Artist: Tyler, The Creator
Label: Odd Future / Sony Red
Release Date: 4/2/2013
Join the “cowboy” on his own trip as Tyler, The Creator once again shares his twisted thoughts through alternative hip-hop. For those introduced to Tyler, The Creator on his first retail release, Goblin, they may recall that the Odd Future front man grabbed the attention of many media outlets by eating a cockroach in the music video for the album’s first single “Yonkers.” The album went onto celebrate and glorify Tyler’s attitude and issues through violent, gory depictions of rape and murder, designed to astound and disgust. It has been reported that Goblin contains the word “b**ch” 68 times in 73 minutes, which includes a song entitled “B**ch S*ck D*ck.” For those who realized that Goblin isn’t technically Tyler’s first album, they likely had their expectations met after listening to the self-released project, Bastard. Interestingly enough, that album featured sessions with Tyler’s alter-ego and therapist, Dr. TC. On Bastard’s first track, TC foreshadows the saga of Tyler’s solo efforts, stating, “this is the first of three sessions…” The trilogy now comes to fruition with Tyler’s third installment, Wolf.
Shock value seemed to be of utmost importance to Tyler and his Odd Future group mates until Wolf. His violent and angry raps have even earned him comparisons to Eminem. Although there is still a prominent use of vulgarity and disturbing imagery Tyler seems to have gained the confidence to put aside the need to shock and disgust and let his talent shine a little more. The struggle between what his cult-like fans want to hear and the music that he wants to make as he grows as an artist and a man is apparent. Throughout Wolf, with the use of several characters, Tyler wavers between an awkward teen joking around and a rapper enlightening fans about his life.
The album is crafted to tell a story in which Tyler raps from the perspective of two main characters, Wolf and his enemy Sam. Through Wolf and Sam, Tyler seems to dissertate some of his own assets and flaws. Although the story telling is imaginative, it may have been more effective in a shorter album. The duration of 18 schizophrenic tracks packed with depressed lyricism becomes a bit tedious. A running symbol throughout Wolf is the mansion that Tyler currently owns. He mentions feeling out of place in the monstrous home both physically and in the fact that he is a reckless 22 year-old carrying new found responsibility and a mortgage. His struggles that come up repeatedly include not knowing his father and his grandmother’s death.
Although the tale Tyler tells through the album is expectantly dark, the tracks are brightened to a more appealing level by the somewhat upbeat production and soft singing between verses. This is exemplified on the intro “Wolf” as the word “you” flows gently over the beat only to be abruptly interrupted as Tyler completes and repeats the phrase “F**k You.”
Even with Tyler’s persistent use of gay slurs, Frank Ocean makes four appearances on the album which also features such iconic hip-hop artists as Pharrell, Nas, Erykah Badu and more. However, the impressive list of features is sort of a letdown due to their misplaced and minimal contributions to the project.
“Jamba,” “Tamale” and “Bimmer” are light tracks where Tyler entertains himself and gets back into the teenage mind set. “Jamba” features Hodgy Beats and has the feel of a weed smoke induced track, yet it contains a deep opening verse from Tyler. The album takes a darker turn on “Cowboy” as Tyler raps, “ain’t been this sick since brain cancer ate my Granny up,” over a simple beat. Tyler makes it clear with lyrics like “you’d think all this money would make a happy me, but I’m ’bout as lonely as crackers that supermodels eat” that the life he wanted to escape by gaining fame may have been more satisfying than where he finds himself now.
Awkward is Frank Ocean’s first appearance on the album and comes at the end of the track as he follows Tyler’s verses about his experiences with girls in his youth. Frank doesn’t say much but his soft tone is welcomed after Tyler’s rough verses. “Domo23” follows in the style of Tyler’s appearance on “Martians vs. Goblins” as he name drops and disses random people including his manager, Justin Bieber, and One Direction. The Nas and Tyler, The Creator collab is just about as unfitting as you would think. On “48” Nas and Tyler take a stand against drugs and Tyler’s preaching just doesn’t sound authentic.
A standout track on the album is “Colossus.” The track is a modern day “Stan.” Tyler demonstrates the effect fame has on his life now as he attempts to spend a day at a theme park but has to put the fun on hold as he is approached by fans. He details the annoyance of having to take pictures with the very fans he hopes will purchase Wolf and a disturbing encounter with a Stan-like fan who is eerily obsessed with him. Where Eminem’s Stan sent recorded cassette tapes to him, Tyler’s Stan tweets him daily (“and I hit you on twitter about 10 minutes a day, and I’m bitter cause you don’t even reply with a hey (sorry)” ). Another strong point is “Answer” which features Syd the Kid. Tyler shows some emotion and vulnerability and composes a track that will be relatable for a wider audience then his usual fan base.
“IFHY” features Pharrell and has a Neptunes like vibe. It also comes along with another disturbingly strange music video about possessiveness and jealously portrayed by dolls. The track expresses Tyler’s bipolar tendencies with the hook “I f*cking hate you, but I love you. I’m bad at keeping my emotions bubbled.” The single doesn’t seem to have made as lasting of an impact as “Yonkers” did for Goblin. The trilogy closes with “Lone.” The three album story that has come together over the last four years fittingly concludes in a final therapy session with Dr. TC. The in-depth story-telling and too many alter-egos to keep up with take away from the actual lyrics. It’s almost as if Tyler has managed to mock his critics by creating an album that is too artsy for it’s own good.
Those who have avidly followed the Odd Future movement and Tyler’s past projects will surely find relatable aspects of this album. In his normal awkward fashion Tyler took to his twitter to announce “THE ALBUM SUCKS THO” shortly after releasing a stream of Wolf. This somewhat took away from the appreciation that I had for Tyler’s most ambitious effort to date as it’s kind of hard to stand behind a project when the artist himself puts it down. However, Tyler’s shift in substance from murder, rape, and sandwitches, to his actual reality makes Wolf one step above his past offerings.