stars (of five)
As recently as a week ago, I didn't like Tyler the Creator. I'd
read various things in passing about him and his crew, "Odd
Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All," which included uproar over devilish rhymes, lyrics
straight out of Arkham Asylum's daycare and stirring up trouble with
(among others). I don't like instigators, and that's what I
wrote Tyler off as. Then I caught him on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; granted, I was falling
asleep, but I saw him bouncing around stage and could barely make out
a single word of whatever song he was performing. (I watched it again
today, wide awake... Result was the same.) I flipped the TV off and
fell asleep. That wrote him off even further.
But a guy's mind can change. I make it
a personal mission, a crusade if you will, to not write something off, not totally discount it, unless
it's tried. I don't always succeed, but I try. So Tyler was in my
head, nipping at me over the past month: "I was compared to Eminem.
You love Eminem. I've gotten a ton of pub recently, gotta be
something to it. You read some of my lyrics... they made your jaw
drop. Who says stuff like this? I do. Listen to me. Give me a f*cking shot."
He won; I did.
Odd Future's system is inherently modern. Their
website has links to each of their members' releases, whether
mixtapes or albums. To them, I'm not too sure what the difference is.
But there are a ton to choose from, to their credit. They roll these
albums out on an assembly line.
Tyler, the Creator is the founder and
leader of Odd Future. He's the mouthpiece, by far the most famous
member (117,000+ Twitter followers as of this weekend). So naturally, I chose his solo effort -- entitled Bastard,
posted to the group's website
in February, 2010 -- to dive into. (Fitting that his new album,
Goblin, should be out
I didn't know what to expect; but when
the middle-finger shaped dust cloud cleared, I was impressed. The guy
may be an instigator, but he's a talented one. And although he has a
fraction of Eminem's charisma, I found myself gripped to the lyrics,
wondering what the hell he could possibly say next. Because the good
tracks -- "French!" "AssMilk," "Session," and
"Inglorious" -- suggest a guy with real ability under that, to
put it oh-so-delicately, coarse exterior.
It's also possible that the exterior is a front. In the phenomenal opening track "Bastard" -- if you
hear this track and expect something as good to pop up again, nothing
does -- Tyler lays out a blueprint for the chaos to come, while
shining a shockingly human light on himself. Bars include: "I roll
with skaters and musicians with an intuition/I created O.F. cuz I
feel we're more talented/Than 40-year-old rappers talkin' 'bout
Gucci/When they have kids they haven't seen in years/Impressin' their
(A number or percentage couldn't
express how much I agree with those lines. Tyler may delve into what
Satan would rap if given a mic, but as crazy as it sounds, at least
he's saying something. With every generic song from some
club-cars-and-hoes rapper, music dies a little more. Tyler is more
likely to kill a person than music itself.)
Then he dives into his father issues,
which pop up more often than anything else (hence the album's title): "The shit is so bare/My
diary isn't hid/My father didn't give a f*ck/So it's somethin' I
inherit/My mother's all I have so it's never meet the parents/When
Danielle or Malonda decide to f*ckin' share/This confused boy/I want
a hug hoy/I'm bad for you kids to listen to/Soy is not the choice/I'm
bad milk, drink it."
After hearing bits of his story, his
raw emotion and the undeniable talent he possesses, you feel a bit
sorry for him. That feeling doesn't last too long.
"When it comes to your perception of
my shit, I'm Helen Keller," he raps on "French!" Well, there's
no way that's possible. Sweet line though, right? It brings up
something my mind wanders into occasionally, the paradox of artist
vs. actuality. Is there any way Tyler, in his real, day-to-day life,
really thinks all this stuff? Is he cool with butt rape? Does he
really think anyone cares that he does or doesn't pay $50 for head, as he
incessantly tweeted about on Friday? Does he live to push buttons and
get off on the reaction? His lyrics literally need to be heard/read to be believed. The stuff he touches on... I could make a list, but It would be two times longer than this post. Does he truly believe what he says? I don't know him, so I can't say anything
for sure. But it's possible. And it's unnerving.
As a whole, Bastard
stands as a representation of what any jilted kid with a MacBook
could do. It includes glowing bright spots as well as tracks I'll
never listen to again. But he made me listen.
Russell, a writer for Gowhere,
wrote this when posting the video for Tyler's new single "Yonkers:"
"This kid may turn out to be one of the most important new
personalities of 2011. Just like when Kurt Cobain & Nirvana
arrived & helped end the hair band metal movement; Tyler &
his crew could be the start to a new wave in hip hop that goes
against the Hip-Pop movement of the last few years. Either way you
look at it he created an amazing piece of art to be just 19."
agree partially. I agree that Tyler is doing his damnedest to push
rap out of the current hip-pop (a great term) phase, and I commend
him for that. Especially at 19? That's nuts. But he won't do it
unless he makes better music. One of Eminem's first albums, 1996's
Infinite, was not good but
showed great promise. He was figuring his style out, discovering what
kind of artist he wanted to be (which is fascinating to listen to
now). I'd put Bastard above
Infinite, but assuming
Tyler will make an Em-like jump is not something I'll guarantee, or
even expect. The guy is rapping about these things to raise our eyebrows and drop our jaws, and doing so with an advanced skill level. But let's temper our expectations a bit.
To me, the bottom line is that Tyler
may be a douchebag; but who cares? Concerning his musical ability,
there's plenty of promise. And in the end, isn't that all we should
care about? We don't have to hang out with him. Just listen; he's not going away yet.
Must-hear: "Bastard," "French!" "AssMilk," "Session," "Inglorious"
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