For someone so obnoxious, Tyler, the Creator knows when to keep quiet.
He tweets and raps content offensive enough turn-of-the-century Eminem would blush. Greater than his penchant for controversy, though, is a desire for crafting music that constantly evolves; he stays on par with stars Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean because of this.
Rap-collective Odd Future—a posse of rappers, producers and disc jockeys who began collaborating in 2007—saw success last year when Ocean topped the charts with his Grammy-nominated “channel ORANGE.” Eyes now shift to Odd Future member Tyler, the Creator’s third album, “Wolf.”
Tyler, the Creator doesn’t wish harm on Bruno Mars this time around. In fact, when relationships with his father and grandmother crumble on “Answer,” he rhymes about patching things up: “I would like to tell my grandma, but she’s just nostalgic/I’ll call her number, but she won’t answer,” he moans.
“Wolf” tackles topics reminiscent of other rap stars’ more conscious tunes.
The narrator of “48” finds riches by providing drugs to and harming those around him. Tyler, the Creator channels emotion into his performance on this standout track, exhibiting storytelling as good as that of Nas or Lupe Fiasco. His commentary shows much progression since 2011’s “Goblin.”
His greatest leaps are evident when silent.
Producing all the album’s tracks, Tyler, the Creator shows an exceptional knowledge of music theory over the course of “Wolf.” The synths in “Domo23” sound like a tire sweltering in a Middle Eastern desert. “PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Blimmer” features three beats tied together and represents a recent trend in hip hop: Artists are filling less space with annoying vocals and letting the instrumentals take over their songs.
Ocean and Lamar pushed guitars and kicking drums to the fore of their hits last year, and Tyler, the Creator does the same by speaking less on “Wolf.”
As with many of hip-hop’s latest and greatest trends, Kanye West deserves props for placing emphasis on beats. Rappers once babbled for 90 percent of a song. However, hits like Ocean’s “Pyramids” and West’s “Runaway” consist of solos and dominant chord progressions—strangely like ‘70s rock. If Tyler, the Creator learns more from Pink Floyd and Lou Reed than Soulja Boy and Lil Wayne, his career will last.
Sadly, when Tyler, the Creator goes on tangents, he sounds too much like circa-2006 Lil Wayne.
Seven years ago, Lil Wayne dropped clever, though disgusting, lyrics in every verse. His notoriety as a punch-line rapper worked for a while, but the similes and metaphors became stale; he relied too much on jokes, and Tyler, the Creator suffers from the same problem in many instances.
He’s funny. I get it, but when not showing much emotion and growth in the songs “Answer” and “48,” Tyler, the Creator only crafts cheap laughs that don’t leave an impression. The shock factor works until fans grow tired of the same jokes, which won’t take long if crumby tracks like “Cowboy” are any indication.
Slick production overrides the lyrical mishaps, though, and “Wolf” is 2013’s best rap album yet.
Tyler, the Creator understands the importance of improving all concepts of his music, and I expect continued growth. If he fails, a Wayne-like fall looms before reaching his peak.
Final Rating: Four out of five suns