Review: Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

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For the first time, Tyler has reached a level of maturity which allows him to use all of his talents in creating a touching piece of art, likely to remain timeless.

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Controversial rapper Tyler, The Creator is back with his new album, Flower Boy, and all previous work up until this point are now looking like demo tapes. One of the founding members of the now defunct OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) rap group,  the all-rounder – he’s also a writer and actor – is here with his 5th studio album and for one of the first times we get to see an intimate view into his life, his thoughts, and predicaments. Quality production never being the artist’s strong point, here it is impeccable. The lyrics are personal and even painful at times, elaborating his unique sound with the incorporation of soul and jazz-rap, elegant melodies and fascinating drum patterns. What’s more,  it also features collaborations with the likes of Estelle, Lil Wayne, Frank Ocean and Syd Tha Kid, adding another layer of quality to every song.

‘Foreword’, the album’s opener, presents Tyler in a personal light; he tells the audience about his feelings of loneliness and the privilege money gives him but also the fact that it chains him to a certain image and mindset that he is known for. The song itself does not resemble any previous material of Tyler, in many ways showing: “the truth behind the facade of jokes and madness”. The song in a structural sense is simplistic yet effective: a few occasional guitar strums are layered over a simple beat, which eventually slows down and passes to a string orchestra sound achieved through the use of a synth. This drift marks a change in the lyrics, which radically turn from social issues to him dying without anyone caring. The switching to create two parts to the song is pretty common throughout the album and is used well to mark switches in lyrical content.

‘I Ain’t Got Time’,  an amazing way to sample Bel-Sha-Zaars Introduction from her belly dancing music album, sees Tyler take the initial melody, and create a crazy all over the place beat with syncopated bass drums, darbuka and finger cymbal samples with switches in his flow that are unexpected. Lyrically this track feels almost like a behind the scenes segment with a mockumentary quality that creates a party vibe. As a whole, it sounds like a Madlib type beat with a twist. Another musical element that is notable is the ad-lib “I ain’t got time” that sounds like it’s screamed by Kanye West, which is maybe an implicit reference to Kanye’s refusal to feature on the track.

The turndown track of the album, ‘911/Mr. Lonely’, gives us an explanation of the persona Tyler assumed in his prior material. The track itself starts up with a pretty typical rap instrumental, featuring a few lines about Tyler being a rich and successful artist.  But all this changes with the chorus. From here on Tyler grows into the lyrics, transitioning away from the stereotypes of the genre and plunging into a fragile series of self-reflections. The rapper repeats the line “Call my number 911”, initiating a poetic dialogue in which he frankly admits that all the fame is useless in the face of sadness. The second section of the song is a sad confession of being lonely, in which he confesses that his crazy antics were a way to seek attention and love of the people.

It’s hard to believe that this album is borne by the same person who rapped about killing Bruno Mars over Marvin Gaye music and having threesomes with dinosaurs. It’s a deeply personal story of pain, fame and unreciprocated love with a unique sound and distinct way of accenting different emotions and ideas. The highly intelligent lyrics are well accompanied by a clever instrumental switch that recurs about half way through the majority of the tracks on the album which, despite its repetition, never gets old. Flower Boy can be possibly be considered one of Tyler, The Creator’s best albums.

Flower Boy is out now via Columbia Records 

 

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