Tyler, The Creator live at Coachella: a brilliant reminder of a cult hero’s power

In the weeks leading up to Tyler, The Creator’s Coachella headline performance, the rapper pushed back against fans. Understandably, his booking sparked speculation that new music was on the way and that it could even be premiered at the festival. In a since-deleted tweet, he responded to the suggestion he surely couldn’t just be playing the material everyone already knows: “I sure am […] unless EVERY SINGLE TIME someone hits the stage sometime after their last album has been out they put out new music and I wasn’t aware.”

On the drive into Coachella this weekend, fans are greeted with another check from the star. “I would love to see y’all faces and not your phone lights,” reads Tyler’s billboard, encouraging being in the moment rather than pushing his set or any (past) releases. As the countdown for the rapper to emerge on stage begins, one final reminder appears on screen, asking festival-goers to turn their flash off “if you’re going to film”.

When Tyler’s set starts, though, the mood is high. He introduces the performance in a pre-recorded video where he takes on the role of a park ranger – a job he claims he’s taken instead of “heinous rapping”. The skit is full of his off-kilter humour, seeing him lick egg yolks off the floor of his caravan and joke about blowing the vehicle up until he makes his grand entrance – exploding out the side of the van on stage and into the temporary canyon that’s been built around him.

More expectation-setting comes quickly after, with Tyler telling us he’ll be “yelling and singing off-key”. Then, he howls into the set proper. ‘Lemonhead’’s horns provide a dynamic contrast with his raspy voice before a sublime ‘WusYaName’ takes over the PA, the star sardonically referring to the refrain of “What’s your name, girlfriend?” as his “pick-up line”. These opening moments are accompanied by bursts of colourful pyrotechnics and their commander putting all his energy into the event.

Tyler The Creator
Tyler, The Creator CREDIT: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Coachella)

Tyler might not be giving us brand-new music tonight, but he does switch things up to keep his older material fresh. ‘I Think’, from 2019’s ‘IGOR’, is given a new, extended outro, while there’s a live debut, too, for the soulful ‘Best Interest’, the rapper delivering the pitched-up vocals from the recording in his deep, booming voice.

It’s the kind of performance that keeps you guessing. It’s never obvious where the setlist is going to weave next, how the chosen song might be presented, or even who might appear during it. Towards the end of the night, Kali Uchis makes her first live appearance since becoming a mother to sing an all-too-brief snippet of ‘See You Again’, while The Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson joins an obviously thrilled Tyler on a piano stool at the top of his mountain for a rousing ‘Earfquake’.

Earlier in the set, the headliner brings out two more stars he says he used to “hate”. First, Donald Glover makes a surprise appearance, taking to the stage under a knit bucket hat that obscures his identity until the camera zooms in on his face. He and Tyler trade lines and bounce around the middle of the stage together like old pals, but after, the latter admits his old animosity toward the musician known as Childish Gambino. “Seriously, I don’t know why – I have to go to therapy to work it out,” he deadpans.

Moments later, another guest emerges from among the rocky background. A$AP Rocky remains on stage for two songs – electrifying versions of ‘Potato Salad’ and ‘Who Dat Boy’, the latter made all the more enlivening by the giant green UFO that hovers behind them and the dancing aliens that disappear in puffs of green light. “You know what’s crazy?” Tyler laughs after. “I used to hate that n***a too!”

It’s not just his growth in relationships that’s on display tonight. Prior to his set, there were rumours Tyler would have some kind of Odd Future reunion as part of the performance. That proves to be unfounded, but he does treat us to a run-through of some of the cuts from that period of his career. The likes of ‘Tron Cat’ and ‘Yonkers’ whip the crowd into a frenzy while also showcasing how the artist’s sound and style have developed over the years.

Tyler The Creator
Tyler, The Creator CREDIT: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Coachella

Tyler’s set has plenty of room for fun, too. Before ‘Running Out Of Time’, he faces off against a stuffed mountain lion and loses, falling dramatically off the back of the cliff he’s performing from. Later, he runs through ‘IFHY’ in front of a green tent, munching on a sandwich he pulls from a ziplock baggie between lines. Before ‘Tron Cat’, he addresses the audience as “n****s” – one of multiple instances of this. “Calling this many white people n***a and they responding,” he says wryly. “That’s crazy.”


Although the crowd gathered to watch this all go down is relatively modest, they make their presence felt – even if they do ignore those pre-show requests about phones and flashes. It’s a reflection of the rapper’s cult icon status and a rebuttal to those in his life who didn’t believe in him. “I told n****s I’m gonna have my Coachella one day, and they said, ‘Nope’ – they can all suck this dick right now,” he shares. After tonight, it feels unlikely that anyone will doubt him again.

Tyler, The Creator played:

‘Igor’s Theme’
‘I Think’
‘Best Interest’
‘Running Out Of Time’
‘Sorry Not Sorry’
‘Potato Salad’
‘Who Dat Boy’
‘Tron Cat’
‘Odd Toddlers’
‘See You Again’
‘New Magic Wand’