Tyler, the Creator blows up his legacy with 'Cherry Bomb'

The rapper’s fourth album shows a complete shift in the artist’s work

The Spectrum

Album: Cherry Bomb

Release Date: April 13

Label: Odd Future Records/Sony

Grade: B+

It seems just like yesterday when Tyler, the Creator was eating cockroaches on MTV – shocking people with where the direction of hip-hop was going.

It is hard to believe it has been four years since the rapper’s infamous “Yonkers” music video shot the 20-year-old into the spotlight. It is even harder to believe it has been six full years since Tyler’s self-released debut album, Bastard, was released. Now it’s 2015 – Tyler, the Creator has traveled the world as a touring musician, released three more albums, performed on national television, started an internationally successful clothing company and even created his own TV show, Loiter Squad, which aired on Adult Swim.

Over the years, it appears Tyler and his collective known as Odd Future have taken the rap world into their own hands by creating a cult following out of the gimmicky ridiculousness that characterized their music at first.

Ironically, this created the rap group’s biggest issue because as the collective got older, the less they wanted to do with the childish subject matter that brought them fame.

Earl Sweatshirt was the first rapper from Odd Future to address this problem.

In 2013, Earl took to Twitter to let his fans know that if they liked his previous material, they might not like his new album, Doris, because of a change in subject matter.

Earl and the other rappers of Odd Future, Tyler specifically, realized that the shock of what they talked about, including murder, Satanism and rape, often overshadowed the talent and creativity behind their music. Instead of being labeled as different, innovative and new, Odd Future was met with a lot of backlash from feminist and anti-violence organizations.

Even though Earl was the first one to voice his frustration, Tyler dealt with most of the backlash as he was the leader and founder of the group, and the member whose music is the most violent and in your face.

Now on Tyler’s new album, Cherry Bomb, the rapper seeks to veer farther away from his pervious material by focusing more on jazz and alternative rock influences.

The first track, “Deathcamp,” features Tyler channeling the energy of Pharrell Williams’ alternative hip-hop, rock and funk band, N*E*R*D.

This track sets a theme for the first half of the album where Tyler is experimenting with more live instrumentation and rapping lyrics like “That's when I realized we ain’t cut from the same fabric / I made my own s***, you went out and bought yours.”

Tracks like “Run” and “Buffalo” make up the first half of the album. The instrumentals have a tangible, pivotal role in the music – at times, the beat overpowers Tyler’s voice as the main focal point within the music.

The best example of this would be the track “Cherry Bomb,” which features a beat so loud, Tyler’s raps are barely audible.

Tyler shows a complex ability to layer sound with multiple genres and influences in the first half of the album. This aspect of his music only gets more prominent as Tyler moves into jazzier and soulful territory in the second half of the album.

The second half of the album starts off with the in-your-face title, “Blow My Load.” This song has Tyler rapping about getting intimate with his significant other while thinking about their future together. It’s interesting to hear someone who once rapped about problematic subject matter make a serious love song – even if the title might suggest otherwise.

Then, the second half of Cherry Bomb is filled with love songs.

But since this is Tyler, the Creator’s music, these aren’t your average love songs. Instead of focusing on getting the girl, Tyler focuses on odd situations he has with women due to his status as a celebrity at 24 years old.

Whether it’s telling a love interest that she’s too young for him to date (“F*****g Young/ Perfect”) or simply just watching a girl’s hair blow in the breeze (“2Seater”), Tyler’s music appears to be increasingly influenced by interactions he has with women.

One of the songs that’s not a love song on the second half of the album is a track called “Smuckers,” which features Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West.

This track forms the crux of the album, with Tyler rapping alongside two people who paved the way for him.

It is a song that brings back memories: Kanye West raps similar to his early album, The College Dropout, with lyrics like “Richer than white people with black kids / Scarier than black people with ideas.” Lil’ Wayne also recalls the days of his prime when rapping lyrics like “That's Tunechi, homie, master of ceremonies / I knock ‘em down, domino effect, no pepperoni.”

Overall, Cherry Bomb is Tyler throwing away the immature aspects of his music and moving into more experimental and creative territory.

The album represents a transitional period for Tyler, while at the same time showing the world that he’s a lot more than some guy who likes to make people angry.

In fact, this album shows that Tyler, the Creator is a serious composer and producer of music whose talents cross genres.

The only question one could ask after listening to Cherry Bomb is: What’s next?

Alex Pennington is an arts staff writer and can be contacted at arts@ubspectrum.com