Release Date: Jul 21, 2017
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Contemporary Rap
Routinely using the internet to make his presence felt, nearly a year ago Tyler, The Creator sent shockwaves through Twitter as he laid his infamous "@fucktyler" handle to rest. He claimed the move was for professional purposes, but it was the culmination of a gradual maturity and development to take place as he's become a multimedia staple over the course of seven years. Dropping albums every other year like clockwork, the rollout for (Scum Fuck) Flower Boy was met with certain skepticism as 2015's Cherry Bomb was his most polarizing release to date.
Proclaiming himself as Flower Boy T with that gravelly voice and irascible disposition befitting a proprietor of a rust-belt collision shop, Tyler, The Creator thrives on his paradoxical character and daily life throughout his self-produced fourth solo album. Despite the coarseness of its alternate title, Scum Fuck Flower Boy, this is easily the least vulgar Tyler release. It's also the most radiant one, akin to a modern-day N.E.R.D.
Tyler, the Creator's music has often been defined by exclusion. He was furious when rap blogs refused to post Odd Future songs. He has gleefully responded to being banned from countries. His songs attempted to reconcile with a divided fanbase. The subtext of Odd Future was that pearl-clutching ….
Few artists in recent memory have resisted interpretation, or courted controversy, as devoutly as Tyler, the Creator. The 26-year-old rapper-producer has spent his career shrouding meanings and motives in Gen-Y irony, served with the shit-eating grin of a 4chan troll. So, when early reports about his new album, Flower Boy, suggested that Tyler was coming out as gay, the reaction on social media was telling.
In terms of self-fulfilling album titles, Tyler, The Creator's 'Scum Fuckk Flower Boy' ticks every box. The former Odd Future pioneer's signature style can be split in half. One is the 'Scum F**k' side, a snarling eye for controversy, like the time he appeared to eat a cockroach and hang himself in a 2011 video for 'Yonkers'. But the other half of Tyler is all beauty and free-thinking, and his 'Flower Boy' side takes centre stage on this fourth album.
While hip-hop media has been fixated on the line about "kissing white boys since 2004," the truth is that Tyler, The Creator's new album Flower Boy is much more than a revelation about his sexuality. In fact, the reference is only in passing, buried mid-verse on "I Ain't Got Time!" and again on "Garden Shed" when he says he "thought it was a phase. " Stylistically and lyrically, Flower Boy shows us a softer, more thoughtful Tyler who seems to have moved past the vulgar, sometimes violent rhymes that made Odd Future and his early solo work famous.
When Tyler, the Creator wasn't bludgeoning listeners with purposefully blown-out production on 2015 LP Cherry Bomb, he was treating them to his most fleshed-out neo-soul sounds to date, complete with choirs, jubilant strings and vibraphones courtesy of Roy Ayers. Flower Boy finds these particular influences in full bloom, starkly opposing its predecessor's frustratingly splintered nature to stand as Tyler's most musically and lyrically focused effort to date. Less "kill people, burn shit, fuck school" than ever, the former Odd Future leader's shock-rap has been traded in for introspection, without the help of Dr. T.C.
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.
So I invented this thing called “The Talent/Controversy Diagonal.” I did this because I’m constantly mystified by how we classify artists with a contentious streak. The rule for the Talent/Controversy Diagonal reads something like this: For musicians to get away with being controversial, they must be at least equally as talented. An equal amount of each factor lands an artist squarely on the Diagonal itself, which is the dream.
There's always been a duality to Tyler, The Creator's musicianship that's made him a compelling proposition from day one. His early output demonstrated an undeniable proficiency for gravelly, shock and awe rap -- sure -- but the occasional glimmer of beauty on record ('Bastard' cut 'She,' for example) and 'Summer Camp' mixes brimming with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and Smith Westerns, Tyler alluded to another more delicate sensibility. Previously it felt like as though these two sides have been difficult to reconcile on record; the abrasive would often be at odds with the tranquil, particularly on last studio album 'Cherry Bomb'.
L ike a lot of great artists, Tyler, the Creator is hard to figure out, especially regarding how much of a character he's been playing on his records. On Bastard - his 2009 debut, an online release made when he was 18 that is too musically accomplished and lyrically lacerating to dismiss as a mixtape - he set a mischievous, even malevolent, tone with songs about rape and mutilation that dared listeners to wonder how fictional a creation the rapper was. His albums since - Goblin (2011), Wolf (2013) and Cherry Bomb (2015) - have mixed piteous confessions with homicidal obscenities, but always with the arch tone of a detached observer.