Earlier this week, we introduced you to Tyler Craven, the 17-year-old Virginia native who attended Coral Reef Academy in Samoa with Earl Sweatshirt. The previous post consisted of Facebook screenshots and other digital detective tactics similar to those Complex employed when we originally found Earl.
We got on the phone with Tyler Craven and he had a lot to say about the nine months he spent in the program, many of them with the missing Odd Future star he calls by his government name, Thebe Kgositsile. From being there with Earl as OFWGKTA was blowing up to day-to-day life at the academy, we have all the details that we need to close this chapter on the Earl Sweatshirt saga until he returns home.
Interview by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo).
Complex: Why were you sent to Coral Reef Academy?
Tyler Craven: It basically all added up to me not doing school and starting to get into other things, such as drugs. Smoking weed.
Complex: Was that the only drug that you did?
Tyler Craven: I’ve done some pills here and there. Some hallucinogens here and there. But mostly just herb.
Complex: Did your parents freak out?
Tyler Craven: Yeah, I went to a mental hospital, military school, and wilderness program. Thebe also went to a wilderness program before he went to Coral Reef. Pretty much every single student who went to Coral Reef went through a wilderness program before getting there.
Complex: What are wilderness programs?
Tyler Craven: Your parents send you there and you are basically sent out in the middle of the southern Utah desert. There’s one in Colorado, Oregon, Arizona. Just Midwest high desert regions. There’s also one where you hike down the Appalachian Trail. The one that Thebe went to was Second Nature. I went to one called Red Cliff Ascent. You go there and they give you a tarp, metal pot, food bag, a string, a trash bag, and a sleeping bag. Then you go out with a group of six students and two staff. You're typically there anywhere from 40 days to 100 days and you don’t shower at all during this time period. You wash your hands and feet twice a day and that’s it. Oh, and once a week you do full body, fill a warm bucket of water and you wash yourself. I was there in the middle of winter.
I went to a mental hospital, military school, and wilderness program. Thebe also went to a wilderness program before he went to Coral Reef.
Complex: Their goal is to discipline you?
Tyler Craven: I guess. And to teach self control.
Complex: How long were you at Coral Reef?
Tyler Craven: I went to Coral Reef March 10th. Then I left December 9th.
Complex: What was the process behind sending you to Samoa?
Tyler Craven: It all started when I got kicked out of military school for smoking weed. Then after that I got sent straight to wilderness. From wilderness I went straight to Samoa.
Complex: Do these programs work together or is that just the way your parents set it up?
Tyler Craven: No, there's a really large network of programs working together and the therapists contact the other programs or the owners of other programs. Some of them might even know each other. They all work with each other. Everyone that gets kicked out of the military school that I went to for smoking weed, or getting caught with drugs, they all go to wilderness. Then kids from wilderness always go to another program afterwards, whether it be a halfway house, or a fucking program in Samoa, Utah, or wherever.
Complex: Is this stuff expensive?
Tyler Craven: Samoa costs $7,000 a month, and that is one of the cheapest programs that you can send your kid to. I believe wilderness is around $14,000 a month. Wilderness was probably the best-run place that I went to. Like, best structured. As odd as that sounds.
Complex: Why did you get sent to military school?
Tyler Craven: I set off a smoke bomb in the bathroom in middle school when I was in 8th grade. That started it. Military school was about a year and a half after that. The year after the smoke bomb, I was on probation, and while on probation I caught some more charges for grand larceny. I robbed a house. Back then I was 14 or 15. Then I was in jail for a total of six months. I went there multiple times for months at a time. After that I was under house arrest for a while. I went to a youth shelter, which was also part of the court system. After I was done with the government shit I was still getting in arguments with my mom and smoking weed. I went to the first quarter of my freshman year in public school, but I wasn’t doing any of my schoolwork. Most of my problems revolved around school. If I had good grades and did a little bit of drugs on the side, my parents wouldn’t care. But I just wasn’t doing anything at all in school. Straight Fs. Then I went to an alternative school because I was getting such bad grades. Right after that, I got sent to military school over the summer. Straight from summer military school I went into the school year and I got kicked out about halfway through.
Complex: What was it like arriving to Samoa?
Tyler Craven: Being on the plane and going over there, I was honestly kind of happy. I was happy to be traveling to a beautiful tropical island. I was excited to be visiting a new place, but I had no idea what was coming next.