Tyler the Creator’s near decade long rap career has been sprinkled with controversy, if the term “sprinkled” really meant “completely survived by”. Tyler’s aggressive, controversial style and lyricism garnered a cult following for the Odd Future member. Tyler’s tracks involved rape, misogyny, abuse, homophobia and many other controversial topics, all of which incited riots and campaigns against him. From inciting a riot in 2014 for goading fans to push past security at a sold out show at the SXSW music festival, to creating controversy over a Mountain Dew advertisement which many claimed to be racist and misogynistic, to many instances of abusing the word “faggot” in his tracks, Tyler has never been one to stand down to society’s norms.
One woman actually encouraged women who come into sexual contact with Tyler to, and I quote, “go backstage and bite his dick off and I will personally bail you out of jail”, which, in the opinion of this writer, is an abhorrent thing to suggest PURELY based off of dislike for his musical content or character. Nevertheless, Tyler’s career continued. Throughout his career, it would have been unlikely for anyone to believe that Tyler was homosexual, but after the release of Flower Boy, many were left with raised eyebrows and racing minds.
In a truly perplexing turn of events, Tyler’s new album Flower Boy is rife with glossy instrumentals and cheery overtones, something which was practically unheard of from Tyler previously. The release of the first single “Who Dat Boy” didn’t do much to sway people’s opinions that Tyler had evolved the way he has. The single itself, while great, sounded like a classic Tyler song, albeit with heavy A$AP Rocky influence. However, the release of “911/Call Me” was interesting. The song was fresh, unheard of, something Tyler fans would have never even thought of.
Tyler’s aggressive demeanour as shown on Goblin, Wolf and Cherry Bomb has been more or less compromised on Flower Boy. Trading out hard-hitting, abrasive delivery for soft, dreamy tones surprisingly did a lot to move Tyler’s sound forward. Tyler’s arguably tired formula was slowly getting tiresome and the switch in styles was like a breath of fresh air. Tracks with starry instrumentals like “Droppin’ Seeds”, “Garden Shed” and “Glitter” all innovate a new sound, while also somehow still retaining that Tyler flavour that fans have become so accustomed to. The floatier tracks on Flower Boy are often heart-fluttering and body-swaying, but when a track hits hard, it hits like Mayweather on McGregor. The abrasive “Who Dat Boy” and the wickedly catchy “I Ain’t Got Time!” never fail to incite a rabid sense of excitement into the listener.
Another thing which Tyler nailed is the enlistment of the features. All those who featured on the tracklist were perfectly recruited and performed greatly over instrumentals that highlighted their strengths. From singers (Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis) to rappers (A$AP Rocky, Lil’ Wayne, Jaden Smith) to musicians (Steve Lacy), Flower Boy has an array of talent at its wholesome disposal. Unfortunately, Tyler’s attempted recruitment of Nicki Minaj and Kanye West for the song “I Ain’t Got Time!” was unfruitful, leaving fans wondering what could have been.
There really is no doubt that Flower Boy is Tyler’s most ambitious effort to date. The production, writing and features coincide to create an incredible experience for hip-hop fans. Tyler is still yet to comment on the rumours regarding his sexuality, but it is still a testament to how polarizing Flower Boy is by putting the question into our heads in the first place.
Review Score: 8.4 out of 10.
Flower Boy is out now.