There is a common cliche about college: it teaches you to ‘think for yourself.’ Does it, though? If you let it, Tyler, the Creator’s new album “Flower Boy” will help you see better.
Listen to the tracks in order; even if you are not musically inclined, you will appreciate the album’s silky flow. It is difficult to tell on the first two or three go-throughs when one song ends and the next begins. The song transitions are reminiscent of Pink Floyd — in style, not content.
Even within songs, Tyler’s unique composition structures change the album’s feel when you least expect it. But it works. You will find yourself eagerly anticipating these changes on subsequent listen-throughs. Booming synths blend seamlessly into cars screeching, conversations and a million other little sounds. The album constantly flips from a full sound to a minimalistic one, with just a kick and Tyler’s voice driving the music forward. Even if you do not care for his multifaceted discussion of the messed-up sociopolitical spheres of America, the sounds alone are worth listening to.
That being said, the lyrics on “Flower Boy” solidify this album as a timeless masterpiece. The man has an astounding ability to make systemic, universal issues personal. Usually, artists’ discussions of conversation are brief, quasi-symbolic and superficial.
“Flower Boy” covers racism (Black Lives Matter is immediately addressed in “Foreword”), slavery (with multiple references to Nat Turner), sexuality, capitalism, depression, childhood, lethargy, groupthink, identity and other issues this reviewer didn’t notice. Saying the album covers these things is wrong, actually. “Flower boy” is these universalities.
Some of the featured artists’ (read: Lil’ Wayne’s) lyrics provide a stark contrast to Tyler’s. “Droppin’ Seeds” covers things we’ve all heard before — sex, money, self-promotion etc. It is a relief when Lil’ Wayne exits and the nostalgic, self-probing song “November” starts. The conversation switches from one-dimensional and impersonal to complex and personal in a second. The lyrics on “Flower Boy” are a breath of fresh air in a time where mainstream rap caters to self-aggrandizing individuals with egos the size of a small country.
If you’ve listened to his first album, “Goblin”, you are aware that Tyler’s choice to write lyrics his way is nothing new. Some discount his old work as formative and indulgent. On the album’s most popular track, “I Ain’t Got Time!”, Tyler responds:
“One day f*** no, the next day, okay,
But f*** y’all, I know that T is four for four”
With “Flower Boy” being his fourth album, Tyler is saying he is happy with his compositions, and that is what matters. There’s always been something unapologetically distinct about Tyler’s music. It is so clearly him. He shows you his world — the world — with an intense, raw openness without compare.
A final note: there was some backlash when Flower Boy came out, with social justice warriors calling his lyrics homophobic (amusingly, Tyler calls this development in the track “November”). Don’t parrot this conceited, insubstantial argument. Do five minutes of background reading, or watch an interview with him on sexuality. Come to your own conclusion. Think for yourself.