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’. On ‘Flower Boy’, though, Tyler has perfected his marriage of the two.
While much of the press on the run up to the album’s release has revolved around lyrics about Tyler’s sexuality — ‘I Ain’t Got Time!’s “I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004” had the Internet going nuts — clickbait journalism feels irrelevant once your ears are basking in ‘Flower Boy’s lush compositions.
Tyler continues to grow in his role as a producer. ‘Flower Boy’ boasts a delicately curated line-up of artists who Tyler welcomes masterfully into his world. Frequent collaborators and newcomers come together perfectly to realise his vision; Frank Ocean, Lil Waune, A$AP Rocky, Jaden Smith, Rex Orange Country and Kali Uchis.
Lyrically, this feels like Tyler’s most accomplished album yet. There’s a treatise on police brutality right from the off on ‘Foreword’, and throughout he makes reference to his own mental health with more introspection, and crucially less angst, than ever before.
Fans will no doubt already be heatedly discussing where ‘Flower Boy’ fits into the overall narrative of Tyler’s layered output. The album ends with the sound of a car engine being cut, a door being shut, and footsteps… which is sure to fuel the debate. In many ways though, ‘Flower Boy’ would be a fitting end to the story: Tyler has exorcised the demons that dominated ‘Bastard’ and ‘Goblin’, and found real sense of balance, perspective, and cohesion. As strong a final act as ‘Flower Boy’ would be, here’s hoping it isn’t.
Words: Lewis Lister
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