Tyler, The Creator
Igor (released May 17, 2019)
Ask 10 different people their opinions on Tyler, the Creator and I’ll guarantee you’ll get 10 totally different answers.
Few artists have been as divisive as the multitalented Tyler Okonma, who in the eyes of critics always seems to straddle the line of vastly underrated and highly overrated.
But when your catalog is as eclectic as Tyler’s, that comes with the territory. He’s far from a traditional MC – singing, screenwriting, fashion, even streaming app development all pad out his resume. There’s no box that can confine his creativity and if he sees a line, best believe he’s gonna take great pride in crossing it. So it’s a safe bet that, Igor, Tyler’s sixth LP, will be yet another project that stirs controversy.
Trust me, my Twitter timeline already can’t stop arguing about it.
Before Igor’s release, Tyler dropped a lengthy statement essentially telling fans not to expect a rap album and that this project deserves to be heard from beginning to end.
Usually when artists start dropping caveats before the album hits the streets, my Spidey Sense tells me something sucky this way comes. But in this case, Tyler’s right – Igor is nothing like the albums before it, for better or worse.
“Igor’s Theme” starts out the proceedings with menacing synths before transitioning into “Earfquake,” a totally out-of-character poppy summer jam. Tyler prefers to sing here (as he does most of the album) and while nobody will confuse this guy’s flat vocals with the Rahsaan Pattersons of the world, he actually makes the most of it – thanks to help from the legendary Charlie Wilson. That energy continues on “I Think,” where the bouncy production is way more interesting than the vocal stylings.
At its core, Igor is a breakup record, plain and simple. Album standout, “A Boy is a Gun” is the best example of Tyler marrying his more familiar rap style over new soundscapes. He’s equally confused and defiant over an incredible sample of
Ponderosa Twins Plus One’s “Bound”: “You invited me to breakfast, why the f*** your ex here?/Well, let’s see if you round the god around this time next year.”
“Gone, Gone/Thank You” is ridiculously catchy while also showcasing Tyler at peace after a messy breakup. And the elegant album closer “Are We Still Friends” actually shows a lot of growth as he tries to close the chapter on a high note: “I don’t want to end the season on a bad episode.”
I have no problem with Tyler exploring the more melodic side of his artistry, but sometimes the experimentation causes stumbling blocks. On most tracks, his vocals are overloaded with unnecessary pitching and other odd effects. “New Magic Wand” and “What’s Good” are two perfectly fine songs that miss the mark when Tyler handcuffs himself with those needless vocal effects.
Guest Frank Ocean sounds more suited for the soundscapes than Tyler on “Running Out of Time” – so much so that Tyler winds up an afterthought on his own record. He redeems himself on the layered soul of “Puppet” but poor Kanye West and his random “freestyle” get swallowed whole by the production.
Tyler wasn’t wrong about Igor – except for “A Boy is a Gun” and maybe “Earfquake,” most of the songs here don’t work individually. But listen to them sequentially as a complete package (you know, like how albums used to work) and they are much stronger.
Experimentation can be a game of Russian roulette for most artists. Igor has its share of misfires but, all tracks considered, mostly hits the target.
Some of y’all will love it. Others will despise it. That’s a day in the life of Tyler.
Best tracks: “A Boy Is A Gun,” “Gone, Gone/Thank You,” “Are We Still Friends?”
3.5 stars out of 5