It took 2 years from the release of the Tyler the Creator’s last album Cherry Bomb for a short film documenting the recording process of the album to finally hit the web. Directed by Mikey Alfred, the 43-minute flick engagingly narrated by the Creator himself, features cameos from Kali Uchis, Charlie Wilson, Frank Ocean and A$AP Rocky amongst others.
1 month on, the video for the lead single Who Dat Boy hit the internet. Self-directed, it is as zany as his previous visual works and includes him trying to make a bomb, and receiving a whiteface face transplant courtesy of A$AP Rocky.
“How many chains can I wear ’til I’m considered a slave, how many slaves ’til Nate Turner arrives?” this is a standout line from Foreword, which, sonically, is probably the calmest of opening tracks on a Tyler album, a metronome keeping time and smooth guitar strumming over reverberated percussion-heavy backing. UK native, Rex Orange County is impressive over the hook, sounding wonderful floating through the background on the adlibs. The synth strings halfway through the track add a flare of eerie dreaminess.
Much like fellow Odd Future alumni Frank Ocean, the period before album release week came with unexpected controversy surrounding Tyler’s sexual orientation after the set leaked online. Ocean guests on Where This Flower Blooms which begins with a Disney-esque string and piano combo. With an earworm of a hook “I rock, I roll, I bloom, I glow (I glow)- I rock, I roll (What you say?), I bloom, I glow (I glow)“, Blooms talks you through Tyler’s career from before the fame to it’s heights wherein he remains optimistic and blissful, and even empowered, “Shit weighs a ton, water your garden my nigga
(Stunt on these niggas)”.
Whilst “Tell these black kids they can be who they are
Dye your hair blue, shit, I’ll do it too” alludes to the sometimes strict heteronormative and hyper-masculine standards present in Black communities. **Side note: Tyler may also be referencing is Ocean’s single Chanel along with his previous blue, pink and green-tinted hair.
Continuing the Golf Radio skits from past on Sometimes, we segue into See You Again, as Tyler impressively takes the leap singing-wise from his usual lower register into his chest register and serves us decent harmonies. Joined by Tyrant singer Kali Uchis it’s like Honeymoon mixed with Paradise EP and a sprinkling of BTD on the chorus having previously collaborated for FIND YOUR WINGS and FUCKING YOUNG / PERFECT , she stuns over the luscious production.
“Yeah I’d give up my bakery to have a piece of your pie” Tyler raps before exclaiming “Yugh” repulsed by his own brazen admission of infatuation in the second verse. Part of his charm throughout the years has been his clear issue with discussing his vulnerability but constantly delving into it album after album, having to consistently *buff* it up with offence and vulgarity soon afterwards hoping we’d miss it, but we never do, in fact it’s probably what’s kept him a staple in hip-hop after all these years as such a complex, odd character.
Driving is the running theme on the mid-tempo Pothole which features Jaden Smith, thematically focusing on Tyler’s road through super-stardom, from his mother telling him that he can trust [Christian] Clancy (his manager) to him saying he stopped eating bacon to feeling like a lone wolf amongst sheep.
The now notable Track 7 Garden Shed begins slow, intimate becoming harsh and somewhat chaotic 2 minutes in, possibly a conscious metaphor for the lyrical theme. I had felt that the track’s fast-paced rhyming was just to get the “coming out” business out of the way as quickly as possibly. In very much a blink and you could miss it moment, Shed requires multiple listens to catch all of it’s profound introspection.
Tyler has clearly been learning a lot in the last two album recording cycles as his arrangement skills have gone from strength to strength since Wolf, with us gaining access to his unique vision for production in the Cherry Bomb documentary. Beautiful layered background vocals akin to a baby angel choir make up the next song Boredom which brings back the low-key Disney feel we’d gotten earlier in the album.
“Next line I’ll have em’ like woah, I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004.” – ” this line is taken from I Ain’t Got Time. The hard-hitting track samples Introduction by Bel-Sha-Zaar, Tommy Genapopoluis and Thd Grecian Knights, also interpolated on One Time by J-Dilla and dance classic Groove Is In The Heart. Not to fault the first half of the album but this was the first track to truly command all of my attention and prompt a hard head bop. A thumping beat reminiscent of 2000s hip hop, light twinkles and constant beat switches keep it in dynamic Tyler production style.
Previous single 9/11 / Mr Lonely is an album highlight, an R&B flavoured hip-hop track with a smooth groove, energised by Frank’s brief appearance. “I’m the loneliest man alive, but I keep on dancin’ to throw ’em off” is a somber line that precedes Mr Lonely, where Tyler opens up with some of the album’s most personal lyrics yet.
Lil Wayne comes out of ongoing civil litigation and label hell to deliver a solid verse on Droppin’ Seeds.
November serves as an ode to what we can only decipher as a magical period in Tyler’s life. The production is clever and interesting, and Tyler raps through insecurities he has about his life and career before asking “Tell me, what’s your November?“. It’s followed up by an interlude of various friends of Tyler’s stating their favourite moments of significance are, including Kilo Kish, A$AP Rocky and Odd Future members Jasper Dolphin and Lionel Boyce, whose November was “Odd Future Sundays” where they’d all skate together and being taken to his first concert by his brother.
The late summer/early autumn vibes continue for Glitter, a loverboy anthem with a playful hook and lyrics seemingly dedicated to the same crush we can assume track 4, 5 and 7 were dedicated to also: “Cause you in the L, could be a DJ, When I see you my heart beat changes tempo“.
The final track Enjoy Right Now, Today has a late 80s Stevie Wonder feel, managing to even sound like highly impressive elevator music at times. An instrumental track, it feels just as warm and comforting as the rest of the album truly reinforcing that this album’s recurring them is lover’s bliss. Tyler is someone who’s always been able to acutely creatively reflect his inner mood cleverly through the instrumentation and lyrics on his work and here he’s clearly left insecurity, vulgarity and harshness behind, embracing it through in a new place of self-awareness that recognises his vulnerability as well as his urges to fill voids with materialism and his, dare we finally say it… queerness.
Goblin remains my favourite Tyler album, possibly because of nostalgia tied to my own angsty tumblr teen days, but this could easily come second.
Scum Fuck Flower Boy as a title is a direct reference to the two opposing sides of Tyler. One we came to know as profane and shameless through his hypermasculine alter-egos on Bastard or Goblin to now referencing an alternative softer form of his self . He has never been like any other rapper and this album solidifies his place as a truly original unconventional frontrunner in modern hip-hop.
Find out more about Tyler, the Creator here: