I first heard of Tyler, the Creator back in… February, was it? It was the week after the Grammys, I know that for sure. And I downloaded Bastard shortly thereafter, cos Tyler is a talented guy and I wanted to hear more of what he had to say. And it was listening to that album that I realized Tyler’s major malfunction. And don’t get me wrong, I love Tyler and Odd Future and everything I’ve heard from the Wolf Gang so far. Though, if someone can investigate making the Dena Tape download work, that’d be great. I like the entire Odd Future box and concept, and those guys are the kick in the pants that hip hop badly needs right now. Tyler is right–there are too many forty year old men rapping about the stacks of cash they have and not enough passion or energy. Man, even Eminem went straight after all was said and done. So now these punks from LA think they’ve got the new thing–albums from their basements made on their laptops from the covers to the raps. And that’s cool, yeah. Indie scenes always pop up around twenty years into a genre to wake it up. Pop got punk after all.
But Tyler has some issues, and I don’t mean the bits where he talks about his father. And for all this album is necessary, is good, is brave, bold and innovative and represents taking the power back from the rich for hip hop, it’s also drowning in a few issues. Much like Inception, it’s a good project that has a few flaws that taint the whole package. Unlike Inception, it can’t emerge unscathed. But if you’re buying an album this week, buy this one instead of Turtleneck & Chain. Cos Lonely Island will make money with or without you and Tyler deserves to be paid for this.
At times listening to this album, though, I keep having to ask myself why he deserves all of my money for it. I like Tyler, but I get the impression from his music that he has no idea what parts of his albums are good and which are bad. He has this strange notion that he can take everything he has and throw it at a wall and it will be good, but most of the time, it’s just sorta confusing. And I don’t mean complex, I mean bewildering. I mean I have legitimately asked myself, several times during the run time of this album, why is this song still going. Why are you still holding onto this beat, Tyler? And how many damn extended outros do we need?
The raps are tighter than my necktie feels after I make the off-colour analogy that was originally in this space, and when they hit, they hit hard. But when Tyler isn’t rapping on this album and there are no vocals to tide you through a song, you get to realizing: all of these beats sound the same. I’m a fan. I’m a fan of Odd Future, and I was angry as all hell when I couldn’t get tickets to their show in Toronto. Even after it changed venue. But that’s almost entirely because the music gains so much being performed live. All music gains character when performed live, but it’s like somewhere between the studio and the stage, Tyler stops pretending to be a barely caged animal that will tear your throat out like MacGruber at the least provocation and starts really being that guy. It’s a shocking transformation, and there are a few moments on the album that feel like that. The hook to “Radicals”, for instance, for all its simplicity, is delivered with the ferocity of a wild dog. And there are moments in “She”, “Transylvania”, “Nightmare”, “Tron Cat” and “Sandwitches” where that feels true.
But, just like on Bastard, the gems of diamond are far outweighed by the amount of smooth stone you have to dig through to get to the lava pit. Bastard was fifty-five minutes long, and even that was about 20 minutes longer than it should’ve been. So all of the people saying Goblin is twenty minutes too long now are about halfway there. The first seven songs of Bastard changed the way I heard hip hop this year and contained the finest track opening I’ve ever heard from “French!”. But the rest of the album is a boneyard with a few pieces of jewelery scattered atop the dirt. And the same is true of Goblin, but now the yard is a hell of a lot bigger and starts in the opening track. The album opens with Tyler wondering how he’ll top “Bastard” without realizing that “Bastard”s success was in the relentless piano and verse combo. Whereas “Goblin” devolves into dribbling improvs instead of bridges. Come on, Tyler.
And, you know, I really am ragging on this album. But it deserves to be ragged on. I like this album–I like it a lot and I’m proud to have bought it on release day (one of five copies total in my local record store). But the commercial debut of an artist with this much hype and notoriety deserves to have some scrutiny from its fans. It deserves to have its missteps brought out into the street and pointed at for everyone to see.
If I may speak to Tyler directly:
Even Kanye took three albums to find his sound. College Dropout was okay, Late Registration was new Hawaii Five-0 level B+, and Graduation was where he finally hit the big leagues with an A+ sound. And from Graduation on, his albums have been the lengths they needed to be, rather than the length that fits every last idea he has. 51 minutes, 46 minutes and 67 minutes. 13, 11 and 11 songs, respectively. Goblin has sixteen songs, Tyler, ten of which are four minutes or longer. Three of which round up to seven or longer. EARL, the most praised album OFWGKTA has ever released, is 24 minutes in length. So with all due respect, Tyler–of sixteen songs? Cut five.
THREE AND A HALF STARS