Earlier this summer, Tyler, the Creator released his newest album, Flower Boy, via his own Odd Future Records. The release comes two years after Tyler’s most recent project, Cherry Bomb, which was met with mostly positive reviews. Cherry Bomb was also very true to the Odd Future MO – childish, obnoxious, and reckless. But with Flower Boy, Tyler has taken a step in a very different direction; the album distinguishes him in a new light. It seems as if the carefree days of huddling together and rapping with your homies is in the past, but that’s not to say the future isn’t very, very bright. Flower Boy is a great album, and it dives into the more emotional parts of Tyler’s arsenal, and emphasizes his lyrical wit and artistic vision.
Fans of Tyler will recognize what persona we are getting here; it’s a truer, more mature character that has been teased through certain tracks in earlier projects. “IFHY” off of 2013’s WOLF and “Blow My Load” from Cherry Bomb could just as easily blend in amongst Flower Boy’s track list. Similar to these older tracks, the new album seems to reside within a more depressing, remorseful tone. This is manifested through the album’s subtle, unpolished beats and heartfelt lyrics. “Who Dat Boy” and “I Ain’t Got Time” are really the album’s only bonafide radio-bangers – they’re both great tracks, but definitely Flower Boy’s peak in energy.
I can’t find a way to talk about the highlights of this album without sounding lame – the fact of the matter is that all the tracks on Flower Boy are great, and every single one is unique and intriguing. It starts with “Forward” featuring wistful vocals by Rex Orange County, “And if I fall and don’t come back, whose going to know.” Another excellent vocalist Frank Ocean features on the second track, “Where this Flower Blooms”, which similarly blends an inconspicuous hook with Tyler’s charged bars. “See You Again” is mostly a dreamy, soulful alternative R&B track, Kali Uchis adding to the album’s excellent roster of vocalists. “Pothole” featuring Jaden Smith may perhaps be a low point in the album; Tyler’s verses really carry this song.
“Boredom” featuring Anna of The North and Rex Orange County once again is one of the album’s more defining songs. Flower Boy is obviously a rap album, but it almost comes off as a lo-fi indie dream pop album made by a kid in his bedroom. “911/Mr. Lonely” features Frank Ocean again, and Tyler recruits recent Kendrick Lamar collaborator Steve Lacy on guitar and backing vocals. Along with “Boredom”, this track is representative of the essence of this album. Lil Wayne then stops by for a short, jazzy interlude track – just a couple solid bars.
“November” is an anxious track with a snappy snare high-hat beat. The track is elicits feelings of remorse and sad, sad nostalgia – everyone has their November, a time when things were better, or a person that made you feel happier. The track cements the depressing tinge of the entire project. “Glitter” continues to drive this point home, and the final track, “Enjoy Right Now, Today” is a cool funky, dreamy send off featuring vocals from Pharrell.
Whether you like this album or not will heavily depend on the Tyler, the Creator you prefer. Tyler is very much in some sort of maturing process, and if you prefer the more reckless side to his music than you may be disappointed with this project. There are many great rap moments, but the album is much more focused on being a dreamy, vocal heavy project. Some of Tyler’s fans will be disappointed with the subversion of pure bars on this album, and so will demand more. But some will be happy with this new entry in Tyler’s progressive career highlighting his skill as a producer and musical auteur. It is clear that Tyler had a vision for this project; it’s a very cohesive, thematic package. It all depends when and why you signed up for the Odd Future club.
Flower Boy feels like watching the sunset on a California beach, but instead of admiring the beauty, you’re sad and dwelling on a happier past. The album is on par with the new wave of singers making a sort of unpolished brand of alternative R&B music that sometimes seems to share air with some softer, toned down indie rock artists (Note: see Mac Demarco and Kevin Morby). Rex Orange County and Frank Ocean must have been obvious choices as collaborators because both of their recent projects exist in the same realm Flower Boy is entering. It’s an interesting realm, and a trendy one at that. I like this new Tyler, and with the new album, he’s really created an interesting lo-fi indie rap world listeners can inhabit.