This album is one of the greatest albums of 2017. It also is one of the greatest albums of all time. Give it a few years and everyone will recognize its greatness. A wise man once said “Your new shit will never be as good as your old shit, until your new shit is your old shit.” Rapper Tyler, The Creator has formulated something beautiful and timeless with this project. However, we have seen glimpses of this more R&B focused sound on previous albums such as Wolf and Cherry Bomb. But, now he has evolved this sound into a full album – and perfected it. From the beautiful instrument arrangements to the practically seamless track transitions to the guest vocal features the album is truly a masterpiece. The journey Tyler’s lyrics takes us on is one of motivation, confidence, loneliness, acceptance and realization. (And, of our course as we Tyler fans have grown accustomed to – McLarens). One might not even be able to classify this as a rap album or even “experimental rap” as his last release “Cherry Bomb” has been called. What would I describe it as? Simple: Beautiful music. Let’s get into it!
Foreword – As soon as we press play, Tyler poses an onslaught of questions for us and yet answers none of them. The questions flow into one another as he wonders about the state of his life at this point. These questions culminate with powerful vocals from Rex Orange County who asks even more questions but his have a long term effect. The production on here is classic Tyler with a smooth synth line and a more eerie one towards the song’s outro. (the transition between these two is wonderful). The drum pattern here is simplistic yet fitting. This track is a strong start and sets the tone for the rest of the project. Standout Bars: “How many raps can I write ’till I get me a chain?/ How many chains can I wear ’til I’m considered a slave?/ How many slaves can it be ’til Nat Turner arise? / How many riots can it be ’til them Black lives matter?
Where This Flower Blooms – This track is the most uplifting and motivational one on the project. Tyler discusses a very common topic amongst the world of rap: “I used to be that, but now I am this”. However, he does this in a barely boastful fashion as he does it without sounding ignorant like the majority of the rap game. Frank Ocean brings the guest vocals here (and brings that high pitched chipmunk voice thing he’s been using too) and ad libs for the unforgettable uplifting bridge. The production here consists of strings, keys, a saxophone and of course a synth. The drums here are reminiscent of the strong and imperial-like ones from “Amazing” by Kanye West or “Contact” by Logic. There’s also a gorgeous piano outro that sounds like what flowers blooming would sound like. Standout Bar: “Tell these black kids they can be who they are/ Dye your hair blue, shit, I’ll do it too”
Sometimes… – A brief little radio sketch that features some almost unrecognizable yet still pleasant singing from Tyler. We also hear some piano keys and backing vocals. This brief 36 seconds serves as a perfect segue to the next track and is actually Tyler’s favorite song on the album. The caller in the sketch requests to hear the song “about him”…
See You Again – This one right here is a love song. Simple as that. And, it’s another one of Tyler’s favorites. He discusses a lover he literally only sees when he is asleep – the person of his dreams. Is this person even real? Who knows? This time Kali Uchis provides the guest vocals bringing an angelic vibe to the song as she sings of making the love between Tyler and the anonymous lover last forever. Some soft and gentle keys and strings sprinkle the production here with a drum pattern that is arranged around what sounds like handclaps. In Tyler’s second verse, this picks up a little with a few additional instruments making brief but, impactful appearances. There’s also a horn on the outro that raises the gentle vibe just a tad that still manages to not take away from the softness of the song. Standout Bar: “Sugar honey iced tea, bumblebee on the scene/ Yeah I’d give up my bakery to have a piece of your pie”
Who Dat Boy – We now come to the first “actual rap song” on the album and Tyler steps into full on braggadocios confidence here. The energy here is high, the sound is aggressive and the bars are to the point. I guess you could call this one a banger. A$AP Rocky brings his smooth braggadocios flavor to the track and even does a little 90’s esque back and forth spitting with Tyler on his second verse. This track’s tone and mood has a striking contrast to the rest of the album and some might even go as far as saying it’s out of place. Perhaps this is why it was the first single – so people wouldn’t be too shocked when hearing the full project for the first time. The production here sounds like something out of a horror movie with fast high pitched strings and some keys that give off 80’s horror movie vibes. The intro builds tension and once the drums drop – the bass just envelops you. However the drums are not that of a typical “banger” as in there are no rolling snares and crashing hi-hats. Just a simple clap and a two count snare. Standout Bar: “The boy drips swag like a broken faucet/ It’s runnin’, nigga, I’m runnin’ shit/ That cherry be the bomb like he ran in Boston/ Won’t stop ’til the cops surround him”
Pothole – The energy from the previous track left as quickly as it came and we are now back to the smooth R&B like sound and complex songwriting. In this track, Tyler uses drving to illustrate going through life and potholes to represent life’s obstacles. He also discusses his interactions with others and the conflicts that causes him. Jaden Smith does the hook on this one and keeps the driving metaphor going. Production here is smooth as ever with a subtle bassline and funky synths. There’s also some horns that come on briefly but strongly. Standout Bars: “Everyone is a sheep, me, a lone wolf/ Nobody gon’ make a peep ’cause everyone wants some wool /Since everyone is a sheep, not everyone here is cool/ Man I’d rather drown in a pool by myself than fuck with their fleece”
Garden Shed – This track is one of the most simple on the project yet probably the most impactful. Here, Tyler discusses how he feels the need to guard/hide his feelings. This is reflected plainly in the title but it goes a little deeper. When saying “Garden Shed” quickly and repeating it (which Tyler does on the song) it sounds like you’re saying “guarding shit”. Interesting right? The mood of this song is heavy and yet solemn. This comes from the the strong guitar riff and slow paced drum pattern. Estelle provides some beautiful harmonies as well that keep the impact going as they fit perfectly with the feeling the song provides. At the midpoint of the song, the guitar distorts before we hear Tyler’s verse which could signify the feelings he was hiding have boiled over and can’t be controlled anymore. Also, at the very beginning of this track we hear the audio being quickly reversed – much like the closing moments of the track DUCKWORTH. by Kendrick Lamar. Could this signify that Tyler has gone back to before all the other things he has mentioned so far on the album and is telling us the one he discusses here is actually the root of them all? Standout Bars: “ Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase/ Thought it’d be like the phrase:”poof” gone/ But, it’s still going’ on
Boredom – This track is the one that’s most special to me as it is literally the reason I am writing this review. Upon first hearing the song, I was completely enveloped in the repetition of the hook sung by Rex Orange County which we also on the album’s first track. He sings (along with Anna of the North): “Find some time, find some time to do something” This hit me like a truck. I was lounging around, doing nothing just like Tyler discusses in the song. And, I decided I could actually do something – I needed to do something. So, I began my process of actually putting my plan of becoming a writer into action. And here we are at the first step of many – writing for this site! Now, back to the music. I must admit I can only identify two instruments for sure in this track are the strings (which are beautiful) and the drums. The former changes up a little towards the end and to introduce the intro which features the repetition of, yep you guessed it: the hook. The drums in the first part are reminiscent of the ones from Saint Pablo by Kanye West. They sound somewhat 90’s esque but slightly faster and a tad more complex. Standout Bars: “Boy, my bedroom floor is cereal burial, I’m serious/ I ate ‘em all, dry boxes, bodies, yeah I caught ‘em/ If we’re talking’ bout real meals ask my stomach, he ain’t saw ‘em”
I Ain’t Got Time! – In the first few seconds of this track we hear the radio DJ from earlier in the album say “God, I love this sample” and this small sentence builds a little tension as we hear it playing in the background. And then, the drums came in and the energy shoots way up from Boredom. Tyler comes with a high tempo hook and clever bars that bounce all over the sporadic drums before going into a bass heavy breakdown but, the bars just don’t stop. He raps about not being interested in people who only care about his money and maintaining his true to heart image even with all his money. Also, this is one of the few tracks with no features (unless you count Shane Powers – the radio DJ) on the album. However, we recently learned that Tyler wanted both Kanye West and Nicki Minaj on this track – and they both declined. A foolish mistake in my opinion as we all now Nicki would have killed it. (Remember how Kanye almost took her verse off “Monster” because he knew it was far better than his?) Standout Bars: “Walk weird ‘cause my pockets look like thick Yoda/ With a Skywalker, ridin ‘round solar/Anakin skin Sprite, and my tint cola”
911/Mr. Lonely – While not as popular as most of these “challenges” we see on social media, you may have still stumbled across the #911MrLonelyChallenge at some point. Emulating the brief but creative music video for this track is the point of the challenge and the original can be found at the end of the “Who Dat Boy” video which you can watch here. This shifts back to the smooth R&B sound from the majority of the album but, still has some uumph to it. It’s danceable yet still smooth as ever. It also has a creative yet simple hook so it’s easy to sing along with. This track is technically two songs but are connected by the common theme of loneliness and wanting to connect with others. Steve Lacy (from The Internet and a solo artist in his own right) sings the bridge here and his smooth airy vocals fit the tone of the song perfectly. Anna of the North also appears again and provides background vocals that continue the theme of phones. We also get some vocals from Frank Ocean to slide us into the second part of the track. The “Mr.Lonely” section of the track is more rap focused as the beat completely changes and picks up with faster drums and nice synth line. Standout Bars: “ Purchase some things until I’m annoyed/ These items is fillin’ the void/ Been fillin it for so long/ I don’t even know if it’s shit I enjoy”
Droppin’ Seeds – Here we have a short one minute track which has one of the Legends of rap himself on it – Lil Wayne. He spits some clever bars that keeps the theme of flower seeds throughout it but, doesn’t say anything too mind blowing. Tyler comes in for about the last 17 seconds and drops an impromptu hook that keeps the theme of “seeds” going. This is the weakest song on the album but, the instrumental because it reminds me of something you might hear on John Coltrane’s album A Love Supreme. Standout Bars: N/A
November – Depending on who you follow on social media, you may have seen the question “What’s your November?” on your TLs. This question is a reference to this song in which “November” refers to a happy time in one’s life. At the song’s intro we hear some brief vocals from Kilo Kish who sets the tone with her light yet emotional voice. Tyler reflects on his insecurities and asks a series of questions in a similar fashion to the way he did in “Foreword” in his first verse and states that to escape it, he wants to go back to November. At the end of it, we hear various people state what their Novembers are. We all have a November in our lives whether it be in our past,present or even future. This track has a smooth sunny day drive to it with some fast drums and a gentle key and synth arrangement. However, in the song’s outro these drop out for a breakdown in which Tyler states he is going to play a song for his lover on their voicemail – which is the very next track. Standout Bars: “What if my accountant ain’t payin’ my taxes?/ Fillin’ his pockets and IRS show up asking me questions/ I couldn’t answer ’cause I was too busy tryna make classics”
Glitter – Here we are at the penultimate track and it’s a love song but this one is so much more emotional. We get some pleasant vocals from Tyler at the track’s intro and some gentle keys and drums on production this time around. We get a small switch up on the second half of the track where the chords from the keys are now played on guitar. Tyler’s vocals are also pitched way down for his brief second verse which longtime listeners will recognize from his Dr. T.C. segments from his earlier projects. Tyler states how he doesn’t care what others have to say about the relationship because he wants the person. As you listen, you cannot help but root for Tyler. After hearing him spill out his emotions in every track before this one, you’d’ think he’d finally find happiness right? Wrong. Remember this song was a voicemail message right? And he does get a response to it after all but, it’s the worst possible one: “We didn’t get your message either because you were not speaking or because of a bad connection” Standout Bars: “Your pale skin see-through, must be a window/ ‘Cause you ain’t an L, could be a DJ/ ‘Cause when I see you my heart beat changes tempo.”
Enjoy Right Now, Today – Tyler closes the album with a mellow, pleasant and even somewhat solemn yet happy instrumental track. It features some vocalization from Pharrell but, it only enhances all these feelings. This track gives the listener time to reflect on everything Tyler has said on the album and maybe even their own lives. There are multiple instruments on this track and they all drop in and out perfectly. In the last few seconds of the track we hear a car door opening and someone walking out as if to say all these thoughts happened on a long car ride and it’s now time to go back to reality…
Flower Boy is available now on all digital platforms and most places where CDs are sold.