Reviews

Tyler, The Creator’s Creativity Blossoms on ‘Flower Boy’ Album



XL1111

Columbia Records
Columbia Records

Tyler, The Creator has never been one to oversaturate the market, which for most rappers, is easier said than done. On average, Tyler gives himself at least a year-and-a-half between albums in attempts to live enough new experiences to write another poignant project consisting of new messages, meanings and musical mayhem. Since his Bastard mixtape dropped back in 2009, every two years, Tyler has progressively become a better writer, rapper and producer with each album. Flower Boy follows suit as Tyler delivers his most complete and sonicly appeasing album to date.

In many ways, however, Flower Boy doesn’t really sound much like a rap album although categorized as such. There are only two songs on the entire 14 track LP that carry an old-fashioned rap structure that fit within the genre’s Oxford definition; the remaining dozen are lusciously arranged like an album replete with jazz, R&B and progressive sounds. The two formidable rap cuts, “Who Dat Boy” featuring A$AP Rocky and “I Ain’t Got Time!,” both feature Tyler in that more traditional rap state—similar to songs heard on Bastard and Goblin. Everything from the brash production to the crude one-liners like, “That cherry be the bomb like he ran in Boston,” make both these songs perfect for fans who long for the days when OFWGKTA reigned supreme.

Don’t get it twisted though, Tyler still airs out some top-notch verses throughout the album but they are woven through lush instrumentation and soothing vocals. “Foreword” serves as the album’s intro and also as Tyler’s open letter to fans, critics and America as a whole. He ponders his place in the rap game, his increasing celebrity status but more importantly his position as a Black man maneuvering through society. “How many raps can I write ’til I get me a chain?/How many chains can I wear ’til I’m considered a slave?/How many slaves can it be ’til Nat Turner arise?/How many riots can it be ’til them Black lives matter?” are all questions that get both asked and answered the deeper you go into the album.

However, the question on everyone’s mind leading into the release of this album is Tyler’s undetermined sexuality, which has become a topic of conversation over the last month. There are lines about “Girls that I lead on/For occasional head and always keeping my bed warm” while there are also lines about “I’ve been kissing White boys since 2004.” For years, Tyler has been accused of homophobia despite the seemingly satirical attempts of coming out but seeing as this album sounds incredibly sincere, the truth seems even more vague.

As the songs play on Flower Boy, Tyler’s strength as a producer shines through more than the rhymes. According to the official album credits, each and every song was produced solely by the man himself; all of which are exceedingly melodic. Some like the Kali Uchis-assisted “See You Again,” “911 / Mr. Lonely” with Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy and “Glitter” include new age R&B sounds and crystal clear singing whereas others like “Pothole” featuring Jaden Smith and the Rex Orange County and Anna of the North-assisted “Boredom” are inherently uptempo and jazzy.

As a whole, the album has a cohesive feeling on the production tip. After a multitude of plays, many of the songs sound similar to one another since their arrangements don’t vary much. Frank Ocean appears a couple times with similar executions; the female singers including Kali Uchis, Anna of the North and even Estelle sound fairly similar and Tyler himself uses predictable vocal ranges. The talent exuded from these featured guests is obviously noted but the best feature on the album comes from Lil Wayne on “Droppin’ Seeds.” Aligning perfectly with the whole flower theme, Weezy raps “My bitch got an apple bottom and she swallow my seeds/Follow my lead, fire I breathe, water my seed/And sit back and watch money grow on trees/Droppin’ seeds like classes, these hoes drop they asses.”

“November” sums up the album’s ideas in a tight four minutes. Tyler lets listeners in on the most macro and micro issues he faces at this moment in time. “What if my accountant ain’t payin’ my taxes?/Fillin’ his pockets and IRS show up asking me questions/I couldn’t answer ’cause I was too busy tryna make classics” and other musing questions let fans know that Tyler, no matter how extroverted, worries about minute instances as well.

Moments like these prove that Flower Boy can and should be experienced both passively and attentively. These days, there aren’t many rap albums that can service as a deeply digested work of art as well as music for easy listening, yet Tyler, The Creator fills both lanes well. He manages to find the happy medium on Flower Boy and translates it to his best album yet.

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Author: Scott Glaysher

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