Album Review: Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

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“How many cars can I buy until I run out of drive?” Tyler, The Creator opens his newest album, Flower Boy (fully titled Scum Fuck Flower Boy,) with that question on the album opener “Foreward.” As quick as that line can go in one ear and out the other, there’s a lot behind it and it serves as a precursor to one major thing that’s current in Flower Boy that’s largely absent throughout most of Tyler’s catalog: introspective songwriting. Anyone familiar with Tyler’s past work knows that his music can be heavy on shock value to the point that it comes off as cartoonish (chanting “KILL PEOPLE! BURN SHIT! FUCK SCHOOL!”) and at times even disturbing (“Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome.”) But over the years he’s shown gradual growth from album to album and Flower Boy is certainly no exception. And even though there’s some material on here that may come off as shocking to some, he never really comes off like he’s TRYING to shock you. In fact, I’d say it’s his most honest album yet.

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First things first, Tyler should be commended for his production on Flower Boy. At first listen, one of the things you’ll remember most is how good the album SOUNDS. There are tracks with his now trademark Pharrell/N.E.R.D. homage such as “Boredom” and “See You Again,” jazzy Roy Ayers vibes on “Potholes” and “Dropping Seeds” and even psychedelic funk sounds in “Garden Shed.” Everything here is very pleasing to the ear and makes for an easy listen sonically.

Another thing you might take away from Flower Boy after a listen or two is the way Tyler seems to be addressing his sexual orientation throughout the album. That conversation starts on interlude “Sometimes…” where an anonymous man calls into Tyler’s GOLF RADIO station and requests to hear “the one about me,” and a love song immediately follows. Then there’s the album centerpiece, “Garden Shed,” where Tyler raps “Them feelings I was hiding/ all my friends lost, they couldn’t read the signs…Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase/Thought it be like the phrase ‘Poof,’ gone/But it’s still going on.” Keeping with the flower theme of the album, naming this particular song “Garden Shed” could easily be a metaphor for a closet. And there’s also his admittance to “kissing white boys since 2004” on “I Ain’t Got Time.” This is interesting because Tyler has come under fire throughout his career for his constant use of homophobic slurs in his music. So if things are, as it seems, it contributes heavily to the rest of the album in terms of Tyler looking deep inside himself and putting things on wax that he hasn’t before.

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The previously mentioned opened bar in the album suggests that Tyler is dealing with a certain amount of doubt and negativity. That shows on other songs such as standout track “November” where he’s questioning a variety of things in his life. Whether it’s if his musical relevancy has passed, if his manager and accountant are screwing him over or if his “Day ones turn to three, fours ’cause of track 7” (“Garden Shed” is track 7 on the album). There’s “Potholes” with Jaden Smith where Tyler laments over possibly having to leave his friends behind in life if they block his path to success. There’s “Mr. Lonely” which begins with “I can’t even lie, I been lonely as f*ck.” There’s a lot of issues Tyler seems to be trying to confront head on through the music.

 

The album plays as if Tyler’s in one long car ride (as evidenced by various skits at the beginning, middle or end of songs as if he’s riding past other cars or changing a station).

 

The album (and ride) concludes with Tyler calling an old love interest at the end of “November,” bleeding into him confessing his love on “Glitter” only to be told by an operator that the message didn’t record because either he “was not speaking or because of a bad connection” which is very clever. “Not speaking” could allude to everything we’d heard so far in the album being all in Tyler’s head. Or maybe he really was speaking out loud about these things for the first time, but it fell short on deaf ears because of a “bad connection” with the one he wanted to reach.

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The album concludes with the instrumental “Enjoy Right Now, Today” with faint Pharrell vocals throughout, Tyler is heard getting out the car, and the album ends. All in all I think this is Tyler’s most ambitious, honest and well-put together album in his catalog. He’s not the best lyricist in the world (not to say he’s trash, he really stepped his bars up here) but he’s extremely creative and talented with his production, which shines through on Flower Boy. He rapped “I know that T is 4 for 4” on “Pothole” in regards to his albums, but I think this one definitely will stand out more than the rest as time goes on.

Overall Rating: 4/5

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