Tyler, The Creator does not care about ingratiating anyone. Even on his recently released album, Flower Boy which is his most incise and most personal body of work, he’s unloading all his sensitivities without caring what you get to make of it. ‘By the time you hear this…it will not fucking matter‘, he raps convincingly on ‘Garden Shed‘.
For context sake, Tyler, The creator struts vulgarity around nonchalantly. Ever since his early days as the leader of out-the-box, punk-rap squad, Odd Future, Tyler has always exuded a confidence that bordered on a seemingly manic personality. By opening his mouth, Tyler was very likely to push the boundaries of demented barbs as much as he would blurt out genius abstractions. His undeniable musical talent and overall creativity coupled with his predictable unpredictability always made him polarizing and riveting.
In the years since emerging though, there’s always been a cloud surrounding who or what he really was beyond the persona(s) he displays in public and the oft-provoking lyrical content of his music. Speculations about the makeup of his character matrix have been sprung from different angles, the most popular being post-teen angst and vigor.
The manner in which Tyler was going to unload his narrative was always going to be his own. Instead of the violent unraveling one might assume due to his life’s trajectory, Tyler unwinds placidly and magically on Flower Boy, with beautifully stirring production and poignant, stark writing. Flower Boy is a Tyler album by Tyler, no camping scenarios, no roach eating, no invented or borrowed personas. And it is both charming and engrossing.
Cherry Bomb, Tyler’s 2015 release was an album that purposely imploded on itself, leaving the listener reeling from the violent final mix. It was like Tyler was driving on a race course that consisted of mainly hard swerve, retch inducing turns. Cherry Bomb was a madness, but it was also the first time the real Tyler was peeking out, albeit very immature. Cherry Bomb had to be made for Flower Boy to come together, the darkest hour before his morning light.
The telltale signs of the introspective route on Flower Boy are immediately set forth on the opener ‘Foreword‘. Over a warm, bubbling beat, Tyler starts out with questions that portray his vulnerable state followed by open musings about his ego, racial injustice and insecurities. Rex Orange County’s hook is chilling and bare, “if I crash and don’t come back, who’s gonna know”.
As much as Tyler looks inward on his insecurities, there are points where he looks outside for awareness. ‘Pothole’ is an example, where Tyler questions everyone around him coupled with the emptiness of his achievements being artificial. It seems to be a scenario where both sides play a role in his insecure and lonely nature. Jaden Smith chips in with a relaxed hook, with the advice to “watch out for the potholes”. There are dilemmas and advices on the album, the middle distance is what seems to be covered on Flower Boy.
‘Garden Shed‘ is the highest point of essence on Flower Boy, a depiction of Tyler’s comfort space, his natural habitat. It is scored by beat switches, composed of gentle psychedelic soul, thrashing rock guitar and intense drum kicks. The openness to Tyler’s initial singing and rapping is uncut, gushing with personal detail. He supposedly comes out as being gay, and even in that, there’s no weighty build-up or shock value attached. Tyler releases his rapped lines with a seeming urgency but without caring about outside opinion.
Flower Boy being a revealing album is a clear derivative of Tyler’s path, considering how the nostalgia of past events culminate to mark his revealing. The melancholic bounce of ‘November’ rues the woes of the present and basks in the idyll of the familiar past. The syrupy texture of ‘911/Mr Lonely‘ is drenched in the same melancholic feel, leaking with loneliness and longing.
Being in the open does inspire Tyler’s best love songs, and by extension they are fresh and pristine. Tyler sings of selfless love on the soulful bounce of ‘See You Again‘ and professes unwavering love over voicemail on the hypnotic and jittery terrain of ‘Glittery‘, except the message doesn’t go through, sadly.
There are few points of braggadocio, although they do come with implications to the albums overarching themes, they also add a ferocious but undisrupted edge to Flower Boy. There’s a visceral but controlled rage to the rugged ‘Who Dat Boy‘, which features a perfect roar-suave tag team between Tyler and Asap Rocky. Lil Wayne also shows up with a perfect verse on the proverbial ‘Dropping Seeds‘.
Vulnerability is the cool in hip-hop these days, it has shown in the reception of confessional albums like JAY-Z’ 4:44 and so far, the public reception of Flower Boy so far (it’s already the highest charting album of his career, so far). Tyler opens himself up for a long overdue but well timed and well executed second introduction.
Writer’s Rating: 4.3/5
Words by Dennis (@ayo_dennis).