Review Summary: Tyler delivers, full swing
The hype machine certainly is an interesting thing in the modern music scene. Typically (a few times a year), a band or artist is seemingly chosen out of the blue, and is hyped up about for a long time, usually as a means to cause attention to themselves, and sell records. A lot of the time, however, this hype machine becomes so overblown that the actual product itself is a disappointment when it comes out.
Not this time.
Enter Tyler Okonma, or Tyler, the Creator. He is your average suburban African-american teenager. His interests include hip-hop music, skateboarding, rape, murder, and (most importantly), fiction. This album, Goblin, is the 19-year-old’s sophomore effort, but the first one to be released in retail format (his debut, 2010’s Bastard, was only released digitally). After months of hype being gathered from the album’s lead single, Yonkers, there was a lot of speculation surrounding this: Will it live up to Yonkers? Will it surpass Bastard?
Well, there is a multitude of answers to this question, of course depending on your opinion. After all, art is subjective. One thing that isn’t subjective, is the fact that this music is not radio-friendly rap that you can hear on any top-40’s radio station. No, Goblin is, in fact, the definition of controversial, if you ask this reviewer. On the album, Tyler raps about a number of subject that could be considered controversial, including rape, murder, voyeurism, celebrity-bashing, therapy, and more. The lyrics are often complimented by the atmospheric production Tyler has set for himself to rap over. There are often lush synths combined with eerie keyboard effects (see: Sandwitches), and raw percussive instruments, such as on the aforementioned lead single. In my opinion, these beats do a very good job of laying down a dark atmosphere to go with the lyrics.
Now, as I mentioned before, the subject matter on this may come across as offensive to some, and might strike others as “controversial”, which I would say it is. However, I can’t help but feel as if Tyler is simply playing the controversy card as a means of drawing attention to himself. There are times on this album, such as on the track Radical, where Tyler - despite the fact that his rhymes are excellent - seems like he is trying a little too hard to seem controversial and, dare I say, bad-ass. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, as his narrative lyrics are something worth enduring.
Speaking of narratives, I feel like this is an appropriate time to tell you about the album's main theme, or "concept". While not a completely consistent one throughout the whole record, most of Goblin centers around a therapy session between Tyler and his psychiatric alter-ego (Tyler with a pitch-shifted down vocal effect). Throughout the album, Tyler will rap and the therapist will often comment on his rhymes, and try to keep his confidence up. This is a technique that was also used on Tyler's debut album, but is used much more on this album - and has much more of an effect in building up to the epic climax of the album during the final track. I won't spoil anything, but it is pretty damn exciting if you have listened to the lyrics up to that point.
Overall, Goblin is shaping up to be one of the best hip-hop albums of the year. From the profane, shocking and damn near inappropriate subject matter, to the dark, atmospheric production and beats, to the tongue-in-cheek song titles, Goblin proves for a damn interesting listen, if nothing else. I would highly recommend this to anyone that likes hip-hop with a dark, brooding sensibility.