The preconceived notions of what a Tyler, The Creator album is gonna be like are plentiful well before you even press play. This has been both a boon and a hindrance to his career, tipping more to the boon side of the scale in what has become a viral habit of either hating or loving something based almost solely on your own personal internet culture and what your daily feed prompts you to feel about a certain subject. The 26-year-old rapper’s name has become synonymous with controversy that has put a stink on anything he touches. But like any other stink, seeking out the source of where it’s coming from is key.
Music as a whole has switched from a beefy main course to bite-size finger snacks served on a platter designed to be used quickly and then recycled. The nibbling, parasitic influence of clickbait and pull quotes have made it so that the records themselves, which should be the main focus, are the least important element in an album cycle, taking a back burner to the “buzz” that surrounds them. With a few more years of actual living and growing under his belt since the release of his last album, 2015’s Cherry Bomb, Tyler seems to have something to say on his latest, the elegantly titled Flower Boy, and the Internet at large seems to think that something is “I’m gay. Like actually gay.” It takes even the foggiest memory of his previous work and about two seconds of Googling to get a sense for his previous stance on homosexuality (and women and consensual sex and general hate speech and telling the lesbian duo Tegan and Sara to hit him up for some “hard dick”), so these rumblings of sexuality revelations seem shocking. In terms of his actual sexuality, who cares? In terms of the high probability of Tyler hinting at his gayness on this album to be shocking for shocking’s sake … well that’s just another turd to throw on the heightening pile weighing down his psyche.
If Tyler has something to actually say on this album, well, then let’s hear it and hope he still has what some saw as innovation in him to back it up. But if “gay” is the craziest trick he can think of to pull on us right now, he’s gonna have to try something else in another two years and see if that works out better for him. As for the actual music involved in the release of Flower Boy, it’s fine. It’s more of the same. It seems to be needing something more. An extra spark of interest. And it looks like his publicity team found a way to insert one.
“Boredom”, featuring Corinne Bailey Rae, Rex Orange County, and Anna of the North, is the third single from the album and should not have been a single at all. It’s the type of track you can listen to multiple times with no lasting memory other than to say that, yup, you heard it. It’s a sing-songy drone about “finding some time to do something you like,” which we can help ourselves do by skipping the track in favor of something more dynamic, like “I Ain’t Got Time”, which comes towards the middle of the album and provides a necessary influx of piss and salt, which is what we bought the ticket to this ride for in the first place. (Sike, no one bought anything; this shit leaked weeks ago.) “I Ain’t Got Time” comes in like a rumble as opposed to a whine, and lyrics like “Boy, I need a Kleenex/ How I got this far? Boy, I can’t believe it/ That I got this car, so I took scenic/ Passenger a white boy, look like River Phoenix /First… (Happy birthday!!!)” are the mixture of fun and aggressive that makes a Tyler album tolerable. Some early write-ups of the album pull this mention of River Phoenix here as one of the clues pointing towards Tyler opening up about his sexuality, but River Phoenix doesn’t count because I think even my dad, who’s a Chicago butcher, would have considered a stab at that.
“Who Dat Boy”, featuring A$AP Rocky, is another single from the album and more deserving than the previously mentioned “Boredom”, although the association doesn’t help his case much. A$AP Rocky was charged with assault in 2013 for allegedly slapping a woman during his August 31st performance at JAY-Z’s Made in America festival, and just recently A$AP Mob co-founder A$AP Bari was put in a position to face sexual assault charges after a video popped up showing him sexually assaulting a woman. For an artist like Tyler, who will be the first to point out that he’s not a misogynist, the company he keeps and the names he adds to his albums tends to consistently prove otherwise.
The Kali Uchis-featuring “See You Again” showcases what we’re supposed to believe is the softer side of Tyler, but it’s just so damn hard to believe anything as being genuine on this entire thing. Across the board, the stink mentioned at the top of this review is turning out to be horse shit. The lines “You don’t understand me, what the fuck do you mean/ It’s them rose to the cheeks, yeah it’s them dirt-colored eyes/ Sugar honey iced tea, bumblebee on the scene/ Yeah, I’d give up my bakery to have a piece of your pie/ Yugh!” are hollow apart from the “Yugh,” which is said like a puke noise and is the only bit that rings at all sincere.
“Garden Shed”, featuring Estelle, is dynamic in its cacophony, mixing fast, deep beats with strumming guitars and piano. The poetic quality of Estelle’s delivery layers nicely with the grumble bumble of Tyler’s signature voice, but still, lyrics like “Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase/ Thought it’d be like the Frank; poof, gone/ But, it’s still goin’ on” remind us that this is all phony bologna, albeit somewhat enjoyable phony bologna, which is status quo.
Flyover songs like “911/Mr. Lonely”, which can’t even be saved by a Frank Ocean verse, “Droppin’ Seeds”, featuring Lil Wayne, which is great but only a head-scratching minute long, and “Glitter”, which seems like an actual joke, don’t raise the average much here, but now’s as good a time as any to reveal that this is a positive album review. No really. It is. We love this album and would never call it a “bitch” or a “hoe” in real life. Ask anyone.
Essential Tracks: “I Ain’t Got Time”, “Garden Shed”