Frontman and co-founder of the Los Angeles based hip-hop group Odd Future, Tyler Okonma, better known by his stage name Tyler, The Creator, is well known for his controversial lyrics and public persona. Okonma first gained popularity with the dark and depressing subjects he rapped about on his 2009 debut mixtape “Bastard” and his first studio album “Goblin” released in 2011. Since these two records launched him into popularity, Okonma has released three more studio albums, the latest of which, “Flower Boy,” was released on July 21.
While Okonma has previously been praised for his unique personality, lack of a filter and for producing all of his instrumentals himself, he has also received some criticism for unrefined songwriting, inconsistent production and his shift in focus from the darker content of his earlier releases to superficial topics like jewelry and cars on his more recent records. “Flower Boy” is a milestone in Okonma’s career that not only fixes all of the problems seen on his previous records, but also shows his audience a more mature and introspective side of himself.
The record as a whole features soulful, syrupy instrumentation that is a far cry from the abrasive and obnoxious tones that permeated Okonma’s earlier releases. A perfect example of this is “Boredom” featuring supporting vocals from Rex Orange County, Corrinne Bailey Rae and Anna of the North. The instrumental places heavy emphasis on dreamy surf guitars, vibrant summer synths and mellow drum riffs that accentuate Okonma’s verses about a boring and lonely summertime. This track specifically is one of the strongest indicators of the record’s theme overall with Okonma musing not only on the point of life and the time he has left with it, but also his desire to find someone to spend that time with.
This is further exemplified on “911/Mr. Lonely,” a two part track that tugs at the heartstrings. The first part of the cut features similar vibes to “Boredom” with funky jazz organ chords and airy synth riffs. This mellow and relaxing instrumental is juxtaposed with the hollow and almost desperate lyrics of Okonma giving out his number as 911 and urging people to call him and save him from his loneliness. This transitions into the latter half of the cut that replaces the bright and cheerful tone from with a buzzing and distorted bassline that Tyler frantically raps over with lyrics detailing his fear that the comfortable life he is leading will somehow go wrong if he can’t find someone to share it with.
“Garden Shed” is the crown jewel of the whole record, not only because of its sound but because of its significance to Okonma himself. Okonma has often been accused of being homophobic in the past due to some of his lyrics and comments on social media; however, Garden Shed is an ironic breakout moment for Tyler. The instrumental is slow and melancholy with echoing surf guitars, stuttering percussion and misty synths that builds up for almost three minutes before concluding with a single verse from Okonma using the idea of him being in a garden shed, a fact his friends and fans seem to be oblivious to, as a metaphor for being trapped in the closet and keeping his sexual orientation concealed. However, “Garden Shed” also represents the only weak point in the album in the sense that it comes too early. It seems it would be more fitting to have it be the final track rather than having it smack dab in the middle of the record.
“Flower Boy” is the most consistent and thoughtful record that Tyler, The Creator has ever produced. The instrumental themes and tender lyrics Okonma presents on the record not only represent his immense growth as a producer and rapper, but also as a human being.
OTHER GREAT CUTS
“November”; “See You Again”; “Who Dat Boy”; “Glitter”
Photo Credit: A. DeRoss
Caption: “Flower Boy” presents a unique look into the life and thoughts of Tyler, The Creator.