Thursday, 11 April 2013

Tyler, The Creator - Wolf


Either you've been living under a rock or you've deliberately been blocking out all manner of physical/audible music in-take for the past four years. That's the diagnosis I, and fellow others, will give if you haven't at the very least seen the words Tyler, The Creator (comma is optional) used in that same order throughout the web. The Odd Future collective, to expand on that, have equally been the talk-of-the-town in online circles. And having been one of the highest-hitting results for innocent by-standers as of late in US hip-hop, the west coast group have at the very least garnered a bigger interest for hip-hop for the younger demographic - even if they're not without their controversy. Tyler is the biggest culprit/contributor of such accusations from feminists, sexuality-specific equals and other ravers of opinion alike. And whether or not you take offense to the 24-year-old's lyrics and abrupt subject matter, is up to you. Goblin, Tyler's 2011 sophomore was as much a catalyst for such complaints as it was a warning to what would become yet another Twitter-orientated cry of 100-character-limited raves and expressions alike. Regardless, for those who shrug such petty excuses to complain off, Tyler's music is what most will look for, and as a result, the hype and attention on the young rapper has never wavered. If anything, like any artist, it's grown exponentially. Wolf, if covers spoke volumes of an album's content regardless of their quality, may suggest Tyler delving into more character-orientated means of expression and perhaps...dare I say it...a conflicting less-extruded performing of such opinions and feelings.

23 years old, living amid a luxurious four-floor estate and being one of the most-followed, most-focused rappers in the World are just some of the more evident themes coming through on the record. So it's rather fitting that Wolf's self-titled introduction alludes to the grand opus of story-telling this record builds itself up as with sincerely welcoming piano chords in as much there are off-putting deludes of 'fuck you' alongside. The [first proper] track Jamba launches head-first back into Tyler's irrespective carelessness of extrude lyrics and gritty beats; synths snickering and squirming equally so as they escape and enter again in-between passages. And despite the sightly unappealing drug references - which here feel more shoe-horned in than centrally tackled - the track does enough to start proceedings in an attractive, despite indulgent, way. 'Knock knock motherfucks' begins follower Cowboy, a drastically darker and sinisterly-philosophical shift in direction. The whimsical, almost sorrowful guitar lingering in the backdrop matching well with the waning piano and strings likewise. Rather fitting, yet surprising at the same time as how Awkward leads into it. As if continuing the same chapter in this story - albeit Tyler's persona feeling more close-hearted and analytical about his stance - we're greeted to fairly spontaneous calls of 'you're my girlfriend'. And all the while, Tyler expels these personality-shifted lyrics about this romantic intimacy and closeness, but makes it out as if he's not entirely comfortable with the situation, both physically and mentally.

In that respect, I can condole Tyler for providing depth and reason to his robust subject matter. And aided by the perspectives of these multiple characters he speaks through, there's a convincing allure of personality and foundation about Tyler's lyrics. Domo23, perhaps to equal that or maybe to counteract just as aggressively, shows Tyler working to his production-based abilities. Drums are cleverly layered, vocals ideally caught amid the crashing percussion, the bobbling synthesizers and siren noises enshrouding the music. And while there's a smile raised to the comparing of One Direction to sounding 'like midgets in a goddam speaker when every time you play this shit loud', my attention is lead gallantly to the pacing and confidence - of which combines superbly - that Tyler offers. And too, intending the music to be rough and so upfront, still vies for the front spot himself, regardless. Best of all, when Tyler's production know-how, beat usage and subject matter come together and work alongside one another in unison on the heart-wrenched Answer, it's here we see Tyler for the honest, antagonizing individual he is. Speaking about his father - and too speaking towards him - whom abandoned him at an early age, there's a clear intent in his expressing of anger and disgust. Yet, the tempo of the drum beats, the intimate grace of organs, the harmonics of backing vocals. It suggests perhaps a less-seen, deliberately [well] hidden want/need to see him again, despite all the vulgarity and unabridged hostility Tyler holds for us to see.

As we get to the half-way point however and we get deeper into Tyler's personality-split head, there's a whiff of similarity circulating about the rapper's development and variety on an album scope. While the directness and clear understanding of the subject field is present, the more you sink into the record, the less shift in path Tyler seems to take in order to give the album a crucial mix of flavour and fascination. Even with the extreme emotional shifts and finely-mixed layers of electronics and instruments, tracks like Slater & 48 don't offer as much an independence from each other to suggest Tyler is completely at focus on the music in its overall state. While both of Frank Ocean's offering don't necessarily bring out the most in the man's soulful strengths, it's the latter especially that feels more disjointed and unfulfilled - vocal offerings don't meshing as well with how the drum beats and instrumentation are aligned in the track's mix. More-so the seven-minute PartyIsntOver / Campfire / Bimmer shifts too much to the point where I'm having difficulty working out how the three parts are connected or are attempting some concreted form of subject matter. Not only that, but given how well a listen the first 'third' is, it only leaves the accompanying two parts - despite the fond child choir inclusion - feeling more like a bad smell that won't let go.

Regardless of it's name, IFHY (I Fucking Hate You) works well as a romanticized allure of beats even if the allure manifests itself in this sinister, rather surreal bombardment of contradictions. 'I fucking hate you/But I love you' Tyler proclaims in opposing tones of disdain and assurance, which only adds a hypnotic-like layer of bafflement amid the music's whirl of extruding synths and colourful attitude. 'The sky's falling girl, let's try to catch it/The sky's falling bitch, let's try to catch it' Tyler adds, his conflicting state of love and hate coming off better in this instance by in large because of the music's equally strong prevalence of in-your-face beats and in-your-mind synthesized tone. And again, when Tyler sinks back into this unfiltered expelling of emotion - as if all been bottled up for so long - the track Pigs is where Tyler reaches his highest level of conviction in lyrics. Switching between his relationship with the police, his family and his friends - manifesting them out as these misunderstanding monsters and equally/paradoxically being misunderstood by himself - Tyler tackles the subject with an interesting counter-weighing. Balancing his own guilt with the guilt he clearly sees others full of, the intensity of the music gives Tyler the wall of which to push himself off of to attack others as much as he attacks himself.

The unfortunate result because of this - and a fair few other songs on this album - is that it doesn't necessarily feel coherent in regards to the desired and chosen flow of the record. As noted, where some tracks alone don't develop enough - or simply rely too much on the already-treated subject matter of previous - others meanwhile don't take notice, or consideration, for the momentum or emotional pace which have come before it. Tracks like Parking Lot could as much be removed as much as they could have been placed somewhere else on this record. Likewise, Rusty doesn't have as much directness and musical context with the album to suggest this holds itself within the same field as Tyler's run of thought. The likes of Tamale though provide some interesting ideas both in their substance as well as their execution. And even if the sounds here emanate a sort of tropical, jungle-like setting surprisingly, Tyler regardless never shows hesitance or uncomfort. Still he holds the same level of confidence and content with the music as he has previous, and it's exciting to find this manner of confidence carry through so well. Lone, the conclusive self-analytical looking-over Tyler takes - at times speaking with the other sides of his personality, in others speaking of his own accord - does drift, in a sort of relaxed jazz-type flurry of strings and piano. And musically while this is enticing, Tyler's lack of lyrical convergence and dictation on the music leaves the track feeling more like two halves to separate entities, with no real meeting point in-between.

The likes of Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar as of late have given hip-hop a richly deserved argument for conveying humanity and emotion that gives lyrical content a sense of character and likability about itself. While Tyler isn't exactly shunning the drug references, the money mounts or even unremitting about dropping the n-bomb anytime soon, it's his perspective shift of personalities and musical characters on Wolf that shows the young rapper and producer has as much a means to give hip-hop some welcome flavour as much as the other famous faces. His work does unfortunately still show a lack of polish in regards to its pacing and maintaining a chapter-esque sequence of events. But regardless of which persona Tyler takes (himself, Samuel, Wolf, someone else unidentified here) or what personal, cultural, ideological ideas he runs through his manically-darting head, The Creator clearly shows his boldness to expel, even if such expulsion still brings about the tropes of certain shock-values and musical bitter tastes. It's all part of the package, and like it or not, Tyler's mind seems evidently content with going about this method of working. All he needs now (if the story behind this record is anything to go by) is some desirable luck to go his way and maybe then we'll get some coherence and momentum going about what is still one of the most closely-monitored, highly-expectant rappers of this century.
~Jordan

6.8

No comments:

Post a Comment