Friday 11 August 2017

Review of 'Flower Boy' by Tyler, the Creator

Tyler quits trolling and shows us his serious side.

For years, the class clown of the rap game has been showing us glimpses of his serious side as on gems such as ‘Bastard’ and ‘Answer’. It’s hard to invest yourself in these touching moments when the rest of the songs are loaded with masturbation references and ‘golfwang’ chants and rape jokes.

On Cherry Bomb it seemed we were getting a more mature Tyler once and for all. The flows were tighter too and the production was some of his most soulful yet. However, despite the graceful female vocal harmonies and motivational lyrics of a track like ‘Find Your Wings’, there was still a track like ‘Blow My Load’ crass enough to reset the tone back to rock bottom. The mixing was also off in places and Tyler’s attempts to sing were plain awful.

By contrast, Scum Fuck Flower Boy – in spite of its title (he's since changed it to 'Flower Boy') – may just be the rapper’s most sincere work. He’s taken off the clown costume and decided to open up about all his insecurities without the slightest smear of irony. The headlines have all been obsessed with Tyler’s coming out, and whilst he does reference his sexuality with several lines throughout the LP (‘I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004’), it’s the way Tyler tackles the theme of loneliness and heartbreak that really leaves a mark. 

Flower Boy shows the introspective side to being an extrovert with Tyler’s most personal verse coming towards the end of ‘911/Mr. Lonely’ with confessional lines like ‘the loudest in the room is probably the loneliest in the room’.

Most the instrumentation is heavily jazzy. Tyler’s beats have always relied heavily on jazz-flavoured chords, but here he seems to be weaving intricate compositions out of jazz ideas, peppered with other stylings from electronica, trap and neo-soul. One of his most detailed beats is the labyrinthine backdrop of ‘Garden Shed’. It meanders off in all directions, but rather than feeling messy like many of the beats on Cherry Bomb, there’s a sense of clear direction from start to finish.

And of course there are still some fun bangers in the mix such as ‘Who Dat Boy’ and ‘I Ain’t Got Time’ where Tyler gets confrontational over distorted tuned kick drums. These are less obnoxious than previous Tyler bangers (no ‘golfwang’ chants in sight) but still just as cartoonishly playful in traditional Tyler style.

The rapper could still improve by taking a few singing lessons, as this part of his musicianship still leaves a lot to be desired. The shaky crooning on the likes of ‘911’ and ‘Glitter’ gives Flower Boy an amateurish feel that isn’t charming – it’s just painful on the ears.

Shaky singing aside however, the remainder of the music is proficiently handled. For once Tyler is sounding like a professional, dropping speedy flows and making lyrical quips that aren't just there to shock. His beats meanwhile are masterfully crafted – quite possibly some of the best beats we’ll hear this year. If you’ve previously dismissed Tyler as a troll, now may be the time to start paying attention.