Review Summary: I grow alone.
Where has the time gone? I remember when I first listened to Tyler, the Creator as a naive, impressionable 8th grader, fascinated while appalled by the raw darkness that oozed out of his hit song ‘Yonkers’. That was all it really took to hook me and by the time high school rolled around I was a full-fledged OFWGKTA devotee, unwavering in my support for all of their crazy antics and ungovernable energy. Fast-forward about six years. It’s crazy what time can do to your perceptions of things and although I still enjoy Tyler’s music, I look back at his “I’m-too-edgy-for-you” raps in a much different manner when contrasted to my past admiration for the nefarious and controversial sentiments.
Is it really 2017? Flower Boy
sounds like it should’ve been made 2 years ago in place of the experimental and sporadic mess that was Cherry Bomb
. I say this because I honestly started to think of Tyler as a rapper for my past-self, referencing him in conversations as one of those “oh yeah I loved
him when I was younger” artists. His stigma of being the bold, brash, and offensive contrarian easily links to my own adolescent ignorance. But I’ve grown up, and so has Tyler. Second track ‘Where This Flower Blooms’ makes this abundantly clear; the beat floats along in the background and just melts together with both Tyler and Frank’s relaxed yet impassioned vocals. It’s a track that just vibes
, something we’ve rarely seen from someone usually so full of sinister energy. “I rock//I roll//I bloom//I grow
” is fitting as it’s an appropriate recognition of his own growth, an attitude that is consistent throughout the album. Closer ‘Enjoy Right Now, Today’ silently caps off this newfound mental outlook as the strings and synths bounce along in a jazzy, velvety style. Tyler is no longer forcing anything under the self-proclaimed Flower Boy alter-ego, and it’s satisfyingly applicable to inject analogies that reference his natural and organic sound. I’m not surprised it took him this long because, honestly, I’m moreso amazed it even happened at all.
So is he saying something new? It’s easy to reference highlights like the hypnotic yet melodic R&B opus that is ‘Boredom’ as benchmarks for the obvious change in sound. And while the recently discovered love for the delicate yet sophisticated Awaken, My Love!
-inspired instrumentals implies maturation, it means little if Tyler is unable to match it lyrically. Psychedelic-influenced and Estelle-fronted track ‘Garden Shed’ is his restrained way of coming out, however his last verse sits perfectly in between bluntness and ambiguity. It’s pretty brilliant, really, to nonchalantly come out and then to later predict his own fans’ reactions (“cause of track seven
“) while still maintaining a self-contained, personal storyline for his feelings about the matter. Personal favorite ‘November’ exhibits this self-referential technique while also blossoming into a heartfelt recollection of better times ("take me back to November
”). After the track calmly bounces along like a needle on a record’s grooves, Tyler invites his friends to share what their Novembers were, a scattering of personal anecdotes and past memories until someone fittingly realigns the track’s (and consequently the album’s) message with a simple: “my November is right now
”. Although the “live in the moment” mantra may be a bit cliche, it’s a refreshing change in tone for someone hesitantly opening up to millions of unknown faces.
Who is this? Although the change in sound and my hyperbolic descriptions may make it seem like this album is made by a completely different artist, it’s still Tyler, the Creator. The two upbeat, Wolf-type tracks show glimpses of the energetic kid that Tyler once was. ‘Who Dat Boy’ hits hard with its brazen bass line and beat and when paired with the off-the-wall music video, it’s easy to see Tyler’s former persona in full bloom. On the other hand, ‘I Ain’t Got Time’ is intent on keeping its listener on their toes as it features many beat switches, pauses, and off-beat bass thumps. Even the lullaby-esque ‘911/Mr. Lonely’ recalls the boisterous yet laid-back attitude of Odd Future, and even though the transition into the last verse is Tyler at his most impassioned and poignant, seeing the contrast helps you understand him as a person. He’s lonely and insecure yet loud and attention seeking, introspective albeit shameless, and humorous as well as completely serious. We’ve finally got an album that is 100% Tyler Okonma and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
So what’s next?