Tyler, the Creator
Scum F*ck Flower Boy (to be released July 21, 2017)
In an era where writers and readers can’t wait to sink their teeth into the next hot think piece, Tyler, the Creator’s new album looked like a giant hunk of red meat.
Word around these here Internets is that Scum F*ck Flower Boy would serve as Tyler’s coming out party – literally. But before you bloggers start writing your 9,000 word manifestos, remember one thing – the only sure thing about Tyler, the Creator is that nothing’s for sure.
As the head of the Odd Future collective, Tyler has been one of hip-hop’s most controversial figures in recent years. Misogynist. Homophobe. Sadist. Satanist. Tyler’s antics have garnered him a dozen negative labels but he often seems to revel in the negativity, or at least take it in stride. He’s hip-hop’s Loki, a trickster with a clear method behind his madness. Look no further than his 2012 album Wolf, a release that proves the label he deserves first and foremost is MC.
But Tyler breeds controversy, and if you go into Scum F*ck Flower Boy hoping it provides insight into his sexuality, you’ll leave with more questions than answers. Knowing Tyler, that’s by design. But when it comes to the actual musical content – bet y’all forgot about that part – Tyler’s creativity is the album’s biggest story.
“Tell these black kids they can be who they are/Dye your hair blue, s***, I’ll do it too,” Tyler proclaims on “Where This Flower Blooms,” championing the individuality that has been the foundation of his career. Tyler wrestles with the confusion that comes with being in love on “See You Again,” showing a softer side to his often anarchic personality: “I’m sick of, sick of, sick of, sick of chasing/You’re the one that’s always running through my daydream, I/I can only see your face when I close my eyes.”
And yes, there are plenty of allusions to Tyler’s sexuality, specifically on “Garden Shed” and “I Ain’t Got Time!” two of the album’s standout tracks. The former pairs Tyler with Estelle for a surprisingly tender track where the “garden shed for the garcons” seems to be a metaphor for stepping out of the closet: “Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase/Thought it’d be like the Frank; poof, gone/But, it’s still goin’ on.” The latter track will make headlines for this couplet alone: “Next line will have ’em like “Woah”/I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004” but besides that obvious bit of clickbait (that first line gives away Tyler’s intentions to trend on Twitter) the track itself is very strong lyrically, highlighting his business deals and industry struggles with a dash of rap braggadocio just to keep things fun. He’s a truly an underrated lyricist.
Outside of those standouts, Scum F*ck Flower Boy loses its cohesion, getting lost in itself at times. “Droppin Seeds” is essentially a Lil Wayne interlude, filled with his usual weird sex metaphors (“I drop a seed in her panties if it smells like pansies” – put down the lean, Wayne). Tyler’s insecurities are highlighted on “November,” even second guessing himself for releasing “track seven” (aka, “Garden Shed”) but due to odd construction, the song becomes one long rambling rant. “Glitter” faces structure issues too and feels really lightweight and unfinished.
Current single “Who Dat Boy” is the typical boastful rap track which, while mildly entertaining, sounds out of place on the album. The song’s funky outro is much more entertaining, setting the stage for “911/Mr. Lonely.” Although “911” peters out into a weak ripoff of The Gap Band’s “Outstanding,” “Mr. Lonely” turns things around a bit with a key point of introspection: “They say the loudest in the room is weak/That’s what they assume, but I disagree/I say the loudest in the room/Is prolly the loneliest one in the room (that’s me).”
Tyler just summed up his career in four bars.
Scum F*ck Flower Boy often feels like a teenager’s journal – you get a lot of insight into the writer’s soul but it’s often jumbled among murkier rants. It’s like Tyler felt ready to make a proclamation with Flower Boy but spent a little too much time beating around the bush.
But the most important thing is that Tyler got you to listen. The trickster wins again.
Best tracks: “I Ain’t Got Time!,” “See You Again,” “Garden Shed”
3.5 stars out of 5