Tyler, the Creator has always carried an air of controversy and brashness within his discography that his fairly beige stage name belies. Even though each album since his first solo project Bastard has, to an extent, watered itself down to a more commercial and ‘nice’ feel, the content that the former Odd Future frontman has in his catalogue has been enough to see him banned from countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia.
Although (Scum Fuck) Flower Boy, Tyler’s 4th solo studio album, contains no lyrics detailing raping pregnant women or lusting after underage girls, it does feature a controversy that has filled almost every article anticipating the album itself. It turns out, and I’ll talk about this now so that I don’t have to bother later, Tyler, the Creator is gay, and a rapper. Two things that meshed together are apparently so wild a concept that people have left very angry online comments detailing how the can never enjoy Tyler’s music ever again.
Which would be a shame, as the song on which Tyler ‘comes out’, Garden Shed, ranks as one of his most beautiful songs to date. It falls as the albums centrepiece, with Estelle’s contributions to a very loose, almost ballad sounding production swells in the first half to what is a flurry of information from Tyler, which is articulated with precision and deftness. It may not be the best song on the album, but it certainly feels like the bravest, even without the subject matter involved.
The album does actually open in typical Tyler fashion, though. Where Tyler says “Bitch, fuck” at the beginning of Foreword, he may as well have just farted on your seat before buckling you in for a 46 minute ride through his consciousness. The verses are performed well with the slightly grinding sounding but drum heavy production, and the outro from Rex Orange County is an album highlight, although it is hard to pour scorn on any of the album collaborators.
My disappointment with Frank Ocean collabs though, does continue with Where This Flower Blooms, where his squirts of input again, like on 4:44’s Caught Their Eyes, feel rather unnecessary and in the way of the album artist themselves expressing to their full capability, but in no way to the same degree.
However, the typical Tyler, the Creator double track, 911 / Mr. Lonely, which again features some minimal contributions from fellow Odd Future member Frank Ocean, is perhaps the best rapping Tyler has put to an album, with a fast paced yet fairly light and bouncy beat eaten up by Tyler having some of the most fun he must have ever had in performing a verse, and yet it still manages to sound incredibly structured.
Who Dat Boy?, a fellow pre-release single for Flower Boy, along with 911 / Mr. Lonely, has a similar vibe to it, but doesn’t have the same levels of structure or repeat value. It is a beat so perfectly made for A$AP Rocky that I’ve never been more certain of hearing a particular featured artist on a song before. He holds his task well, not on the same levels of the to-and-froing of Lil Wayne on Cherry Bomb’s SMUCKERS, but enough to make his prescence truly felt.
On the subject of Cherry Bomb, an album oft-derided and with valid reasoning (I actually quite liked it), it feels that Tyler’s last album may in hindsight be a necessary evil in Tyler’s discography, as for me if he had jumped straight to Flower Boy’s sound from WOLF, Cherry Bombs predecessor it would have felt too drastic, and the inevitable discussion over that would have taken away from what is admittedly superb production on this latest release.
Admittedly though, not without its faults. There aren’t any really bad moments on the entire LP, but when the album does dip in quality it can be quite dull. The second half of November, which feels very slow and lacklustre despite its intentions in production, and the whole of Pothole, that couldn’t sound like more of a discarded Mac Miller B-side if it tried.
Instead of shock value, Flower Boy excites in its ambitious moments, rather than being an impressive repertoire that you’d somewhat expect of its artist. Boredom, barely a rap song at all, sounding closer to pop than Tyler dared ever tread before is a song that I did not see coming at all, and its slightly pained tone only adds to what is my personal favourite song on Flower Boy.
See You Again has a similar stance, and has particularly astounding vocals from Kali Uchis, while being led in perfectly by the Sometimes… interlude. It just feels that bit weaker with its Tyler content when lined up against most of his work on the rest of the album that loses it a few points.
If Tyler is reading though, and let’s face it why the hell wouldn’t he be, if he fancies making an entire album in the style of I Ain’t Got Time!, I will literally buy him tens of pounds of his favourite beverage. Its like a swamp came to life, grew a musical conscious and extracted every bit of Tyler, the Creator talent all over itself. It’s a beautiful bit of chaos, that while standing a little bit too leftfield of the rest of Flower Boy, is the most addictive song on the whole thing.
The album ends twice, sort of. Glitter gives you the end of any vocal performances, with a bustly and dark tone (not unlike what you’d find on Goblin) paralleled with a rather alien-type beat. It’s by no means one of the highlights, but it does lead rather smoothly into the albums instrumental closer, Enjoy Right Now, Today.
The Pharell production is very evident, and much appreciated, and it seems rather quaint and once again unlike Tyler, the Creator to have run out of things to say. A guy that has carried the equivalent subtlety of Fathers 4 Justice dressing up as Batman and climbing on Parliament with a poorly made felt-tip banner has done all the talking he needs to, and Enjoy Right Now, Today has the very nicely made statement that Tyler is cracking on with things that are a lot more important to him.
I think he would like if you did the same, and moved past the subject matter to enjoy what can be a very solid and experimental hip hop LP.