Tyler, The Creator’s fourth studio album, “Flower Boy”, comes at a time where the Tyler-lead rap collective Odd Future has essentially disbanded, with the album being the first of Tyler’s not to be released through Odd Future Records. Odd Future was at one stage the Internet’s most controversial rap group, with many songs featuring very grotesque and controversial topics, some of which being so controversial that I probably won’t be able to talk about them in this review.
It was at least clear back in 2013 that Tyler didn’t mind being fast and loose with his wordplay and public persona: the music journalism media was feeding into this controversy for revenue, and the revenue was leading to profit amongst Odd Future’s members as well. However, with the departure of Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt, the rap group has lost a significant amount of relevancy over the past five years.
Nevertheless, “Flower Boy” begins with ‘Foreword’, an opener which has Tyler reflecting on his position within the post-Odd-Future music scene, as well as his own mental state (which was a topic often discussed in his early discography). ‘Where This Flower Blooms’, the following track, has Tyler once again reflecting on his upbringing, rise to fame, and how his fame has affected his friendships, complete with references to Frank Ocean (who features on the track). After an interlude track comes the incredibly wholesome track ‘See You Again’, featuring a beautiful instrumental and a perfect feature from Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis.
‘See You Again’, along with many other tracks on “Flower Boy”, serve as some kind of admission on Tyler’s part to his sexuality, with ‘See You Again’ seeming to be a tribute to his boyfriend. I don’t want to jump onto this bandwagon, but discussion of Tyler coming out of the closet as gay is a central theme of “Flower Boy”. I have seen many discussions of fans of Tyler’s jump to the conclusion that, for some reason, Tyler is joking about his sexuality. In my opinion, this is a faulty position to take, especially considering that personal identity is so critically important. We need to take this at face value.
‘Who Dat Boy’ is an absolute banger. While very NSFW, this song does serve as the one callback to his earlier releases of “Bastard” and “Goblin”. However, there are references to his sexuality on this track as well: ‘F*** global warming, my neck is so flio / Still currently looking for ‘95 Leo’. The following track ‘Potholes’ has a surprisingly good feature from professional weirdo Jaden Smith, which is then followed by the incredibly introspective ‘Garden Shed’.
The aforementioned track is about Tyler coming out of the closet, and with the idea of some things better being left personal: ‘[Garden Shed] That is where I was hiding / That is what love I was in / Ain’t no reason to pretend’. The song also features my favourite production from any Tyler, The Creator song: the droney guitars, the organs, and Estelle’s feature make an absolutely gorgeous track. This is the most introspective we have ever heard Tyler.
Other highlights include ‘Boredom’, ‘911/Mr Lonely’, ‘Dropping Seeds’, ‘November’, and ‘Glitter’. This album is easily Tyler’s best produced album yet. The consistency of each song is very impressive, considering his relatively young age and position in the music industry.
There have not been many curve-balls quite like the previously edgy Tyler, The Creator creating one of the most introspective and personal hip-hop albums of the past few years. While musical achievement is important, I am very happy to say that Tyler has come to terms with who he really is, and I am more than excited to see where his off-the-wall personality and production skills take him in the music scene and beyond.