Updated: May 30, 2019
It’s been a whole two years since Tyler, the Creator released a new studio album, and with his most recent record IGOR dropping last week, the young LA rapper has delivered a simple yet impressive artistic take on the classic breakup anthem.
Ten years ago, Tyler, the Creator released his first studio album Goblin and proceeded to shock audiences with horrifying lyrical content and the over exaggeration of profanity on his follow-up albums.
By his fifth record, Tyler had demonstrated a distinct progressive shift from rapping about rape, murder and homophobia, to delving deep into his perceived lack of self-worth, relationships’ ending and what later came as a surprise to the public, coming out about his sexuality.
It was through the Grammy-nominated album Flower Boy that Tyler showed his maturity and growth as an artist, replacing lyrics like “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school” and “Suck my dick, motherfucker, sue me”, with saddening, introspective ramblings about his past relationship failures and his constant struggle with loneliness.
In a social media post the night before IGOR was due to release, Tyler outlined the importance of listening to the album alone, from front to back and without any distractions. He also wanted to make it very clear that IGOR was its own album, and independent from all the other albums preceding it.
Writing, producing and arranging the entire record himself, Tyler also had the likes of Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, Kanye West, Santigold, A$AP Rocky, Kali Uchis, Frank Ocean and Pharrell Williams making impactful appearances.
At its core, the 12-track record follows a complex narrative about one of Tyler’s relationships falling apart. A man Tyler has fallen for has decided to go back to his female partner, and Tyler must then come to terms with the separation, toying with denial and the emptiness he now feels.
Only wanting to see the one he dearly loves be happy, Tyler must learn to let them go and by the end of the album, Tyler accepts the painful truth that it's over and asks compassionately if the two ex-lovers can still be friends.
It is difficult not to compare IGOR’s themes with some of Tyler’s previous music, especially Flower Boy, simply due to the similarities of heartfelt harmonies and slow, instrumental structure. However, there are distinct references to loneliness and damaged relationships on both albums, and now that Tyler is more transparent about his sexuality, Cole Cushna’s popular podcast Dissect does an excellent job at breaking down the previous album’s main themes.
Followers of Tyler’s most early work, when the rebellious teenager ran with his notorious group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA), causing mayhem wherever they went, and Tyler’s lyrical content usually insinuated having sex with corpses and kidnapping women, need to be aware that the now 28-year-old has made monumental progressions as an artist.
The album IGOR is nothing like Bastard or Goblin, much to the hardcore fanbase’s disappointment, and similarly, far from Wolf and Cherry Bomb. The newest addition is a musical masterpiece, seeing Tyler weave soft harmonic tones with sleek instrumental set pieces, all the while showcasing the deep, guttural vocals that are so synonymous with Tyler, the Creator.
The opening track IGOR’S THEME begins with a long drawn out single distortion leading into a thumping bass, which is possibly a nod to the early N.E.R.D sound Tyler drew a lot of inspiration from for sections of his previous albums.
This kind of spooky undertone with its dark, shaking bassline appears sporadically across the album and with only a constant loop of Tyler and Lil Uzi Vert repeating various lines like “Ridin’ ‘round town, they gon’ feel this one” throughout, IGOR’S THEME shines with gentle accompanying vocals from Solange.
Undoubtedly one of the catchiest songs on the album, and an absolute banger of a music video, EARFQUAKE is the first glimpse into the main theme, one of Tyler’s recent relationships falling apart, where “Don’t leave, it’s my fault” is reverberated constantly throughout the song.
The pleasant harmonies between Tyler and Charlie Wilson echo between ambient keyboards and vibrating bassy undertones. But it is Playboi Carti who steals the song, effortlessly rolling in with bouncy lines and a voice that catches with relentless emotion and flow.
In the track I THINK, and similarly on RUNNING OUT OF TIME, slight tone changes and a noticeable shift in beats add a new sense of character to the songs, demonstrating Tyler’s intricate productional talent and the seamless flow between tracks.
On the song GONE, GONE / THANK YOU, it follows the same broken structure as every tenth track on an album since the release of Bastard. The song opens with a popcorn-like beat, following with a boppy tempo and gentle vocals. This leads into a lengthy verse from Tyler in his more naturally-textured vocals.
The second half enters after a cut from American comedian and actor Jerrod Carmichael and features shotgun beats and again a recurring chorus, this time thanking his lover for the time and joy they brought, and stating how Tyler never wants to fall in love again.
Carmichael appears on several occasions, providing a kind of narrative that is similar to how Bastard and Goblin feature Doctor TC and also the skits woven throughout Wolf featuring Sam, Wolf, Salem and the doctor. Used more in the style of an introspective interview, Carmichael speaks predominantly in the intros and outros.
The previous punchy and menacing bassline from the first track is brought back for NEW MAGIC WAND with Tyler casually versing on top of a tense undertone, also rapping a speedy verse before the chorus takes over again. Some sleek dubstep ‘wub-wubs’ lead straight into a Cherry Bombesque closing sequence.
Following on, A BOY IS A GUN sees the return of Tyler cussing in almost every sentence, with pockets of intimate soul and delightfully new tonal ranges. The next song PUPPET featuring Kanye West is again a similar tantric lullaby with glowing synths and underlying themes of ownership and the need to let go; “I’m a puppet, you control me.”
The final two songs immediately stand out, by way of the simple, soulful flowing rhythm and gentle thudding bass line in I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE, and ending on ARE WE STILL FRIENDS. This incredibly smooth jazzy number with catchy guitar chords and a lazy underwater feel closes the door on Tyler’s relationship with the man he was so invested in.
It’s not uncommon for Tyler to intertwine a plethora of hidden meanings into his music, while even after the fourth or the forty-fourth listen to any one of his albums, there is sure to be references that a lot of people simply overlook.
From the angsty, rebellious teenager he was ten years ago, releasing his own version of horrorcore about cutting up dead bodies, expressing the hatred he had toward authority and what he’d do if he ever met his father, Tyler truly has evolved.
The admirable progressive shift in tone and lyrical content – although perhaps not welcomed with open arms by long-serving fans of say Tron Cat or Sarah –, Tyler, the Creator’s new album IGOR is in a tier of its own. A complex and heartfelt journey with an abundance of instrumental and lyrical harmonies, Tyler has produced a breakup album in a way only he could.
Filling up each and every song with as much rhythm as possible, at the same time oozing production prowess and the ability to tantalise the senses with countless amounts of raw emotion, Tyler’s new album truly stands out amongst the crowd.
Props to T.
Cover image from: https://thevinylfactory.com/news/tyler-the-creator-new-album-igor-vinyl/
Copyright © Will Boddy 2019