Ah, to be a teenager again. To be carefree and completely withdrawn from an older generation, while pushing the current generation’s boundaries. And to have people follow your every move with a high degree of scrutiny, while you entertain ridiculous ideas, yet are still capable of captivating and holding people’s interest.
Somehow this is the status Tyler, The Creator has on his new record Goblin. Frontman of spotlight rap group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, Tyler maintains all of the crew’s sensibilities on his solo release. Put “edgy” in quotes, because being obscene may not necessarily be on the edge of anything.
Take, for example, the album’s first single, “Yonkers.” The video features Tyler in a white room, with “kill” written on his hand, eating bugs and vomiting them up, and culminating in the MC swinging from a noose. He declares “faggot” loudly and often, and talks about rape and murder breezily. This is extreme, but what boundary is it pushing? It seems like senseless vulgarity with no message or purpose, until listeners hear what it’s prefaced with, “I’m a walking fucking paradox/No I’m not.” It gives this nihilism a bit of weight.
Goblin isn’t all about lyrical shock though. It is also aesthetically captivating. The sparse but direct beats punch away beneath what are, take away the content, syllabically complex rhymes. Tyler’s brain must be a maze, pulling such weird sounds together in ways that don’t seem like they could be rhymes or be set by a meter. He is well aware of his ability, made evident in lines such as in, “Tron Cat”: “Drop the beat here to make it extra climactic”—which he succeeds at.
The success continues throughout the album. “Transylvania” is a screwed-down and shuffling, terrifying banger. The songs featuring rising star and Odd Future cohort Frank Ocean, “She” and “Window,” have a soulful, almost radio-ready quality.
So a one trick pony this record is not, as it offers a breadth of delivery that breaks up the sound of the record. Yet, the shallow lyrics are still difficult to ignore.
For example on “Radicals,” with the refrain, “Kill People, Burn Shit, Fuck School.” Sentiments like that can only be screamed by a performer with limited life experiences to cull from. In short, it isn’t as clever as the delivery, begging the question, can he continue to create homophobic (and Tyler has denied it, but the frequency and anger behind the word “faggot” can only be described that way), generally hateful rap songs and expect to last?
Part of his current appeal is his immediacy and youthful rebellion, but his staying power comes from his delivery skill. Goblin is interesting, but once the buzz and intrigue fade, only time can reveal if Tyler’s delivery can outlive the content.
Tyler, The Creator – Goblin Tracklist:
- “Tron Cat”
- “Fish / Boppin’ Bitch”
- “Bitch Suck Dick”