By DUSTIN NILES
Layout & Design Editor
The last time we saw Tyler, The Creator, in 2015, he released “Cherry Bomb,” with a tracklist including “DEATHCAMP” and “BLOW MY LOAD.” This was classic Tyler.
In many minds, Tyler’s everlasting hit will be “Yonkers,” the crude single from 2011 that officially spawned Tyler’s solo rapping career, his first release separate from the rap group Odd Future. The repetitive crunch that starts the song is the millennial’s version of opening to “We Will Rock You.”
But Tyler’s grown a lot since then. In the six years since the release of “Yonkers,” Tyler has put out 3 albums (“Goblin,” “Wolf,” and “Cherry Bomb”), grown his clothing line Golf Wang, put on his annual music festival in L.A., Camp Flog Gnaw, and scored a shoe deal with Converse, switching from Vans. But he’s also grown as a person.
This is the focus of “Flower Boy,” a markedly different release than his past ones. “Flower Boy” is a release that feels “real.” There are no jokes here, but the album is at different times contemplative (“and if I fall and don’t come back / who’s gonna know?”), regretful (“Shout out to the girls that I lead on”), and political (“How many riots can it be ’til them black lives matter?”).
But for everything that this album says, it’s really about Tyler. It’s a coming out, both figurative, and literal.
Tyler’s sexuality has always been an obscured subject, at times confirming he’s gay and at times denying it. And having a reputation for joking doesn’t make the matter any easier to figure out. One of the most notable incidents happened on Twitter in 2015, when Tyler tweeted “I TRIED TO COME OUT THE DAMN CLOSET LIKE FOUR DAYS AGO AND NO ONE CARED HAHAHHAHAHA.”
But the album’s arguable centerpiece, “Garden Shed,” seems to be a concrete confirmation of Tyler’s sexuality, with lyrics referencing his hesitation to come out and fear of losing friends. Other songs on the album also reference the possibility that Tyler might be gay. Musically, “Garden Shed” feels like a high point on the album. Dropped right in the middle, the slow waltz through the song feels at times triumphant and yet hesitant. It’s a beautiful culmination of the 6 songs before it, and sets the scene for the 7 songs after it.
But along with Tyler’s sexuality, the album also focuses extensively on loneliness and boredom. In one of the album’s leading singles, “911/Mr. Lonely,” Tyler raps, “I’m the loneliest man alive,” refusing to mince words. On another track, “Boredom,” Tyler contemplates desperation for company and a fear that his friends don’t want to see him.
The album finishes with the set of songs “November,” “Glitter” and the instrumental “Enjoy Right Now, Today.”
“November” is Tyler pondering a better past, repeating the phrase “Take me back to November,” and acts as an outlet for a remarkable amount of self- doubt. The song seems to mirror the kind of hesitation you feel before confessing feelings for someone. At the end, Tyler sets up the situation where he’s calling his crush and is either going to play a song he wrote either for them or for the voicemail. “November” ends with the recording for an answering machine, and “Glitter” starts right after.
“Glitter” starts as a straight up love song, before grinding and melting down to a slow realization by Tyler that “We ain’t gon’ work out, we a fat boy.” The song slowly trudging along repeating “How you feel?” Perhaps it’s a reflection of the desire to know how someone’s love interest feels about them. The song ends with the answering machine again, only this time it’s saying “We didn’t get your message, either because you were not speaking or because of a bad connection.” A sign that maybe Tyler’s hesitation caused him not to play the song at all.
“Enjoy Right Now, Today” has no lyrics, but only conveys it’s message through the site and the music. It’s an uplifting song, directly contradicting the slow slog that “Glitter” grinds to at it’s end, almost as if to say “Hey, don’t worry about all that, just ‘Enjoy Right Now, Today.’”
“Flower Boy” includes features from Tyler’s frequent collaborators Frank Ocean and Kali Uchis, as well as A$AP Rocky, Jaden Smith, Estelle, Rex Orange County, Anna of the North, Steve Lacy, Lil’ Wayne and guitar by another previous collaborator, Austin Feinstein.
Tyler, who has heavily promoted the album on his Twitter, said “LISTEN FRONT TO BACK AND DONT BE DISTRACTED OH,” “HOPEFULLY WHEN YOU LISTEN TO IT YOURE ON A LONG DRIVE OR PLANE RIDE OR BIKE RIDE, NOT LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE OR TALKING TO ANYONE,” and “flower boy is golden hour/ sunset music if youre wondering the best time to listen.” “Flower Boy” is out now on Columbia Records, available on iTunes, Apple Music, Tidal, and Spotify.