Let’s just forget for a moment that LA hip hop collective Odd Future are labeled as nihilistic, skateboarding, donut-eating hipsters. Sure, they may rap about drugs, violence, and sex, but they define modern rap music at its most lurid and enhanced. Odd Future surfaced virally around the Internet in 2009, when leader Tyler, The Creator released his unconventionally genius mixtape Bastard. Later, more and more Odd Future artists, such as Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, Earl Sweatshirt, and mainstream R&B crooner Frank Ocean, rose from the unprecedented underground into explosive stardom. Though the hip hop group keeps a low-key reputation with the media, they contain defining attributes, with their trendy clothing and local fanbase, that has determined several famous LA hip hop groups like NWA. However, the most credited member out of the entire Odd Future collective is the aforementioned Tyler, The Creator, who just released his third record, entitled Wolf.
After 2010’s eccentric Goblin, Tyler, the Creator became an iconic zeitgeist in both music and pop culture, though he’s not necessarily considered mainstream yet. Don’t let his irreverent and pervasive lyrics deceive you, Tyler has talent. Whether or not it’s a half-baked talent, Tyler attains an engaging personality that brings you into his outlandish stories about women, family, depression, and utter alienation. On Wolf, Tyler has improved on both his lyrical and musical styling. The thing about Tyler is that he’s not like any other rapper; he creates his own genre of rap music, an odd assortment of devilishly vulgar rhymes mixed with buzzy synths and old-school beats. Plus no rapper would make a hysterically ingenious album cover (make that three, although not all are hysterical).
Tyler hits a few home runs on Wolf: On the piano-driven title track opener, Tyler doesn’t let us into his world just yet, a delayed gratification that keeps the interest of listening to the rest of the album. The 2-minute song leaves us with a symphony of electronic and orchestral instruments, a few mumbled lines, and Tyler talking to himself in two different personas, much like in his previous album openers for Bastard and Goblin. On “Colossus,” Tyler describes his annoyance and his sympathy for his fans, who obsess and attempt to relate to his childhood story. He reiterates the general consensus of his fans’ messages (“Went to Six Flags, six fags came up to me and said “Ayo, can we get a pic?”) while contemplating his reaction (“Now, I’m like ‘Fuck, I don’t want to be an asshole'”). Tyler demonstrates one of the many complexities of being a celebrity and a voice for kids who aspire to be like him. He not only expresses this distress, but anxiety as well, which authentically shows his emotional side. Tyler takes a few twists and turns in Wolf, with the 7-minute, 3-parter “PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer,” which maintains a consistent tone while containing some eccentricity and idiosyncrasy. Tyler’s most lyrically inviting track is the organ-filled, Pharrell-featured ballad “IFHY.” It’s the 22-year-old rapper at his most emotionally challenged. Tyler’s infatuation over a girl embodies the love/hate dynamic of a relationship: (“I fucking hate you/But I love you/I’m keeping my emotions bubbled/You’re good at being perfect/We’re good at being troubled”). It’s usually a rare thing to see Tyler in this state, given his bold, uncaring, and brutally straightforward attitude in real life. That’s why Wolf is great with moments like these.
Occasionally, Tyler sings and raps on a few mediocre and uninspiring tracks (“Domo23,” “Parking Lot,” “Pigs,” “Trashwang,” “Tamale”) that are either intentionally obscene, lacking in spark, or describing the ruckus and sociopathic actions of his Odd Future posse. Other Wolf tunes are indifferent but worth listening to, due to their lyrical and thematic significance (“Cowboy,” “Answer,” “Awkward,” “48”). It’s surprising to see that the acclaimed Odd Future member Frank Ocean’s feature on the tedious “Slater” doesn’t seem fitting, unlike on the effervescent Goblin track “She.” However, Tyler manages to boldly blend different elements of his music, especially by adding R&B singers Coco O and Erykah Badu on the contemporary jazz jingle “Treehome95.” Although there’s little rapping, “Treehome95” is enough to be deduced as a fun addition to the intensely themed Wolf. The album closer is “Lone,” a bluesy anthem that puts Tyler again in a state of introspection and isolation.
While Tyler, the Creator’s Bastard and Goblin were much more thematically violent, Wolf encompasses an unpredictable collection of both jazz-type hip hop tunes that prevails through vivid rapping and intense storytelling. Wolf discusses Tyler’s emotional well-being, his repressed childhood, and the nightmare of fame. Even though Wolf was delayed for a year, we can still expect a lot more from Tyler, other than from his Jackass-styled Adult Swim show Loiter Squad. Though the 22-year old rapper squanders through life with his friends, fans, and the media with an antagonistic behavior, he still is able to juxtapose different sides of himself in an incredibly poetic albeit pervasive way. Maybe this is why he stands out from the Odd Future crowd, because not only is he the most famous or eccentric out of all of them, but he is the most honest and endearing, even if it involves rhyming about obscene things.
Suggested Tracks: “Wolf,” “Colossus,” “PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer,” “IFHY,” “Treehome95,” “Lone”