Review Summary: There's never been a more inappropriate time to be shouting “Golf Wang”.
Assessments of Odd Future, and Tyler, The Creator himself, have often been situated around people other
than Odd Future. This is, of course, understandable. I mean, Tyler is labelled “provocative” for a reason: there’s an awful lot of celebrity insults, homophobic slurs, rape and murder talk, and a large, god-awful fanbase that seem to surround this single musical figure. But it comes to a point at which we forget that so much of Tyler’s music is personal. He speaks as if he’s talking to his best friend, and often, as if he’s talking to himself: he says things that most probably would not say to anyone. And so we come to Wolf
, the best representation of Tyler writing, rapping and just being Tyler for himself: he rarely feels the need to insult celebrities, talk about the distasteful subjects that have made him both notable and notorious, or even mindlessly hype Wolf Gang. I know, I couldn’t believe it myself.
In a way, Odd Future is maturing. I know it’s weird to say, but Domo’s No Idols
and even Earl’s latest tracks have mostly shaken off the gimmicks that previously called their legitimacy as musicians into question. It’s only natural that Tyler, a character who has clearly struggled immensely with his personal life, would create a record like Wolf
. Lyrically, Tyler takes essentially what Goblin
had; the romantic subplot, dual personalities and frustrated introspection; and improves them all fivefold. Musically, the record sticks mostly to lush, atmospheric beats and relaxed tempos. Yet, tracks like “IFHY” and “Pigs” remain unnerved and haunting in the same vein as “Tron Cat” or “Her”; “Trashwang” provides the next instalment in Tyler’s series of Loiter Squad
posse cuts a la “Bitch Suck Dick”; and the amount of singer features give “Bimmer”, “Answer” and “Awkward” a great R&B edge. It’s safe to say that Tyler’s aesthetic is largely intact, but on Wolf
he is far more inspired and focused, and it really shows.
Worth note is the final affirmation of Tyler as a real hip hop producer. What I mean by “real hip hop producer” is easily defined by Tyler’s production on “Yonkers”; exciting, driving beats that provide easy opportunity for striking verses to be laid over: “Jamba”, “Domo23” and “Rusty” especially all demonstrate this. For the most part, even Tyler’s ambition yields success. “48” utilizes a groove more complex than anything we’ve heard from Tyler yet, and “Treehome95” sees the hyperactive 22-year-old actually sitting back to create an extremely pleasant lounge track. “Tamale”, however, proves somewhat unnecessary with Tallulah’s mindless shouting and the make-shift percussion presented almost as if to annoy in the same way that the Spanish shouting on “NY (Ned Flander)” did. It’s one of the few cringe-worthy moments, alongside Lucas Vercetti’s verse on “Trashwang”, that bog down the record.
Where the album truly falters, however, is perhaps in a subtle, minor place that Tyler, and perhaps most of Odd Future, have always had trouble on record: the material just isn’t that strong. “Cowboy”, “Pigs” and most of the three-part centerpiece “PartyIsn'tOver / Campfire / Bimmer” aren’t bad, sure, but you have to ask, how much do they really impact the entirety of Wolf
? It would be unfair to label the weaker tracks on the album “filler”, but many songs constantly fall victim to a homogeneity or plainness that prevents them from keeping up with the real killer moments, risking their memorability. But beyond that, these tracks blunt the resonance that an album like Wolf
should have in order for listeners to keep coming back for more, and that is a pitfall that has constantly plagued Tyler's career even since Bastard
In the end, what clearly defines Tyler’s music is who he is at the time of each record. If Bastard
was an angsty Tyler just out of high school, and Goblin
was his fame at its great dawn, Wolf
is the beginnings of his shining through most of the fame and the hype to just make good music. In the context of his discography, Wolf
is less a hallmark as much as a stepping stone onto where Tyler could go as his sound begins to shed the problems it has harboured as early as Bastard
, but Wolf
as an album alone is strongly produced, thoroughly well performed and, above all, sincere. Tyler is, more than ever, an artist.