Review Summary: OFWGKTA. FREE EARL. FUCK STEVE HARVEY. KILL PEOPLE, BURN SHIT, FUCK SCHOOL. SWAGSWAGSWAG.“Oh, not again, another critic writing report,
I’m stabbing every blog and faggot hipster with a pitchfork.”
What can be said about OFWGKTA and their self-appointed leader, Tyler, the Creator, that hasn’t already been said? Seriously, the hype that has been building up around them over the last few months is nothing short of staggering. The hyperbole bestowed upon them has seen them pronounced as everything from “the future of hip-hop” (a tragic pun) to “the best thing to happen to hip-hop since Wu-Tang”, and it shows no sign of stopping any time soon. The collective’s highly controversial lyrics, uniquely volatile delivery, and DIY ethic have seen them rapidly build up something resembling a cult following. And while what they are doing is nothing new, when compared to “40 year-old rappers talking about Gucci”, sweet Satan, is it exciting.
On previous albums, Tyler and other members of Odd Future may have gloated about the exploits of their Wolf Gang, but have never truly been living up to their name. Until now they have merely been gnashing their teeth and occasionally “feeding on the flesh of a pedestrian”, but with the first few glimpses of ‘Goblin’ we seemingly found Odd Future at our door, snarling, salivating, and thirsty for blood.
Unfortunately, these first few glimpses were misleading.
But make no mistake – ‘Goblin’ is
an assault – it’s just not as aggressive as many had anticipated, nor is it is as good. Moments like the acerbic hostility of ‘Sandwitches’
and the brash immediacy of ‘Radicals’
are ultimately too sporadic to truly characterise it. Instead the album’s ‘aggression’ lies elsewhere – the album’s sheer length, its rough production and eerie synths, and its volatility. The album’s 74-minute running time makes for a daunting listen and at times it is simply too much. ‘Fish’
, for example, is painful to listen to – not least because of its atrocious lyrics and horribly disjointed flow – at 6 minutes long, when it could easily be half the length. However, tracks like ‘Window’
justify their length , offering diversity with solid performances by four other members of OFWGKTA as well as Tyler; and drama, as he by the end of the track he has ‘shot’ them all. The album’s production values are lo-fi and combined with the dark beats of a track like ‘Transylvania’
convey an appealingly sinister demeanour. Though there are departures from this formula (the laid-back r’n’b tone of ‘She’
, for example) it is the subtly ominous production that characterises ‘Goblin’ as aggressive.
Tyler’s persona on ‘Goblin’ is a volatile one and this is heightened by the role played by Tyler’s fictional therapist ‘Dr. TC’. Like with ‘Bastard’, ‘Dr. TC’ recurrently appears to prompt Tyler in sharing himself with his listeners, disclosing his reflections on fame, his father, life and love. His presence also adds a certain sense of drama but, without giving too much away, if the parallels to ‘Fight Club’ are unintentional – which seems likely – this is unfortunate. Nevertheless, the unstable, yet surprising candidness of the album is impressive. Yes, violent insults (‘Yonkers’
) and jokes about rape (‘Nightmare’
) do rear their ugly, comical head, but overall ‘Goblin’ is more serious than its predecessor. This is refreshing, although arguably Tyler was, and to an extent still is, more interesting when rapping about rape, murder and kidnapping.
In hindsight, the hype that had built up around Tyler, the Creator and Odd Future prior to the release of ‘Goblin’ was perhaps insurmountable. However, this is not to say that ‘Goblin’ is a bad album. At times it is an overtly confrontational record and it is here where Tyler is at his best – on tracks such as ‘Yonkers’, ‘Sandwitches’, ‘Radicals, and ‘Golden’. The rest of the album is generally permeated by a far subtler hostility, and this ambiance is greatly enhanced by the album’s production. Although, while initial motifs are praiseworthy enough, all too often there is not enough variation to truly break the monotony, and this is a shame. Therefore there is a lot of filler on ‘Goblin’ (‘Bitch Suck Dick’, ‘AU79, for example) and for every outstanding highlight there is the embarrassment of tracks like ‘Fish’. Nevertheless, while ‘Goblin’ definitely (hopefully) isn’t the peak of Odd Future’s abilities, it contains enough moments of brilliance to convince you that they’re not far off. With ‘Goblin’ we find Tyler and his gang of wolves snarling at our door – next time they may well have broken in.