Tyler, The Creator album review: The Wolf in the hen house

By PETE SHAPIRO
On April 14, 2013

Artist: Tyler, The Creator

Album: Wolf

Label: Odd Future, RED Distribution, Sony

Release Date: April 2

Grade: B-

Hip-hop music has been in a dark place since the late '90s. A generation spoiled rotten with Wu-Tang Clan on the radio and Bill Clinton as the 'head' of state has subsequently become bitter toward the lack of dope beats in popular music today. And that bitterness is justified.

Post-Biggie hip-hop consisted of names like Mos Def, Nas, Dead Prez and Jay-Z. Who could complain?

Then, sometime in the mid-2000s, Mos Def found religion, Jay-Z married Beyoncéand the whole institution was upturned.

International hip-hop listeners have finally reached the time of deliverance. Black Star is reunited. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated Jay-Z has more money than the U.S. government. Additionally, the conglomerate known as Odd Future is reaching the mainstream, attracting young and impressionable listeners in high schools and universities across America.

Tyler, The Creator, self-proclaimed leader of the Odd Future misanthropes also known as Wolf Gang, has shown himself to be an incredibly talented and dynamic producer, allowing his minions to thrash about the popular music sphere in something of a thrift-shop, hipster, post-internet era style.

On Tuesday, April 2, he dropped his third studio album, Wolf.

If you are unfamiliar with Odd Future's music, Wolf is a bad place to start (Hodgy Beats' 2012 Untitled EP is where you should begin).

As a whole, the album's production is incredible, as expected, and Tyler's lyrics show great potential, but Wolf lacks any subtlety at all and falls flat on its face in execution. With 18 songs, Tyler's greatest weakness appears to be that he just can't cut tracks.

Tyler's style is feverishly welcome. However, as other critics have mentioned, he is not RZA and Odd Future is not Wu-Tang Clan.

With that disclaimer out of the way, the album is enjoyable throughout, with five or six incredible, totally fresh and well-written tracks.

Tyler has no concept of subtlety whatsoever and a couple of the songs just sound silly and out of touch. His lack of subtlety, curiously enough, is also what makes the good tracks addictive and amusing.

"Jamba" is one of the best songs on the album with an electro-influenced beat, fuzzy synth bass and kick-clap track drumbeat. It's difficult to label Odd Future songs with a theme or topic, but "Jamba," featuring Hodgy Beats, essentially focuses on Tyler's father and his lack of involvement in the young producer's life.

"Papa ain't call even though he saw me on TV, it's all good (f**k you)/But now my balls, balls deep in this broad's jaw," Tyler renders in his opening line.

"Cowboy" is a darker track with minimalist instrumentals and jazz improv samples laced about. Again, the drumbeat is truly simple and effective.

Almost as a counter to the better tracks on the album, "Domo 23" is just weird, with a Halloween-inspired siren in the background that raises blood pressure in an unappreciated way. "Trashwang" is another one of those songs. It sounds like a parody of a Birdman tune, which is never a good thing.

"Rusty" is the other gem on the album; it features Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt (another couple of Odd Future misfits worth checking out). With a simple drumbeat, synth, organ and piano samples, the song has a darker sound to it and feels, as a finished product, like an evil-ass, mean hip-hop track.

Tyler's social commentary is surprisingly accurate and intelligent, and it is littered throughout the album.

"In a world where kids my age are popping Mollies with leather/Sitting on Tumblr, never outside or enjoying the weather," Tyler raps.

Tyler's got potential, without a doubt, but if there's one strong critique of the album, it's that he needs to learn to cut tracks.

Wolf should have been a seven- or eight-song LP. His production is some of the best around and he has an original and fresh 2013 electro-beat sound to his music. Odd Future is under good management.

 

Email: arts@ubspectrum.com


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