Review: Tyler, The Creator, Wolf

Tyler, The CreatorWolf ⎪ XL ⎪ US Release Date: April 02, 2013

Intro & Background

Underground artist Tyler, The Creator may very well be the most controversial rapper of recent times. That may be a tall assertion considering  Miami rapper Rick Ross has been drawing the ire of critics for a poorly chosen allusion to date rape (Rick Ross Tweets Apology for Date-Rape Lyric: I Don’t Condone …) and Lil Wayne’s disrespect towards Emmett Till was abominable (Lil Wayne’s ‘Karate Chop’ Remix, Emmett  Till Lyrics Among One Of …). That said, Tyler, The Creator has never been one to refrain from controversy but instead embrace it, essentially flipping the bird to critics of his brash approach.  Tyler, The Creator is renowned (or infamous) for his use of homosexual slurs, adoration of the word f–k, and sexualized rhymes.

The first encounter many had with Tyler was his second album (or first official), the indie XL distributed set, 2011s Goblin.  The unapologetic set was much rawer than other rap albums, even considering Lil Wayne at his most salacious.  Much like the Dr. T.C., a therapist character featured throughout Goblin and its follow-up Wolf, the effort is not only offensive but something of a ‘basket-case’.  That stated, the impression is that Tyler the Creator wouldn’t have it any other way.  Goblin debuted on the Billboard Charts at no. 5 with 45,000 copies sold, which are by no means shabby numbers for a relatively unknown, burgeoning underground rap artist.  Single “Yonkers” didn’t break through on the Billboard Hot 100, but still had a substantial following.

2013s Wolf is very much true to Tyler, The Creator’s script, with the first lyric being his favorite, beloved f-bomb.  That said, as overt as Wolf may be, it seems as if Tyler packages it more responsibly here.  That isn’t to say that he doesn’t ‘get it in’, but Wolf  perhaps disguises Tyler’s obscenities better for whatever reason.  Additionally, sometimes the themes are more conducive to emotional connection, if one opens themselves to get past the colorful language.  Wolf, then, is an album that can be deeply analyzed and reveal a lot beyond its facade.  Even so, parents, it still isn’t an album you’d ideally approve of for your youth…or maybe yourselves!

Analysis: Running Down the Tracks

“Wolf”, written & produced by Tyler, The Creator

“Wolf”, an interlude essentially, opens the effort fading into a lush sounding instrumental, characterized by piano, strings, and big, pummeling drums.  As cited earlier, Tyler The Creator’s first word is f–k, which he goes on to glamorize, basically flipping the bird at any who disapprove.  That said, considering a ‘wolf’ is a violent animal, maybe him taking the first blow is symbolic.  Wolf gang.

Jamba” featuring Hodgy Beats; written by Tyler, The Creator & G. Long; produced by Tyler, The Creator

Hodgy Beats

“Jamba” sounds like a typical Tyler The Creator production given the harmonic progression, which musically speaking has a jazz facet about it.  As always, Tyler isn’t short of unapologetic lyrics referencing fellatio and being faded. As always, even his clever pop cultural references go ‘south’ (“cussing out Siri like a waitress with no patience / Oh you want a tip b—h / well here’s my d–k for gratuity…”). His buddy Hodgy Beats reinforces Tyler’s boldness on the second verse, typifying Odd Future’s graphic rhymes.

“Cowboy”, written & produced by Tyler The Creator

This is the first true ‘home run’ for Tyler. The production is spare, but anchored by exceptional drum programming and very much characteristic of an underground rap track.  The hook is irresistible and guilt-free compared to much of the effort: “I am the cowboy on my own trip / and I am the cowboy on my own trip / and I am the cowboy on my own trip / and I am the cowboy.”  Tyler has other lyrical moments, going conservative on “This is life, truthfully I just want to fly some kites / Grab Salem and Slater and go around, riding bikes” (Verse 1), “Going hard as riga mo…” (reference to the stiffening of the body after death, rigor mortis), and playing on history “I’m never civil, f–k Lincoln” (Verse 3).  Tyler may still be rough around the edges, but he manages to reflect on himself.  By the way, Slater is a bike and Salem is his character’s (Sam) girlfriend.  Basket case much?  “[He’s] the cowboy on [his] own trip…”

“Awkward”, written & produced by Tyler The Creator

“Awkward” is the second of a quartet of valedictory moments for the MC.  Here, Tyler already bassy vocals are lowered (chopped and screwed style) over the lush, slower tempo.  “Awkward” basically references the awkwardness of romance, etc. (“I play in your hair / as you rub on my ears / then we awkwardly stare until our lips locked…” etc.)  Frank Ocean helps a brother out with some additional vocals.

“Domo23”, written & produced by Tyler The Creator

First single “Domo23” is as good as ever, featuring absurd, ‘real talk’ rhymes from Tyler.  The production is evil in sound, filled with the pointed lyrics that have endeared Tyler to fans or visa versa.  “And said I was a racist homophobic / so I grabbed Lucas and filmed us kissing” is self-explanatory, or could be interpreted as a simplistic, unthoughtful response to homophobic allegations. The Rodney King reference may also be illy included (“Will fall cause sh–’s going down / just like Rodney King’s swimming lessons…”) considering King was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool.  But to affirm his ludicrous, political incorrectness, he dyslexically drops the name of “Wolf Gang” on the hook: “F–k that, Golf Wang…”

“Answer”, written & produced by Tyler The Creator

On “Answer”, Tyler The Creator discusses his emotions towards his father, who wasn’t part of his life.  One of the deepest cuts by the MC, detractors will praise Tyler’s emotion if nothing else.  He also references his posse’s states (“Frank is out the closet / Hodgy’s an alcoholic / Syd might be bipolar…I couldn’t call it…”) as well as his atheism (“You’ll be f–king nervous like me inside of a church”).  On the final verse, he switches from his father’s improprieties to referencing a girl, likely character Salem.

“Slater” featuring Frank Ocean, written & produced by Tyler, The Creator

Frank Ocean guests on several cuts from Wolf.

If “Answer” was deep, “Slater” is the antithesis.  Tyler (aka Sam) details his bike, which is named Slater.  He wants his girl to ride his bike with him. Additionally, he likes to listen to N.E.R.D. Yep, it’s a trip.  Nice vocals by Frank Ocean, who (in character) basically calls his boy a “loser” at the end.

“48” featuring Frank Ocean; written & produced by Tyler, The Creator

“48” goes serious once more, detailing dealing drugs, specifically crack.  A Nas interview clip from XXL magazine sets the tone at the onset, discussing the ills of the addictive drug. The most memorable line from Tyler is in reference to ruining someone’s life via drugs: “She could have been a doctor…I’m sorry / could have been an actor and won that Oscar, said I’m sorry…”

“Colossus”, written & produced by Tyler, the Creator

On “Colossus”, Tyler’s flow is agile and the production is superb.  Hookless with no breaks, Tyler dabbles in topics of reciprocating love to his fans, referencing his father’s non-love (“My momma must have forgot to stop with a pop condom…”, and once more giving his idol Pharrell Williams some love (“We could play X-box and listen to ‘In Search Of’…”)

“Partyisntover / Campfire / Bimmer” featuring Laetitia Sadier & Frank Ocean; written by Tyler, The Creator, Laetitia Sadier & Frank Ocean; produced by Tyler, The Creator

Pharrell Williams

On Goblin, Tyler The Creator often would combine songs together as one. On this tree part cut, Tyler goes from asking his girl to “take a chance with me” (“Partyisntover”) to “we’re making s’mores (sung by kids on “Campfire”) to “You remind me of my bimmer / a lot of trunk space, the perfect two seater” (“Bimmer”).  “Bimmer” features Frank Ocean and is the most truest cut of the three to hip-hop form.

“IFHY” featuring Pharrell Williams; written & produced by Tyler, The Creator

To Tyler’s credit, he had the decency to abbreviate this cut’s overt title. The production work is solid here, as it is throughout the affair.  During the first verse, Tyler doesn’t rap, but instead takes a spoken word approach. Once he hits the hook, everything settles in: “I f–king hate you / but I love you / I’m bad at keeping my emotions bubbled / you’re good at being perfect / we’re good at being trouble…” He returns to a standard flow, and gets help from his beloved Pharrell Williams towards the end.

“Pigs”, written & produced by Tyler, The Creator

“Pigs” is one of the strongest productions of the effort, notable given the dusty drum programming, the police sound effect, and the pipe organ-like patch.  It also benefits from a catchy hook (“Grab a couple friends, start a couple riots / crash a couple / gather all the bullies, crush them mother f–…” The best line? “I’m hardly ever angry, Roger Rabbit framed me…” (Verse 3).

“Parking Lot”, featuring Mike G. & Casey Veggies; written by Tyler, The Creator, M. Griffin & C. Jones; produced by Tyler, The Creator

Domo Genesis

The production work is easygoing here, sporting a nice jazzy/urban sound.  The hook is catchy as well. Not a bad cut, but not among the elite.

“Rusty”, featuring Domo Genesis & Earl Sweatshirt; written by Tyler, The Creator, D. Cole & T. Kgonsitsile; produced by Tyler, The Creator

Domo Genesis takes the first verse while Earl Sweatshirt receives a shorter third verse.  Tyler is never outshone here, referencing Nicki Minaj (“See I don’t beez in the trap… I beez in the b’s…”), atheism/album promotion (“…But then again, I’m an atheist that just worships Satan / and it’s probably why I’m not getting no f–king album placements…”). BTW, at the end, Sam kills Wolf, who was trying to steal his girlfriend Salem (this is foreshadowed at the end of “Parking Lot”). Tastefully, the weapon of choice is a gun.   Of course.

“Trashwang” featuring Taco Bennett, L. Boy, Left Brain, Jasper, DolphinNa’kel & Lee Spielman; written by Tyler, The Creator, T. Bennett, L. Boyce, N. Smith, MiSta VuhSachee & D. Wilson; produced by Tyler, the Creator

Tyler, The Creator makes it clear “I want the black kids to like me for this one, man.” As the title suggests, this is one wild ride. Additionally, it is one of the best cuts of the effort, bringing in Tyler’s Odd Future buddies.  Na’kel kicks the rapped verses off (“Sawed-off

Erykah Badu

I eat those / these clothes they free though / straight from the back of the Supreme store…). Tyler’s first verse receives lush, optimistic production work, sort of an oxymoron given Tyler’s brashness.  Jasper goes on rap about “55 grams in that blunt…just cop that …bimmer…” Tyler raps once more (Verse 4), followed by turns from Taco, Lucas, and L-Boy.

“Treehome95”, featuring Coco O. & Erykah Badu;  written by Tyler, The Creator & Erykah Badu; produced by Tyler, the Creator

After the bold “Trashwang”, who would’ve thought Tyler would have went urban-jazz? While this is enjoyable, it is also a bit random and all-over-the-place.  On the other hand, it is a break from countless sex and drug references, as well as f-bombs.

Tamale”, written & produced by Tyler, The Creator

The percussive groove is infectious.  The lyrical references to his nether region (yes he really says urethra in a song) and sex are… yeah… this is brash, controversial, unapologetically Tyler.

“Lone”, written & produced by Tyler, The Creator

Tyler’s therapist reappears, as the MC makes references to his personal life (the death of his grandmother, his mother no longer having to struggle, etc.).  It is an appropriate closing cut, which is strengthened by jazzy production work.

Tyler…being Tyler.

Thoughts: Final Evaluation

Overall, Wolf is a great album, contextually speaking.  Knowing what to expect with a Tyler, The Creator album is extremely important in making an evaluative judgement, in addition to how one feels about his content and approach.  If you have never heard Tyler, The Creator and are easily offended or disturbed, then Wolf would probably never impress you and will likely enrage you or make you easily write it off.  It’s a personal preference of how graphic/ how much shock value you can take from a particular album or a particular MC. Wolf easily does its job as being a divisive work, which certainly makes it ‘art’.  For the listener, the inquiry becomes, do you prefer you art more flowing with beautiful nuances and brushstrokes, or do you prefer it edgier and more angular? Wolf is edgier than many efforts, by all means.

If appropriateness is the evaluative scale for Wolf, Tyler is in big trouble.

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰

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