Tyler, the Creator, Wolf | Album Review
While his sophomore album ‘Wolf’ is still ‘rough around the edges,’ Tyler, the Creator packages the album more responsibly than ‘Goblin.’
Underground artist Tyler, The Creator may be the most controversial rapper of recent times. HE has never shied away controversy, essentially flipping the bird to critics of his brash approach. He’s infamous for his use of homosexual slurs, adoration of the word fuck, and sexualized rhymes. Wolf is true to the rapper’s script, with the first lyric being fuck. That said, as overt as Wolf is, Tyler, the Creator packages it more responsibly here. For whatever reason, Wolf better disguises the rapper’s obscenities compared to his official debut, Goblin. Additionally, sometimes the themes are more conducive to emotional connection.
“Wolf,” an interlude essentially, opens the effort fading into a lush sounding instrumental, characterized by piano, strings, and big, pummeling drums. As cited earlier, Tyler The Creator’s first word is fuck, which he goes on to glamorize, basically flipping the bird at any who disapprove. That said, considering a ‘wolf’ is a violent animal, maybe him taking the first blow is symbolic.
“Jamba,” featuring Hodgy Beats, sounds like a typical Tyler The Creator production given the harmonic progression, which musically speaking has a jazz facet about it. As always, Tyler isn’t short of unapologetic lyrics referencing fellatio and being faded. As always, even his clever pop cultural references go south.
“Cussing out Siri like a waitress with no patience / Oh you want a tip bitch / well here’s my dick for gratuity.”
His buddy Hodgy Beats reinforces Tyler’s boldness on the second verse, typifying Odd Future’s graphic rhymes.
“Cowboy,” is the first true ‘home run’ for Tyler. The production is spare, but anchored by exceptional drum programming and very much characteristic of an underground rap track. The hook is irresistible and guilt-free compared to much of the effort.
“I am the cowboy on my own trip / And I am the cowboy on my own trip / And I am the cowboy on my own trip / and I am the cowboy.”
Tyler has other lyrical moments. He goes conservative, spitting:
“This is life, truthfully I just want to fly some kites / Grab Salem and Slater and go around, riding bikes.”
Later, he goes “…Hard as riga mo,” before playing on history, “I’m never civil, fuck Lincoln.” Tyler may still be rough around the edges, but manages to reflect on himself. Slater is a bike, while Salem is his character’s (Sam) girlfriend. Basket case.
“Awkward” is the second of a quartet of valedictory moments. Here, his bassy vocals are chopped and screwed over the lush, slower tempo. “Awkward” references the awkwardness of romance.
“I play in your hair / As you rub on my ears / Then we awkwardly stare until our lips locked.”
Frank Ocean helps a brother out with some additional vocals.
First single “Domo23” is as good as ever, featuring absurd, real talk rhymes. The production is evil in sound, filled with the pointed lyrics that have endeared Tyler, the Creator to fans or vice versa.
“And said I was a racist homophobic / So I grabbed Lucas and filmed us kissing.”
Self-explanatory, or, it could be interpreted as a simplistic, unthoughtful response to homophobic allegations. The Rodney King reference is also a poor choice, considering King was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool.
“Will fall cause shit’s going down / Just like Rodney King’s swimming lessons.”
On “Answer,” Tyler The Creator discusses his emotions towards his father, who wasn’t part of his life. One of the deepest cuts, detractors will praise his emotion if nothing else. He also references his posse’s status.
“Frank is out the closet / Hodgy’s an alcoholic / Syd might be bipolar…I couldn’t call it.”
He also references his atheism:
“You’ll be fucking nervous like me inside of a church.”
On the final verse, he switches from his father’s improprieties to referencing a girl, likely Salem.
“Slater,” featuring Frank Ocean, is antithetical to “Answer.” Tyler (Sam) details his bike, (Slater). He wants his girl to ride his bike with him. Additionally, he likes to listen to N.E.R.D. Yep, it’s a trip. “48” goes serious once more, detailing dealing drugs, specifically crack. A Nas interview clip from XXL magazine sets the tone at the onset, discussing the ills of the addictive drug. The most memorable line references ruining someone’s life via drugs:
“She could have been a doctor…I’m sorry / Could have been an actor and won that Oscar, said I’m sorry.”
On “Colossus,” his flow is agile and the production is superb. Hookless, Tyler dabbles in topics of reciprocating love to his fans, referencing his father’s non-love, and giving Pharrell Williams some love. “Partyisntover / Campfire / Bimmer” featuring Laetitia Sadier is a three-parter. Tyler goes from asking his girl to “Take a chance with me” (“Partyisntover”), to “We’re making s’mores (sung by kids on “Campfire”), to “You remind me of my Bimmer / a lot of trunk space, the perfect two-seater” (“Bimmer”). “Bimmer” is the truest to hip-hop.
To Tyler’s credit, he had the decency to abbreviate the title “IFHY,” featuring idol Pharrell Williams. The production work remains solid. During the first verse, he doesn’t rap, but instead, takes a spoken word approach. Once he hits the hook, everything settles in.
“I fucking hate you / But I love you / I’m bad at keeping my emotions bubbled / You’re good at being perfect / We’re good at being trouble.”
He returns to a standard flow, and gets help from his beloved Pharrell Williams towards the end.
“Pigs” is one of the strongest productions of the effort, notable given the dusty drum programming, the police sound effect, and pipe organ-like patch. It also benefits from a catchy hook. “Parking Lot,” featuring Mike G. & Casey Veggies, features an easygoing, jazzy, urban sound. The hook is catchy as well. Not a bad cut, it doesn’t rank not among the elite.
On “Rusty,” Domo Genesis takes the first verse with Earl Sweatshirt receiving a shorter third verse. Tyler is never outshone here, referencing Nicki Minaj, atheism, and album promotion. At the end, Sam kills Wolf, who was trying to steal his girlfriend Salem. Tastefully, the weapon of choice is a gun.
“I want the black kids to like me for this one, man.” Okay Tyler. “Trashwang” is one wild ride. Additionally, it is one of the best cuts of the effort, bringing in his Odd Future buddies. Na’kel kicks the rapped verses off:
“Sawed-off I eat those / These clothes they free though / Straight from the back of the Supreme store.”
Tyler’s first verse receives lush, optimistic production work, oxymoronic given his brashness. Jasper goes on rap about “55 grams in that blunt…just cop that …Bimmer.” Tyler raps once more, followed by turns from Taco, Lucas, and L-Boy.
After the bold “Trashwang”, who would’ve thought Tyler, the Creator would have went urban-jazz? While this “Treehome95” enjoyable, it is also a bit random. On the other hand, it’s a break from countless sex and drug references, as well as f-bombs. It also features Erykah Badu.
“Tamale” features an infectious percussive groove. The lyrical references to his nether region and sex on the other hand are unapologetic. On “Lone,” Tyler’s therapist reappears, as the MC makes references to his personal life. That includes the death of his grandmother and his mother no longer having to struggle. It’s an appropriate closing cut, strengthened by jazzy production work.
Overall, Wolf is a great album, contextually speaking. Knowing what to expect with a Tyler, The Creator album is extremely important in making an evaluative judgement, in addition to how one feels about his content and approach. Wolf easily does its job as being a divisive work, making it a work of art. From a listening perspective, do you prefer more beautiful, flowing art or edgier, angular art? Wolf is edgy, but has its triumphant moments.
Gems: “Cowboy,” “Awkward,” “Domo23,” “Answer, “IFHY” & “Pigs”