Is there a hip-hop album that’s more obviously a product of the Internet age than Goblin
? Rhetorical question, of course; the answer is no, and those who hate it and those who love it and even those who are sort of like “yeah, whatever” know it. Sure, we’ve got Lil B’s technology-fueled spasms of mixtape releases (on an unrelated note, his “The Age of Information”--very relevant to the subject of music in the era of the World Wide Web and also by far the best Lil B song I’ve ever heard--is a recommended listen), but he’s a little too in his own Bizarro world to compete with Tyler, the Creator. Das Racist and their two mixtapes last year come close but take away a few references to Twitter and you’ve pretty much got a lazier Paul’s Boutique
. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
? Sure, Kanye certainly paid attention to all those blog reactions slinged towards him after things like the Taylor Swift-VMA calamity, but he used that reaction to pretty much rap about whatever the hell he wanted to anyways. All of these artists definitely seem like a product of their technologically-driven times, but also have the ability to bring themselves out of the “loop” and prove that, above all, nobody can get them to change, or perhaps that they just smoke too much weed to care. Goblin
, in my eyes, is the first album to sound like a system of hype and backlash and backlash-backlash and blog posts about blog posts about songs about blog posts and Tweets about said blog posts finally and dramatically collapsing in on itself.
Somehow--and perhaps this is a result of my putting too much trust in Tyler and not accepting any other result--this album is still great. Just like its Creator (ha ha
is all over the place and is all the better for it. Tyler is now famous but predictably hates fame but loves Odd Future but hates his listeners and White America but loves fucking
s but hates the bitche
s themselves, etc. Tyler is doing Tyler, and, chiefly, that means one thing: no self-editing
. When he reads a Tweet or blog post that says he’s “sold out”, he’s sure as hell going to rap about it in tracks like “Goblin,” and if you’re under the impression that he’s going to think twice about putting something so reflexive on a studio album--well, think again. This lack of refinement was what made Tyler’s excellent debut Bastard
so fun to listen to and discuss. The same quality, some will argue, is the downfall of his insanely hyped second album, Goblin
. It is on this that the two camps of OFWGKTA listeners really divide, and, somehow, Tyler has swayed me over to his side once again. Yes, this album is self-referential and stupid and angry and silly and also really long
, qualities which totally should
be album-killers, but the fact is that, throughout Goblin
’s 70-minute duration, it never stops being immensely enjoyable.
The album starts with the “Bastard”-esque “Goblin,” in which Tyler chiefly discusses the Internet’s unbelievable response to Odd Future (“Since Kanye Tweeted tellin’ people he’s bumpin’ all of my sh
it / These motherfuc
kers think I’m supposed to live up to somethin’? Sheeeeit”). Whether you like him or not, you can’t blame the dude for his concern with Odd Future’s hype train--in a few months, the group (and especially Tyler) went from nobody skate-punks to the most vehemently championed/derided group of artists on the Internet. Considering that Bastard
was released before this transformation, the opener (the fantastic “Yonkers” notwithstanding) is Tyler’s first chance to put his foot down on the whole issue and inevitably spawn more fandom/controversy. Throughout the track, Tyler addresses the outrage at his “message” (“I’m not a fuc
king role model / I’m a nineteen year old fu
cking emotional coaster with pipe dreams”), how fame still hasn’t affected him at his core (“I’m still jacking off and proceeding my life careless”), the idea of “real” rap music (“I’d rather listen to Badu and Pusha the T / And some Waka Flocka Flame instead of that real hip-hop”), and just about everything expected and more from a talented kid in his position. That said, “Goblin” sort of does the opposite of its assumed “job”; it all seems jumbled and stream-of-consciousness-esque, as if Tyler is literally pouring out his thoughts into the mic as they come to him. As it turns out, this is a precedent for the rest of the album and for Tyler himself: confused, silly, smart and not really comprehensible in most ways, but always intriguing and--God forbid--fun to listen to.
Much of this, in part, is because of the “Internet age” effect I described earlier. On Goblin
, we get to hear Tyler--barely a young adult and in many ways still a kid at heart--deconstruct the idea of himself as an idol and analyze arguments about him and his crew. It’s all very
Tyler indeed; it’s a confusing musical and extra-musical world in which we hear Pharrell Williams essentially talk the rapper out of hating his life (although Williams probably isn’t aware of it) immediately after seemingly hearing our transgressive rap idol call his own audience “faggot”. It’s fascinating and never boring, thanks in part to the fact that it’s both completely in control of its own outlook and also so clearly a product of its times, where vivid abhorrence and admiration are both responses just a click away.
That said, Goblin
is not so swayed by Internet and media hype/anti-hype that it feels composed more by bloggers than it does Tyler himself; indeed, he doesn’t just stick to talking about Twitter et al., often looking inward (“Golden”) or talking about bitches
(much more than on Bastard
; “Fish,” “She,” “Her,” “Analog,” “Bitc
h Suck Di
ck”), or giving the usual (awesome) Odd Future rebel-with-a-sorta-kinda-cause fodder (“Radicals,” “Sandwitches”). It seems homogeneous on the surface (mostly because it’s hard to see him as a multi-dimensional rapper after so much copy-paste media coverage), but it’s going to be hard finding a more lyrically varied rap album this year. Best of all, Tyler is as captivating a narrator as ever, spitting line after line of his usual ludicrous storytelling and introspection (fun fact: on the infinitely silly rapgenius.com, a site that tries to decipher rap songs line by line, “Catch me in the attic taking pictures of my dad’s dick” from “Tron Cat” is pretty much the only line in the song to go without a site-provided explanation. Awesome!). For every “Kill people, burn shi
k school,” (weirdly maligned by critics; calm down, y’all) Tyler gives at least fifty more smart, insightful lines to prove that he’s not your average punk (current favorite: “Her name is my passwords”, from “Her”).
Even better, Tyler’s production has much improved--nothing here quite matches the title track from Bastard
for me in terms of sheer theatrical power, but much of it comes close. “Yonkers,” which still hasn’t gotten even close to old, displays his excellent use of minimalist motifs to focus more power on his words; “She” and “Analog” are just excellent jams; the Lil B/Waka Flocka Flame-esque “Bitc
h Suck Di
ck” (say what you will about its, um, “integrity”?) perfectly fits the manic absurdity of its lyrics. For the most part, Tyler still isn’t quite a technically exceptional producer, but he is both improving and also learning how best to adapt his somewhat primitive productions to their respective tracks.
I realize now that--taking into account that this album is pretty much by nature going to be severely flawed--all this may seem like I’m bending over backwards so that my fandom won’t end in “defeat”. Indeed, Goblin
has some problems. “Radicals” and the like (especially the “disclaimer” at the beginning”) doesn’t have anything half as funny or clever to say as, say, Eminem’s “Criminal”: “A lot of people think that [...] if I say that I wanna kill somebody, that I’m actually gonna do it, or that I believe in it. Well, sh
it, if you believe that, then I’ll kill you!” A song like “Window,” in which Tyler shoots all of his rapper friends, simply doesn’t work as well on an emotional level as it should (taking a cue from The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Suicidal Thoughts” would be advisable). And, of course, with sorta-enjoyable filler like “AU79,” Goblin
could definitely be shorter and thus less of a slog.
That said, much of the fun in Tyler is watching how he grows; how we get to experience the response to his music and his responses to those responses, ad infinitum. This process may be tiresome for many, but, for listeners like me, who appreciate Tyler’s keen ability to assess his own position and rap about it dexterously--and then also create completely irrelevant jams
like “Analog” to throw listeners off--it’s a complete blast to witness. So, for those of us, let’s give it up for Tyler, as he’s nearly singlehandedly made the exact album he needed to make right now. But let’s not shortchange ourselves, either: we, the “blogging faggot hipsters”, as Tyler would have it--we made it, too. And, against all odds, Goblin
is all the better for it.