'White Trash' Tyler Went from Washing Dishes to Filming for 21 Savage
The self-taught Canadian has also worked with Drake, Kanye West, Future and FKA Twigs.
If Tyler Ross is hoarding some sort of witchy vision board formula, we want in. That is to say, unless we exist in a parallel universe and/or the Upside Down (which we do but just work with me here), it's safe to assume no one on this planet has resume experience that includes picking up people's trash for a living, and also hopping on private jets with the likes of Kim, Kanye and Travis Scott. No one, that is, except for Ross — a.k.a. White Trash Tyler — who just keeps levelling up, despite his small-town beginnings and lack of formal film education.
Ross' interest in film sprouted about six years ago when his roommate at the time—Cam Smith—wanted to start making music videos for his songs. Smith and Ross went splits on a camera and a laptop, and, with the help of the internet, Ross quickly began learning how to shoot and edit. A couple years and a few odd jobs later, Ross was collecting curb-side trash as a garbage man in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia—the harbour-front town opposite Halifax—while shooting music videos on the side, before quitting the garbage gig to pursue his passion full-time. However, just as the walls of anyone's hometown can so often tear one down and box one in, Ross began to feel uninspired with his surroundings. So, he booked a trip to LA and ended up moving to the Golden State shortly thereafter to commit fully to the Tinsel Town dream. There, he interned with musician and director, Gabe, for his first year, assisting with jobs that no one else wanted to do.
Between then and now, the painfully-modest, bleach-blonde mullet'd, self-taught director-editor has added the likes of Kim and Kanye, Travis Scott, Drake, 21 Savage, Tyga, Chief Keef, FKA Twigs, Diplo and A$AP Rocky to his curriculum vitae, and now calls some of modern hip hop's biggest names his good friends. He's also worked with living meme, Danielle Bregoli —a.k.a. the Cash Me Outside girl—for a PizzaSlime collab that turned into a World Star exclusive Kodak Black video. So, there's also that.
Ross also followed Kanye and Kim around for over a year filming vintage-esque VHS archival footage (you might remember the clip that accompanied Kim's reintroduction to social media following her robbery last fall, as well as the home-movie edit Kanye tweeted out on his wife's birthday in October). But, of Ross' most notable contributions to the pop culture world at large is Kanye's "Famous" video, which Ross shot and edited. Now, he's fresh off the DAMN Tour where he was acting as a fly on the wall (Beib in the Trap?) for Travis Scott. Being from Nova Scotia myself, I knew some people who'd went to school with Ross. So, I got his number, texted him and we met at his friend's pizza shop in downtown Dartmouth on a hot July day he took off from the DAMN tour to fly in for a friend's wedding.
NOISEY: So where did the name White Trash Tyler come from? Before that you went by Fubu Ghost. Was [that] a play on Gucci Ghost at all?
Tyler Ross: It wasn't initially. It was gonna be Fubu God, but [that] was taken. So I thought of Fubu Ghost and later I was like, oh that's funny, 'cause I know him—he's from here [Nova Scotia]— and then that was part of the reason I was like, I can't be Fubu Ghost—it looks like I'm trying to steal your thing. At the time I was just buying all this old Fubu stuff I loved. I was just collecting Fubu and then I would get people to wear it and take photos of them in it. And that was just a thing I was into for like six months.
So, [to go back to where] White Trash Tyler [came from] — I was modelling for a Vlone popup in LA and the whole theme was white skater dudes with long hair and I had never really worn my hair down — it was always just tucked under a hat or whatever, and my friend Jacob ( Cam Smith) was like, "You look like white trash," and there was a photographer covering the event and she was taking a photo of us and she was like, "what name should I put under the photos?" And I said, "White Trash Tyler," and the next day on HypeBeast it was like, "A$AP Rocky, White Trash Tyler and A$AP Bari at this thing," and we just rolled with it. We were looking up the definition of white trash ad it said, "white person with no money," and I was like, "alright, well I don't have any money and I look the fit, so let's just go with it."
So what are you doing right now? You're on the DAMN Tour.
I've been working with Travis [Scott] for like almost three months now, just shooting, kind of documenting his life. Hopefully to make a longer term project with him.
He just DMed me like, "Hey, clear your schedule—I want you to come on tour with me."
And were you doing something with Kanye before then, and did you sort of have to stop?
It actually transitioned really well. It just so happened that Travis hit me up, at a time they [didn't] need me around to film as much. And I was shooting a few music videos in between and then he just kind of hit me up and it transitioned from to to the other.
So do you have anything in the works with Kanye and the Kardashians—was that something you were working on, or you can't talk about that?
He always documents everything, so, you know, someday it'll be used for something, for sure. It's just, you never know—he has archives and archives of footage.
What is it like working with literally the biggest celebrities in the world? Like, what do they smell like? Is that kind of surreal—them [essentially being] the Marilyn Monroes and Michael Jacksons of our time?
I mean, yeah. At first it was kind of like, holy shit—this is so crazy. And then you get to kind of realize that they're pretty regular people too. At the end of the day, no matter who you are in life, you have the same daily emotions that everyone has. You get upset over things, you get sad, you get happy. No matter what level of success you are at in your life, you still have these regular human emotions that we all have, and you just learn that people are still people no matter where they are. Just seeing the human side of something, that, from the outside, looks so crazy, was the most interesting part to me. Very inspiring.
So, being someone who's from Dartmouth and was once a garbage man, do you have to pinch yourself?
I lived a life outside of all this craziness for a while before I went there, whereas people I work with [now], a lot of them grew into this life, and for them it's very normal. So I almost feel I'm living like two lives. I think there's interesting thing — realizing that any level of success I guess you'd call it — which I don't really feel like I'm at yet — but you kind of forget. I remember being like, "oh it would be so cool to work for so-and-so" but then once you do it, you kind of forget what the feeling of that [was] like because it becomes part of your life. You establish yourself at that point. I guess, to be an artist, you're always figuring out what the next thing is.
Doing what you're doing career-wise, I guess, do you have a measurement of success?
I hope I'm never at a place where I feel like I'm done. Or at least I don't think I'll ever be at a place where I feel like I'm done. Because the best part about everything I do is [that] I'm learning. I'm meeting new people constantly, I'm experiencing different places in the world, [different] cultures — the way people grow up — and I'm documenting everything that's happening now with our pop culture and society. I've always been fascinated with social phenomenons and viral things, and I feel like there's clues or hints to what society is through these different things that become so grasped by the world. And I don't know— it's just everything constantly changes and grows that i don't think I'm ever going to be at a point where I think oh this is it. So success to me is just staying interested and excited and learning and inspiring the people around me and being inspired by the people around me.
Who amongst all the high profile acts you've worked with stands out the most? Are any friends [now], or has anyone been really shitty to work with?
It all comes down to circumstances. [It] depends on the job. It's just like anything — the more time you spend around someone, the more of a relationship you'll build. A lot of the time with music videos, with some artists they only come to the set for an hour and you have to get right to work. And there's no relationship building involved—you just have to get the job done.
Are you able to live off of what you're doing?
It's definitely not as glamorous as people think. But it's like any freelance job—you'll do a job and you'll make some money that you need to survive on. Most of the things I've done to get where I am, I guess, I've done for free. So basically, I'm banking on all the work that I've put in is gonna pay off.
It's kind of like you're dedicating your life to—I don't want to say tagging along—but you're on private jets with these people, going everywhere with them—you're living their life with them, but behind the scenes.
It's definitely weird. I always have this thought where I'm like, at what point am I documenting, just there like fly on the wall or am I involved in the conversation? Or, when do I interject from behind the camera, or when do I just remain silent and capture the moment?
And how do you find that balance?
I mean, for Kanye, I didn't say a word for months.
What are you most proud of?
The "Famous" video. Because I was working for Kanye for six months and nobody really knew. Actually, my most proud moment was asking [my roommate] Jacob (Cam Smith) —'cause Kanye was his idol—to fly down and film with us. I was like, "take this camera." Jacob inspired me to be doing all this stuff, so, it was like, "hey, here's your idol, I'm so thankful for you—I hope you enjoy this moment."
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I really don't know. I mean, if someone asked me that question five years ago, I would have no clue I would be here. So you never know. The last thing I wanted in life was to get a job where you work 35 years and then retire. So in five years, if I'm still inspired to be working on whatever I'm working on, and happy and having fun doing something I love doing, then whatever.
Hillary Windsor is a writer living in Halifax. Follow her on Twitter.