Tyler, The Creator has come a long way from his days on Tumblr. The foul-mouthed Odd Future leader has become the poster child for teenage angst and rebellion. He’s been dissected by music critics, denounced GLADD and frustrated the industry. But it’s not just the antics. Tyler’s one-man show of rapping, producing and directing (under various alias) has been the true source of what’s scored him a sketch comedy show, a partnership with Mountain Dew and Best New Artist at the 2011 VMAs. With Wolf, Tyler returns to the realm where he began, music.
Much like 2011’s Goblin, Wolf is an album rife with personal confessions and controversial commentary. Tyler digs a little deeper though this time around, working through insecurities about fame, relationships with women and a fatherless childhood. He’s very much still working through these things, (hurling around F-bombs of the three letter four-letter variety) but he does show growth in his lyricism with a much stronger sense of self.
Throughout, Tyler walks the line between someone who’s maturing and a provocateur still going for cheap gasps. “Slater/Escapism” is an intelligent stream of consciousness affair that personifies a bicycle, in an attempt to work out feelings towards women. But “Pigs”, where Tyler raps from the perspective of a bullied-mass shooter is borderline bad taste, as is “Tamale” a frenzied talk about demanding oral sex, which is only entertaining if you think you’re in on the joke.
Tyler’s at his best alongside his pals and the presence of Odd Future and others (Erykah Badu, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier) actually helps bring out Tyler’s appeal. More often than not, Tyler takes the burden off his shoulders and allows them to carry the track, most notably on “TreeHome95” where Badu’s neo-soul vocals steal the show.
Tyler’s mentioned in various interviews that Wolf is a display of his sprawling production more than his lyrical ability, and there’s no denying the beats here; they’re gorgeous, with jazz chords, seamless beat changes and a juxtaposition of dark and colorful elements. “48”, a Nas-introduced narrative about drug abuse is brought to life through funky guitars, deep bass lines and gentle keys. “IFHY”, a Neptunes homage, balances Tyler and Skateboard P’s contrasting style.
Wolf meets it’s own high expectations by creating an absorbing journey of Tyler’s imagination. Everything from being his own therapist to poking fun at newfound fame is documented in captivating fashion, however juvenile it may be at times. There’s still growing up to do, and maybe time will tame the fascinating artist we see on this album. Until then, there’s no escaping his meteoric rise. And the diehard Odd Future fans will love every minute of it.—Eric Diep (@E_Diep)