Tyler, the Creator’s latest offering is a refreshing drop, one which stands in contrast to his early work, while showcasing a reverence for his stayed musical preferences.
Tyler, the Creator has always felt his musical calling exceeded shock value. Though he built an audience of misanthropic, suburban teens with his early releases, Tyler’s proclivity towards constructing a narrative that ran deeper than offhanded comments about sexual violence (and regular violence) was apparent early on.
The California native captured his enchantment with a simpler life—hanging out with friends by the lake (“Analog 2), going to summer camp (Wolf), taking bike rides (“Biking”)—on most of his projects. Even though Tyler’s Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All collective thrived on posse cuts that buttressed the styles of each individual member, The Creator has always shone through. The OF Tape Vol. 2 featured raucous imagery—see “Rella”—as much as it did thoughtful self-analysis, like on “Sam (Is Dead)”.
The same holds true for his later drops. Wolf masterfully elicits sympathy for a drug lord on “48,” forms a mosh pit on “Trashwang” then leaves enough time to clean up for Grandma’s hospital visit on “Lone.” Tyler’s 2015 follow-up, Cherry Bomb, while experimental in its sonic pallet, often reverted to heartfelt longings, as on “2SEATER.” And by 2017 he seemed fully capable of embracing his idealized lifestyle on Flower Boy, which drew from all manner of woes—love, friendship, self-truth—to compose Tyler’s most cohesive release yet.
With IGOR, Tyler is no longer beholden to selling an idealized vision of life. Nor is he satisfied with turning heads through visceral reactions to his visuals. The instrumental-heavy project follows a single narrative—falling in and out of love and rationalizing those feelings—which inherently counters the sporadic nature of, well Tyler. Evidenced by his dedication to performing (his upcoming tour is likely to feature him wearing the same suit and blonde wig for the duration), his tinkering with television and fits with fashion, Tyler is a passion driven individual. Each of his creations have drawn 100 percent of his attention. Hence, his two-year hiatuses between albums is usually indicative of his exploration of a new interest.
In that way, IGOR is refreshing. The battle for streaming relevance in hip-hop is usually accompanied by an attention to diversity. Lengthy albums with a “something for everyone” approach earn replays, but IGOR thrives on the antithesis. Even when Tyler pops back into his rapper’s mindset, as on “What’s Good,” the track’s composition is still layered in vocal effects that shift the spotlight to the instrumental.
If Tyler’s latest project gets a demerit, it’s for the same reason. For the time being, IGOR captures a very specific period in his career. None of Tyler’s other projects sound quite like it, even if certain motifs (distorted vocals, synth-led instrumentals) are mainstays. If IGOR’s sound turns out to be a passing fancy and Tyler returns to his rapping ways, the album might get swallowed by his next foray into his watercolor world.
Still, for everything the world knows about Tyler—his childlike wonder, his passion for pastels and swimming pools, or his veneration of artists like Kanye West or Stereolab—the world should also know he’s not one to stagnate. Whether IGOR, marks a stylistic shift in Tyler’s music remains to be seen, but for now, it’s as much of a passion project as any Tyler release thus far.