How Tyler, The Creator’s ‘IGOR’ Breaks the Mold
In a sweeping symphony of romantic melodies and soul-baring verses, Tyler, The Creator really shows off the inner machinations of his heart with almost every song off of his new album, IGOR.
Disclaimer: I’m not going to sit here and try to act like I know Tyler. I don’t. I’ve never been a big Tyler head, nor have I ever even tried to become a diehard fan of his. I listened to “Yonkers” back in the day because the beat was incredibly visceral and hard, and I sang along to “She” every once in a while because I love Frank Ocean (by the way, Frank, please make more music). Old Tyler had built-up a certain type of aesthetic, ranging from his IDGAF attitude and fashion-forward sense of style. His strikingly deep voice lent itself easily to tough rap verses, and sinister song lyrics. And that particular version of Tyler sparked a wave of fans and followers, elevating him to the level of stardom he has today. He started the GOLF WANG collective, and it is almost unanimously considered the most popular member of Odd Future. Tyler was an icon of teenage rebellion, and seemed to preach an empowering rhetoric of doing what made you happy, despite what others might say. I never thought that I’d ever see myself as a fan of Tyler, The Creator other than listening to whatever song of his made it onto the radio. He was a passing interest to me, and his brand of music never caught my ears as effectively as Drake or Childish Gambino did.
However, that changed with the release of Flower Boy.
Flower Boy was the first time in my life that I found myself listening to a Tyler, The Creator album in its entirety, absorbing everything I could from it. I’ll put it down right now: I’m a sucker for songs that incorporate heartfelt singing, R&B undertones, and tragic romance all in one. I’m a simply sad boy through and through. It’s the only logical explanation for why I listen to Joji and Miguel as much as I do, and also why I couldn’t stop myself from listening to “See You Again” on repeat for days on end. Flower Boy was the most vulnerable I had ever heard and experienced from Tyler since I was first introduced to him. Sure, the artist had discussed things like love, heartbreak, and fear of not being loved back on songs like “She,” but he still maintained his carefully constructed image of a tough rapper. Now, he was stripping all of that away to offer a real glimpse into the kinds of questions and feelings that threatened to tear his heart asunder—which it had all the right elements to pull me in. Although, Tyler certainly still tried to keep within the realms of his comfort zone by mostly rapping, but he was testing the grounds to see how society might react to his new direction as a recording artist. And after the incredibly positive reception of Flower Boy, it was time to go all in…
IGOR is all of the beautiful elements off of Flower Boy cranked up to an eleven. Tyler has finally decided to step foot out of his exclusively rap oriented persona, and sing on his own songs. His single, “EARFQUAKE,” is a high-pitched love song about how significant this other person is in his life, and how he can’t be without them in fear of missing everything that they offer to make him feel whole. It’s a slow and sentimental melody that rivals any pop song on the radio based on pure subject matter alone. And that’s not even mentioning my favorite song off of the whole album, which is “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” that discusses how sick Tyler is of putting on airs to impress the apple of his eye—but how they should both be true to themselves to find each other. It’s clear that Tyler is choosing to improve himself, not only as an artist, but as a producer and songwriter; as well as learn how to better hone in on his craft in areas that he’s not normally comfortable in. He’s enlisted a long list of features to help him on his journey, like Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, and Kanye West to just name a few. It’s also impossible to deny the influence (and voice!) of Tyler’s longtime fan and fellow Odd Future member, Frank Ocean.
Is IGOR anything like what came before from Tyler? No. Will you enjoy it if you’re expecting him to sound anything like he did on Goblin, Wolf, or Cherry Bomb? Probably not.
Yet, maybe that’s why I love the new album as much I do—because it’s specifically unlike anything that Tyler has ever put out before. It’s a clear sign of his constant evolution as a recording artist, and a definitive preview of the type of artist that he wants to become; an artist that isn’t afraid to put it all out there for the world to see whether that may be fulfilled with love or heartbreak. This is the death of an Old Tyler who’s tired of staying within the mold, and the start of a new Tyler that’s ready to shake up your expectations of him. And for the first time, I can’t wait to see what he does next.
-Derek Luat Tran