuing up at 3.30PM – it was fucking early. He’s one of my favourite artists, I love his videos.
Ciara: We’ve queued for Drake before but this was the longest queue we’ve waited for.
How do you deal with being at the front row, in practical terms?
Nadia: We drank before – we had a bit of Smirnoff and beers. But you can’t leave your spot or you’ll lose it so we didn’t go for any toilet breaks.
What did you think of the show?
Ciara: He’s such an amazing performer; he had a stage presence you don’t see with a lot of artists.
Do you remember the first time you heard Tyler?
Ciara: His whole Flower Boy album was on Soundcloud, I listened to it while I was doing my homework and it was captivating. It was really calm vibes.
Nadia: His older stuff is so different.
Yeah, it is. How do you feel about it?
I think it’s alright. Goblin is a bit much. It’s very angry, the lyrics are very violent.
What would you say to Tyler if he was here right now?
Ciara: If I saw him now I’d probably scream.
Nadia: I’d ask for a photo!
Jack, 19; Elissaios, 18; Aldous, 18
VICE: Where are you lot from then?
Elissaios: We're all from Birmingham.
Damn! What are you doing tonight? What's the plan?
We're staying over, we've got connections! Party non-stop.
So, Aldous, you're the big fan. What's your number one Tyler record?
Aldous: All time, number one would have to be "See You Again". That’s the big one. Kali Uchis' feature on it is amazing, they go so well together. It’s a great song. I repeat it all the time. Second, is "November". The stuff he talks about on that song is amazing. He says, like, "what’s your November", in reference to things feeling really nice and looking back on them with nostalgia.
And what’s your November?
I don’t know, man! I’d say this summer. It was really chilled out, the last summer with your mates before going off to university.
When did you guys discover Tyler?
Jack: I’m the same. Maybe four months before Flower Boy came out.
Elissaios: But even though we’re new fans, you can look back and see the influence he’s had, the groups he’s impacted – so many people, like Brockhampton. Basically all contemporary music to this day.
How do you feel about him now? When he first came out with Bastard, he was a bit more wild.
Tories are pussies, man!
There you have it. Thanks, everyone.