Album Review: Tyler, the Creator – Goblin

If Odd Future has taken over the world, Tyler, the Creator is the evil mastermind. Hip-hop needs provocateurs – NWA, Kool Keith, Eminem – polarizing artists that both shock and entertain. Tyler and Odd Future are the next in this line, set apart from their peers by their barely legal ages, Internet-age productivity and Wu Tang-like devotion to their brand.

Goblin is the collective’s first proper album, released on trendspotters XL. Continuing his conversation with his fictional/internal psychiatrist, as on Bastard, Tyler opens with a nearly seven-minute title track, a spoken-word diatribe about the downside of his meteoric rise (“I don’t even skate anymore, I’m too fucking busy.”). This isn’t new territory – see Kanye, Drake, Childish Gambino, etc. – but like those artists, Tyler has a well-developed image and style.

The Odd Future movement revolves around self-gratification, not breaking new ground. Tyler’s closest comparison is Eminem, with his odes to sexual violence, suicidal fantasies, and parental disappointment. Like Eminem, he reiterates the obvious to his critics: his lyrics are fictional, going as far to call out “white America” (the target of the first song on The Eminem Show). Tyler even adopts his cadence at times.

Tyler is all about contrasts and juxtapositions, reveling in dualities. Admonishing the listener one moment for taking him too seriously, and then grabbing them by the throat and forcing them to recognize him the next. First self-confident at his accomplishments in the last six months, and then suicidal over his existential, self-esteem issues. “Tron Cat” includes jazzy, la-la-la breaks: momentary respites from grimy negativity like “rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome.”

Posse cuts present contrasts, as well. The swagged-out “Bitch Suck Dick” has the bombastic production of a Soulja Boy track, while “Window” is clouded and syrupy – a barely-there beat that lets the storytelling do the heavy lifting. Advance single “Sandwitches” gets a spit-shine and a proper release; the Odd Future anthem pairs Tyler with Hodgy Beats. The duo returns on “Analog,” one of Tyler’s smoothest songs yet. Companion pieces “She” and “Her” are Tyler’s unique attempts at ballads: nakedly confessional tales of high school love and loss. “She” features crooner and break-out candidate Frank Ocean, who shines, as usual.

Tyler is the first to admit that he isn’t the best rapper. His flow is lazy and repetitive at times, and he’s obsessed with the same topics. These are largely products of his age. Behind the boards, he already has developed a trademark sound: queasy, horror movie boom bap. His greatest pressure to improve will probably come from within Odd Future: standout track “Transylvania” is the only produced by someone else: Left Brain.

Goblin is a fine sequel to Bastard. Musically, they go hand-in-hand. Lyrically, Tyler’s work is informed by the last year and a half, as he joins his fame-challenged peers. No doubt, the album is uneven. But Goblin is another testament to Odd Future as the most exciting and vital artists of their generation. Bastard announced Tyler to the world. Goblin ensures that this is just the beginning.

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