What happens when you’re an underground phenomenon that becomes notorious to the point that you’re mainstream famous? That’s the quandary that Tyler finds himself in on his sophomore album, Wolf. Hero of youth underculture, loathed and feared by older generations and sitting on a bit of cheddar, Tyler finds himself trying to maintain his edginess. The result is an album that is not as cohesive as his debut but still startlingly aggressive at points.
Tyler’s skill level has improved as both his rhyme schemes and flows have improved dramatically. Musically, Wolf continues the sample free Odd Future compressed rage but lacks the sonic continuity of its predecessor. The bpms don’t vary much, which could bring listener fatigue if you aren’t a fan. The production is handled exclusively
Contentwise, Wolf expands on previously addressed themes of fatherly abandonment, the awkwardness of adolescent crushes, the mindset of the bullied outsider and the general A Clockwork Orange-comparable youth nihilism prevalent on Goblin. 48 features Tyler addressing the drug trade through the eyes of a dealer. His narrative prowess is in full effect and it’s not a song to be slept on. He deals with the complexity of the relationship between an absentee father and a son on Answer. The bitterness of abandonment is still there, as is the naive hope that he matters to a man who was never there.
Domo23 breaks up the early bpm monotony with high-powered energy and the trademark Odd Future belligerent ignorance while Slater Escapism finds him astounded by where his “hobby” has taken him. Frank Ocean features on the bridge expressing a longing for simpler times.
The most powerful songs on the album feature Tyler connecting with his storytelling skills and the angst of youth. Colossus/Bridge of Love is a realer, less fantastic version of Eminem’s Stan, putting the mindset of rabid fandom squarely on Front Street.
Heavy hitters like Pharrell and Erykah Badu stop by to lend star power to the underdog on IFHY and Treehome95, respectively. The former meanders through a forest of whimsical synth, abrupt, jarring crashes and atmospherics that slowly bubble to a crooning Pharrell crescendo. The latter is a jazzy composition that stands out as much more polished and clean than the bulk of the Tyler-produced music on this album. It is not as effective in conveying that Odd Future spirit, but it is definitive range and growth as Tyler sings along but doesn’t rap on the track.
Pigs finds Tyler at his absolute best, cast as a tortured youth chafing beneath the thumbs of bullies, his abusive step father, flippant classmates and reference to the infamous Trenchcoat Mafia. THIS is why Tyler the Creator is relevant and bone-chillingly efficient: his ability to relay the mind state of ticking time bomb children.
We took their heads but we just took back what they took from us… I guess we lost ours.” Music had nothing to do with my final decision, I just really wanted somebody to come pay me attention. Nobody would listen…but stuffed animals that I had since I was a kid but I’m growing up so they’re missing… I didn’t mean to hurt anybody I’m sorry, I wouldn’t hurt a fly, I considered joining the army. I’m forever angry, Roger Rabbit framed me. Momma I’m the same kid that you made, see? I don’t want to go to jail, I just want to go home and I want those fucking kids at school to just leave me alone
Also startling is the closing note of the deluxe version Lone/Jornada, which serves as the summation of Wolf, melding all of his tragedy, fame, new money and loneliness atop layered mature production. Tyler is crisp, efficient and a formidable storyteller who leaves you wanting more with his closing note.
In all, Wolf is eventually weakened by its length and and its lack of variance with regards to production. Conversely that’s part of its charm. It lacks Goblin’s unity of purpose but is superior lyrically. Tyler the Creator is a legitimate rapper struggling with his message and the trappings of success that eventually mute any tale of woe. It’s entertaining if you aren’t appalled by its mania and you can follow his multiple personality disorder on wax. There are shots at his detractors (hello Tegan & Sarah) “saying I hate guys but Frank is on like 10 of my songs”, admissions that touring and banging Euro models flies in the face of youthful angst and is at all times self-aware. Very solid.
Out of 5
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