The saga continues. Two months ago Complex solved Odd Future's longstanding Earl Sweatshirt mystery. We confirmed the rapper's presence at a troubled youth center called Coral Reef Academy in Samoa. A month later, the New Yorker published a story in which Kelefa Sanneh claimed to have actually corresponded with Earl himself through relayed email messages from his mother, who is also quoted (but not named) in the story.
The quotes from Sanneh's email interview with the teen star made the once brash, defiant MC sound like a changed man. Earl said, "I'm not being held against my will," admitted to hardly rapping anymore, and asked OF fans to stop the "Free Earl" chants. Due to the lack of a face-to-face or phone interview with the missing Odd Future member, the story was met with immediate skepticism. The New Yorker hosted a live online chat for people with additional questions, and in his first response, Sanneh even said that "there’s simply no way of knowing whether (or how much) [Earl's] replies were influenced by his family, or his school."
Now it appears that doubts about the authenticity of Earl's New Yorker quotes may hold some merit. Coral Reef Academy alumni Tyler Craven, who indirectly led Complex to Earl's initial discovery when we stumbled onto his Facebook, is back from Samoa and bent on telling people "the truth" about Earl. Last weekend the Virginia native's page lit up with questions from OFWGKTA supporters, which led to responses from Craven about his friendship with Earl, staff conduct at the academy, and allegations about the credibility of the New Yorker quotes.
The untold truth about Earl Sweatshirt or attention-seeking antics from a scorned student? Keep reading.
By Ernest Baker
Tyler Makes Complex Image His Profile Picture
On the morning of June 10, Tyler Craven changed his Facebook profile picture to the lead image from our "We Found Earl Sweatshirt" post. In the comments, he points himself out in the "back left" and refers to Earl as a "17 year old genius musician."
First Odd Future Fan Reaches Out
As evidenced by the activity on his page, OFWGKTA fans start friending Tyler in droves. The first kid to post on his wall asks if he was really in Samoa with Earl. Tyler confirms that he was "on that island with him."
Tyler Shares Details of His Relationship With Earl
In the comments section of a random photo, a different fan asks if Earl talked about Tyler, The Creator in Samoa. Tyler Craven responds, "yea all the time he called him his brother." He also reveals that Earl doesn't necessarily get to leave Coral Reef Academy when he turns 18. Legal age is 21 in Samoa, but ideally, students graduate before 21 like Tyler did.
Tyler Says Earl "Hates His Life and His Mom"
Another fan calls Tyler Craven an "idol" and goes on to press him for information about Earl's circumstances in the status comments. Tyler says that Earl wanted him and the rest of his Coral Reef Academy friends to "[let] people know the truth." Tyler implies that the truth is: Earl hates Samoa and hates his mom for sending him there.
Tyler Confirms Exact Location of Earl Sweatshirt
Someone asks where Thebe Kgositsile (Earl's real name) is and Tyler gives a particularly pointed response: "western samoa the island of apia and the village of vaitele." The Coral Reef alumni also says that he'd "have to write a book" to explain everything that goes down at the academy.
Odd Future Fan Calls Tyler Craven A "Hero"
Yet another Odd Future follower drops by, but this time it's just to call Tyler a "hero" for giving Earl Sweatshirt fans "reassurance."
Tyler Says Earl Wants to Diss His Mom and The Academy
More OF fans hit up the page for answers. Tyler says "we all hated our lives and everything about the program" but notes that Earl is "to strong of a dude to get mindworped [sic]." The fan says that he would make songs dissing his mom and the academy when he got out if he was in the same position as Earl, and Tyler says that Earl actually talked about doing that. He does love Eminem.
Tyler Craven Says The New Yorker Is "Wrong"
Tyler's grandmother writes on his Facebook wall about the Earl Sweatshirt piece in the New Yorker. Four hours later, a fan replies with an allegation that the New Yorker "lied" in the story. Tyler Craven follows up with: "if it says he's there willingly they are wrong." It said he was there willingly.
Tyler Reveals How He Wound Up at Coral Reef Academy
Tyler reveals that drugs, truancy, and disobedience landed him at Coral Reef Academy. Red flags for some people. "Normal shit" for Tyler Craven. Let the 17-year-old's age and troubled past affect your thoughts on his credibility if you want, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. He clearly has a lot of conviction when speaking about Earl. Perhaps we're a step closer to learning what's really going down in Samoa.
After putting this piece together, I called Tyler Craven for the first time (his number is public on Facebook) to get his approval on running his likeness in the story. He was more than supportive, telling me how much the New Yorker story upset him and how Earl probably did write what was published, but that it was heavily influenced by therapists at the academy who need to see positive behavior if he wants to graduate.
There's always the possibility that Tyler, who left Coral Reef in December, is doing whatever he can to lengthen his borderline-meme status amongst hardcore Odd Future fans, but he tells me the "only reason" he's willing to take a stand is because he "really connected with Thebe" during his stint in the program. "That's my boy," he told me. "This is what he wanted."