Tyler the Creator

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Bastard (2010) , 6/10
Goblin (2011), 5/10
Wolf (2013), 6.5/10
Cherry Bomb (2015), 6.5/10
Scum Fuck Flower Boy (2017), 5/10
Igor (2019), 6.5/10
Call me if you get Lost (2021), 6/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Rapper and producer Tyler the Creator (Tyler Okonma), founding leader of Los Angeles' hip-hop collective Odd Future (or, better, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), got some attention for his provocative and outrageous lyrics (which, sometimes, only means "trivial and stereotypical"). The mixtape Bastard (2010), a nihilistic manifesto, was hailed by the press as a masterpiece, but its production was derivative (mostly inspired by the Neptunes).

Goblin (2011) was basically a collection of filler.

The more robust concept album Wolf (Odd Future, 2013), heavily influenced by the Neptunes, includes the steadfast rant IFHY (which stands for "I Fucking Hate You") as well as the bombastic orgy of Domo 23.

Next to grotesque musichall-plus-jazz numbers such as Smuckers, Cherry Bomb (2015) boasts his most violent music yet: the metal-rap Deathcamp, a frenzied theatrical piece that sounds like a tragic version of Frank Zappa's satirical musichall; the thundering charleston over a bed of abrasive drones Pilot; and the nuclear-grade wall of noise and screams Cherry Bomb. It rises and falls with its messy bloated pieces such as 2seaters, that slides into orchestral pop and lounge jazz (with Colombian singer Kali Uchis), and Fucking Young, an even more childish song.

Scum Fuck Flower Boy (Columbia, 2017) featured many collaborators (Frank Ocean, Lil Wayne, Steve Lacy, Rex Orange County, Anna of the North, Corinne Bailey Rae) but failed to match the exuberant creativity of the previous album. Tyler now focuses on lightweight fare, such as the heavily orchestrated Boredom and the sleepy neosoul ballad 911/ Mr Lonely all the way down to the slow lounge shuffle Garden Shed, a choice only partially justified by the one song that shows a bit of imagination, See You Again, another unorthodox take on supermarket pop muzak (and another collaboration with Kali Uchis). Tyler's Bastard alter ago lives on in the gloomy atmosphere of Who Dat Boy and the visceral, bouncy I Ain't Got Time. In a sense, the excess of collaborators and of arrangements (synths, auto-tuned vocals, sound effects, jazzy piano, and so on) creates confusion and kills the spontaneity of an album that wants to be sincere and confessional.

Igor (Columbia, 2019), entirely produced, arranged and written by Okonma himself, succeeded where the overdone Flower Boy failed, and proved that he was much more than a strange, introverted rapper. This breakup concept, in which the bisexual Igor is abandoned by a male lover for a girl, belongs to the tradition of vulnerable singer-songwriters. The songs are sandwiched between two sophisticated neosoul constructions: the austere symphonic Earfquake and the melancholy quasi-suicidal Are We Still Friends? In between Okonma spends most of the time penning a tragic soundtrack, peaking with the maximum drama of What's Good. But the gloomy atmosphere is coupled with a nostalgic undercurrent that pervades most of the songs and lifts them out of terminal sadness. I Think, past a cinematic synth and jazzy piano, samples a Tamla-influenced female choir (from a song by 1980s Nigerian producer Nkono Teles), A Boy Is A Gun samples a soul vocal group of the 1970s, Puppet, no less orchestrated than Earfquake, rides on the sample of mellotron-driven prog-rock of the 1970s. The melodic peak is Gone Gone Thank You, whose melody and rhythm evoke Merseybeat and girl-groups of the Sixties via Japanese pop of the 1980s.

Retreating from the pop-soul sound of Igor, Tyler the Creator returned to his rap roots on Call me if you get Lost (2021). The production is perhaps too sleek but the selection of features (Lil Uzi Vert, Pharrell Williams, Lil Wayne, Ty Dolla $ign, etc) is impressive. When he flexes his muscles, like in the booming, hard-hitting Lemonhead, Juggernaut and Lumberjack he is still a force of nature to be reckoned with, but too much of the material here sounds like leftovers from previous albums: the political rant Manifesto recalls the style of Wolf but would have been a minor episode there, and the ten-minute Sweet displays the worst neosoul excesses of Igor. The best compromise between the booming mode and the muffled mode is perhaps the "ambient" hip-hop of Hot Wind Blows with jazzy flute and piano (and a notable Lil Wayne feature).

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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