A lot of people hate Tyler, the Creator. The soccer moms, suburban churchgoers, and sensitive hipsters hate his attitude and his satirical sarcasm. They hate his vulgar language, his violent imagery, and the sound of his voice. They hate him the same way they hated Eminem in the early 2000s, and they will not tolerate him. One can’t help but think of the Sex Pistols.
However, even Tyler’s critics have to admit that he’s unique. His new album, Wolf, is further proof of his authenticity. I can’t remember the last time I heard a rapper with as much conviction. His deep, rolling voice always has something to say, whether he’s complaining about his hype, lashing out at his absent father, or narrating the thoughts of a serial killer. Tyler’s entire musical attitude is soaked in artistic creativity, a dark and interesting atmosphere, and often in raw intimacy. When he’s not wasting time with shock lyrics or fan-rallying catch phrases, Tyler is one of the most personally honest and intriguing voices in modern hip hop. His debut album, Bastard, was an emotional rollercoaster. Wolf represents a return to form after his somewhat inauthentic sophomore effort, Goblin.
On Wolf Tyler rehashes the accessible hooks so many people liked on Goblin, but also reincorporates the emotional intensity so many people missed from Bastard. Songs like “Jamba” and “Domo23” burst with fiery production and provocative rhymes catchy enough to bring in a wider audience. Tracks like “Cowboy,” and “Awkward” focus on avant-garde lyricism, dark beats, and conceptual character development. “Answer” is not only the most emotionally charged song on the album, but it is also one of the most powerful songs in hip-hop so far this year, fusing Tyler’s real life with his story characters and giving him an outlet to vent about paternal abandonment. Every verse drips with an impeccable honesty and emotional power, backed by a beautifully subtle drum beat and synth line.
Unfortunately, the whole album isn’t gold. Tyler shows he has yet to grow out of his somewhat stale, horror-core shock-tactics. However ironic he intends the homophobia and sexism in his lyrics to be, sometimes his characters come off sounding unimpressively plastic. There aren’t any particularly bad songs on Wolf, but many of them don’t sound too fantastic either.
Tyler’s new record has its blunders just as he has his, but overall, Wolf is a rich, artistic concept album, and represents an artist growing in maturity and nearing a possible magnum opus. Even with his faults, Tyler remains one of the most interesting MCs in modern hip-hop, and one of the most daring, as well.