If you mentioned the name “Tyler, The Creator” to me two years ago, I would have laughed and had him written off as a phony rapper that makes his living being a loud, crazy, comedian of an entertainer and his music was as little artistic as his personality. However, after his first album Goblin and his first big hit “Yonkers”, Tyler came out with his second album Wolf and his Golf Wang clothing line. While Goblin did have it’s redeeming moment with the track “She” featuring Frank Ocean, the album consisted of boring and overly basic production with rap (more like talking) with no flow, rhythm, or consistency. But his second project, Wolf, was an exploration of melody for Tyler. He found effective ways to maintain his chilling monotone style while still being able to work in elements of rhythm and blues by adding strings, horns, and lighter percussion. In addition to Wolf, the Golf Wang clothing line was a novel take on mixing street wear with traditional country club attire. At this point, Tyler was beginning to mature into a more well rounded artist. Then came Cherry Bomb, a very impressive project from Tyler. Here he threw in even more melodic R&B tracks to his project and even got features from Pharrell and Charlie Wilson. However, the project was still lackluster with loud screaming songs like “DEATHCAMP” placed at the forefront to his melodic songs. Cherry Bomb was a project that showed the continued maturity of Tyler, but still made evidence that he still had a ways to go creatively. Two years after Cherry Bomb, Tyler has blessed us with Flower Boy, his best work yet and by far one of the most unique pieces of music I have ever heard.
Flower Boy is Tyler, The Creator’s most introspective album to date. The main theme throughout the album is identity: his sexuality and relationships, economic status, passion for cars, and his feelings of loneliness. The way Tyler delivers these messages to the listener is short and simple, with verses lasting only a few bars, he let’s the music do the talking and enlists a number of vocalists that beautifully compliment Tyler’s raps. Tyler says just enough, not too much and not too little. He picked the most important things to say on this album, with no sugar coating or dancing around the subject, which shows Tyler’s sweet-spot. Tyler is a composer, producer, and the brains behind his projects, but not necessarily the most talented when it comes to his own abilities for lyricism and melody. On Flower Boy Tyler has stepped back from being at the forefront of his own music and has taken a back seat to what he really wanted to focus on, the messages and themes of the album. By taking himself out of the equation, Tyler has shown his full maturity and has found where he is most comfortable, being honest and reaching within himself and pouring it out into the music. Maybe, he took a page out of Frank Ocean’s book on this one.
From the first track, “Forward”, it’s clear the kind of vibe the listener will get on Flower Boy. Tyler slows down the tempo and creates melodies of basic chord structures. Not only does this make Flower Boy extremely easy to listen to, but it also made the album easier to write. Implementing just three or four chord patterns in just about every song gives Tyler the freedom to create nearly any lyrical melody he wants. This is evident especially on tracks two and four, “Where this Flower Blooms” and “See You Again”, where you hear some of the best lyrics on the album, largely impart to Tyler’s simplistic piano and guitar chord structures and light synths and drums. He also uses very whining electronic synths for a stronger sense of melody which he has loved to use on his previous projects as well. The light drums are used very strategically throughout the album, giving off an R&B and Jazz inspired feeling. The song “Pothole”, which has a really nice feature from Jaden Smith, is a great example of how Tyler balances his drums and electronic synths, feeding off each other and filling the gaps in between instrumental sounds.
From slowed tempo R&B/Jazz songs, Tyler somehow created a beautifully balanced album of bouncy dance songs and even two rap bangers, because it wouldn’t be a Tyler, The Creator album without at least one rap banger. But even the way Tyler designs the bangers leave the listener in awe. The first heavy hitting rap song, “Who Dat Boy” featuring A$AP Rocky is still stripped down and simplified with a basic heavy trap drum pattern and just three synth chords for the melody. The second major rap song isn’t quite so simplified. “I Ain’t Got Time” which features a super playful middle eastern belly dancing sample combined with a number of popping synths and percussion sounds makes for a very complicated song. But complicated does not equal bad, in fact, the complexity makes for a really fun song. Tyler is lyrically having his most fun on this song, bringing energy and some punch lines to his verses while still driving home some introspective lines.
In addition to the more intense rap songs Tyler also has three stand out songs that to me, act as the “bouncy” dance tunes of the album. “911 / Mr. Lonely”, “Boredom”, and “Glitter” have these incredible triumphant sounds that increase the tempo compared to the slower songs on Flower Boy. These songs make you want to move and despite the sad lyrical content, the songs make you smile as well. Importantly, Steve Lacey’s appearances on “911” and “Glitter” cannot go unnoticed. He makes the songs what they are and is truly a gift to the album. Yet again, these songs have simple structures, but my, are they effective. If you can’t tell this is a major part of the album. It’s simplified and the listener is only hit with what they need to get. Lyrically and musically Flower Boy is raw, honest, and authentic.
I could listen to this album for days and I could talk about it for even longer. But what good would that do? Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator stands for so many things. It shows Tyler’s maturity into the best version of himself as a person, and as an artist. He comes at this album from the heart, pouring it out into the melodies and lyrics. This album is not just what his personal fans have been waiting for but what music listeners of any genre have been waiting for. This project is right up there with Blonde by Frank Ocean as one of the most complete projects I have ever listened to. Congratulations Tyler, Flower Boy is a masterpiece.