TUESDAY, MAY 10, 2011 |
Posted by: Joe Puglisi
Somewhere at the intersection of art and awe, Tyler The Creator births grotesque stories that exploit the taboos of society by celebrating them as punchlines (almost literally). It's tough to stomach his characters — the brash and unhinged bastard youth, the ignorant, the rapist, the violent misogynist — and even harder to separate these voices from Tyler himself (who is often accused of being all of the above). To talk about Tyler's music, lyrical content should be considered separate. The overall sound of the production and Tyler's impeccable ability to string sentences together are among the most impressive elements of his work, and don't necessarily hinge on context. Though marred by ugly stories and words, the sound of his lyrical flow is no less beautiful. And though hindered by vulgar barriers to entry, his album is no less of a success or accessible to those willing to explore the terrain.
The loose narrative of Tyler's stories have started twice now with a back-and-forth between the booming voice of his therapist, coaxing a young Tyler into telling his stories while countering his self-deprecation (see the intro to his debut, Bastard). In a way, the therapist is our Greek chorus, speaking to how society is reacting to Tyler's supposed depression and nefarious tendencies. The voices speaking to his need for therapy include his own, and occasionally the story presents a self-awareness to his ludicrous behavior, even from the beginning. "You just want attention. You'll be fine" followed by "I try too hard." Yeah, well kinda. "Bitch Suck Dick" for example.
But once "Yonkers" begins, and Tyler gets into a rhythm, it becomes clear his tongue is as smooth as it is sharp. Herein lies the true value of this guy. His timbre is unique and his flow is silky. Ignore the blowing up airplanes, murdering Bruno Mars, or dropping n-bombs like it's a world war of race and religion. Stop trying to make sense of his shock value and listen to the way two words melt together; it's impressive. Surprising as it is that kids latch on to Tyler's hate-monger swag, or his off-putting attachment to pushing the limits of what's cool and what's Law and Order bait, anyone who is "into" Tyler is at least subconsciously recognizing how talented the kid is at rapping. The beats ain't bad either, especially considering he isn't high-fiving West and Jay in the studio. No big business is paying him to smoke their cigars. That first record was the rap equivalent of free-range organic chicken, whose quality contributed to the support behind an already perceived cool. Goblin might be one step closer to major branding but at least Tyler partially addresses his displeasure with this and OFWGKTA as a whole made sure to retain creative control even with a major distribution deal now in place. If they are selling out, they aren't showing those cards.
Then there is the imagery, sparse and wrapped up in many distractions, occasionally saying something incredibly poetic in the modern sense. "Her", the closest thing the Tyler persona can construct to a love song or ballad, spends a lot of time romanticizing a girl who seems disinterested. "Her name is my passwords", a simple statement, is one of the most aptly poetic and true statements of fleeting infatuation for today's kids.
Still, it feels like Goblin, Bastard, and all of Tyler's angry, word-wielding moments are just another Nicki Minaj style act designed to entertain and excite those who aren't necessarily looking for poignancy. "Radicals" refrain, for example: "Kill people/burn shit/f*ck school". And then the mellowed and marvelous "AU79", good in its own right with no angry verses (or verses at all). So polarized it's kind of suspect, isn't it? To these ears, Odd Future are having a blast screwing with us, sprinkling in a few authentic life issues to throw listeners off the scent of the simplicity of it all. Just a couple of goofy kids having as much fun as possible with the perfect storm of hype and pro-tools.
Whatever the agenda, Tyler is hungry for recognition and unabashedly proud of his work. At the core of the violent spits and rude observations is authenticity, something auto-tuned radio bait can't fake or hope to accomplish. Looking forward to seeing that element of Odd Future's swag outgrow the child's play.