Listening to Tyler, the Creator provokes the same reaction as watching a war zone on the news, a mixture of disgust, concern and confusion. Like a child watching a horror movie in the dark through their fingers, at times you’re scared as hell but you just can’t turn it off because it eats away at a sense of disturbing curiosity buried in the subconscious. The controversial rapper, began his career as co-founder of hip-hop collective Odd Future and went on to become the host of the MTV pranking show Punk’d, a fact which he refers to on ‘Rusty’ saying “MTV can suck my dick. I just ran that shit for fuckin’ ratings”. Yes, the boy has issues, and with this album he seems to be craving help and resisting it simultaneously.
Tyler, however, is clearly proud of his creative growth since releasing his previous projects, Bastard and Goblin, saying recently, “Talking about rape and cutting bodies up, it just doesn’t interest me anymore … What interests me is making weird hippie music for people to get high to”. Thematically, the topics are more introspective and slightly less about shock value. On ‘Answer’, a track inspired by his estrangement from his father, there is a tangible sense of loss and yearning. “Dad isn’t your name, fag would be more fitting” he spits with childish disappointment while the chorus is a lament begging for his father’s attention. If you search hard enough, there are moments of twisted sensitivity within the lyrics. ‘Awkward’ features a lazy soulful groove, even with the distorted vocal there is no disguising that this is, in truth, a love song. The album’s lead single, ‘Domo 23’ is centred around a booming bass line and a groove that is just as filthy as the track’s lyrics. His reference to “hippie music” may stem from the influence of jazz and neo-soul on the album. The twinkling keys and warm vocals of ‘Treehome95’ featuring Erykah Badu is less obscure than expected, creating a rare moment of commercial accessibility.
“Music had nothing to do with my final decision, I just wanted someone to pay me attention”, Tyler proclaims on ‘Pigs’. Sometimes playing the subversive Odd Future hooligan and others little boy lost but always an equal opportunity offender. This is the music that nightmares are made of. Don’t go in alone.