Is Tyler The Creator’s ‘Cherry Bomb’ Indeed a Bomb?  


Tyler the Creator, Cherry Bomb © Odd Future

Tyler, the Creator is known for his unapologetic underground rap with jazz-infused hip-hop production backing him. To say the least, Tyler is a controversial figure, as many rappers are. His brash, unapologetic style is arguably among the rawest in the game, particularly on his sophomore album, Goblin. Still, despite skeptics and a poorly conceived Mountain Dew commercial, Tyler the Creator has a supportive fan base.

That fan base showed up for Cherry Bomb it’s first week, although the 51,000 copies the album moved was down considerably from Tyler’s previous album, Wolf. Wolf had entered the Billboard 200 Albums Chart selling 89,000 copies – well enough for a #3 debut. That’s 38,000 copies worth of erosion! To Cherry Bomb’s credit, it outperformed the underground rapper’s Goblin, which debuted at #5 selling 45,000 copies. Still, after building some momentum with Wolf, you would’ve thought numbers would’ve been closer, even if sales dwindled some.

While many artists would love to have 51,000 copies sold their first week (ask Ciara), in the case of Tyler, the Creator, it sort of seems like an omen. After spending only one week in the top 10, Cherry Bomb plummeted to #41 in its second week. A drop like that is not normal, but similarly matches a drop from another underground rapper, Joey Bada$$ whose B4.Da.$$ slipped from #5 to #41. Perhaps it’s just an underground rap thing, but still, it seemed as if Tyler had constructed a bigger fan base.

Tyler the Creator’s plunge wouldn’t end at #41. The following week, week three, Cherry Bomb slipped to #62, another significant fall (21 spots). In it’s fourth and current week, Tyler the Creator dropped it’s greatest from #62 to #139, a 77-spot loss. For an album of any kind only four weeks in, as the late great B.B. King would sing, “The thrill is gone.” So why has the impact and sales of Cherry Bomb been so lackadaisical?

There could be any number of factors. One factor is the surprise release of Cherry Bomb, which doesn’t allow for much promotion beyond the product being delivered. This ‘surprise’ approach works best for an artist like Beyoncé or a long-lost artist like D’Angelo, but arguably, Tyler the Creator might’ve benefited more by good, old-fashioned promotion. If you look at an example of the ‘mysterious’ album dropping where promotion also could’ve driven stronger sales, Kanye West’s Yeezus comes to mind. Yes, Tyler the Creator had a single in “Fucking Young,” but it did little with little time to put Cherry Bomb over the top.

Another factor in the decline of Cherry Bomb could be the controversy surrounding the Mountain Dew commercial. Sure, hardcore Tyler the Creator fans will be able to brush the dirt of their shoulders and like Tyler just say “fuck you” to Mountain Dew, but does everybody embrace that same spirit? Even as a personal fan of the MC, the Mountain Dew commercial was both questionable on the part of Mountain Dew and the rapper himself. That said, Mountain Dew also should’ve considered the artist they were working with as Tyler the Creator is not, um, “family friendly” in the least.

Finally, maybe people are just tired or turned off by Tyler the Creator’s overwrought, explicitness. We live in explicit times, hence why recently Bill O’Reilly once more blames hip-hop for the changing world (Christianity has declined, according to Pew Research), but believe it or not, sometimes you can be so explicit and brutally honest it turns folks off too. Also, don’t listeners evolve? Yeah, college dudes may love their music laden with f-bombs for a spell but after a while, might their rebelliousness take a step back as they mature? The same might be said of Tyler, the Creator. Maybe his explicitness and the appeal of it has worn off, particularly four albums in.

To Tyler’s credit – save for “Blow My Load” – much of Cherry Bomb does find a more mature MC. He’s not there yet mind you, but there’s definitely a gentler side in there somewhere. But this isn’t about the quality of the album so much as its impact. Maybe Tyler needs to change perceptions of him or maybe he needs to “sell out” and produce a gargantuan single that still keeps him ‘underground’ but also adds to his wad of money. Those are all considerations for the MC, but for now, it would seem Cherry Bomb IS indeed a BOMB.

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