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Mace and Crown | May 24, 2018

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Tyler, The Creator Blooms on ‘Flower Boy’

Richard Gabrintina | Staff Writer

About six years ago, Tyler, The Creator first emerged with his debut album, “Goblin.”  Known for his anarchism and out-of-hand antics, Tyler has amassed a cult following and established himself as a cultural icon over the years. Frontman of the Odd Future collective, he has worked on countless projects across different mediums, encompassing music, fashion and television. On July 21, Tyler released his fourth studio album, “Flower Boy.”

In the past, the 26-year-old rapper has been largely criticized for his use of homophobic lyrics, primarily with the use of the word “faggot.” Tyler commented on this in an interview with NME by saying, “I’m not homophobic. I just think ‘faggot’ hits and hurts people. It hits. And ‘gay’ just means you’re stupid. I don’t know, we don’t think about it, we’re just kids. We don’t think about that shit. But I don’t hate gay people.”

Contrastly, the topic of Tyler’s sexuality came into question leading up to and following the release of “Flower Boy.” Twitter users and music blogs pieced together old tweets that alluded to a homosexual identity. One tweet read, “I TRIED TO COME OUT THE DAMN CLOSET LIKE FOUR DAYS AGO AND NO ONE CARED HAHAHHAHAHA.” Another uploaded a sketchbook page showcasing a rainbow-colored figure coming out of a closet asking, “Is it safe?”

Themes of isolation, identity and introspection weave throughout the fourth studio effort. The equally evocative cover art, painted by artist Eric White, depicts Tyler standing in a field of sunflowers turned to his side and with his face obscured by a bumblebee.

“Flower Boy” features a diverse cast of artists including Rex Orange County, Frank Ocean, Steve Lacy, Kali Uchis, A$AP Rocky and others. The 14-track record was produced exclusively by Tyler himself and boasts his finest production work to date.

The album is introduced with “Foreword,” immediately delving deep into intimate thoughts. The chord progression paints a somber, golden sunset as its sonic backdrop. Rex Orange County croons a wistful bridge and outro: “And if I drown and don’t come back/Who’s gonna know?”

Orchestral strings ring alongside piano keys at the onset of “Where This Flower Blooms,” a reflection of his rise to success and influence as an artist, “Tell these black kids they could be who they are/Dye your hair blue, sh–t, I’ll do it too.”

“Sometimes…” serves as a precursor for its proceeding track. “See You Again” sounds as dreamy as the song’s subject: “You live in my dream state/Anytime I count sheep/That’s the only time we make up/You exist behind my eyelids, my eyelids/I don’t want to wake up.” The instrumental shifts between light percussion to heavy hits of bass. The serene synths and light accents act like sunlight peeking through the clouds.

The first single off the album, “Who Dat Boy,” features A$AP Rocky. “Pothole” features Jaden Smith and employs the titular image as a metaphor for obstacles blocking the direction Tyler is heading in. Estelle makes an appearance on “Garden Shed.”

“Boredom” is an anthem of alienation: “Ringy dingy dong, I can’t be alone/I been starting to feel like I don’t know anyone/So now I’m staring at my ceiling f–ckin’ going/Like I have no idea where I’m going.”

On “I Ain’t Got Time,” Tyler samples Bel-Sha-Zaar and expresses disdain for individuals that have wronged him, namely his falling out with Vans. It also features lyrics that sparked a lot of discussion about his sexual orientation: “Next line will have ‘em like ‘Woah’/I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004.”

Steve Lacy is featured on “911 / Mr. Lonely,” a two-part distress call for company. Both sides of the track express a sense of isolation underneath the fame, fortune and a carefully forged smile: “I’m the loneliest man alive/But I keep dancing to throw ‘em off.”

“November” is full of insecurities and nostalgia. “Glitter” confesses love and surges with sparkly synths. The album closes out with “Enjoy Right Now, Today.” Minimal in production, the lyricless track features Pharrell’s vocals and allows the listener to give attention to the present moment.

“Flower Boy” is Tyler’s latest blossoming, of identity acceptance and of musicianship. He’s still as loud as ever, but rooted beneath the polished bravado are sincerity and total vulnerability.