Tyler the Creator continues his blossoming evolution as an artist with his reflective narrative audio piece, "Igor"
Written by Waylon O'Day
On Christmas of this year, it will have been a decade since Tyler, the Creator put out his debut solo mixtape, Bastard. The tape elevated him a from relatively unknown artist, save from the deepest corners of the then still-thriving “blog era,” to one deserving of landing a deal with XL, through which he put out his studio debut, Goblin, surpassing the expectations set by the now infamous video for lead single, “Yonkers.” Then Tyler’s body of work seemed to plateau with the good, but not great Wolf, and the critically derided Cherry Bomb. It was fair to think that Tyler, like his peers that rose to fame through the internet would gradually fade into irrelevance, then came the Grammy-nominated Flower Boy.
The album not only found success with the rapper’s pre-existing cult-like fanbase, but with those that were put off by the artist’s earlier work which, lyrically, was deeply homophobic, violent, and misogynistic, amongst other things. Flower Boy was painted with a brighter colors than its predecessors, purples and blues were traded for oranges and yellows, as the album represented an almost complete transformation for the artist. This year’s offering from Tyler, Igor, is proof that Flower Boy was not just a fluke and that the artist has grown as an artist and continues to do so, as we find him utilizing a diverse set of tools lyrically and sonically, new and old alike.
The album opens with our titular protagonists’ theme song, where the listener is given the opportunity to acquiesce to Igor’s world as Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Tyler himself welcome them, telling one another that the listener is in for an experience, as we follow Igor and the arc of his romantic relationship. Playboi Carti and Charlie Wilson join Tyler on “EARFQUAKE,” as Igor tries to take the blame for the wrongs he’s done to a lover, begging them to stay, claiming their presence in their live is earth shattering, which is believable considering the listener is assaulted by a daunting bassline, but comforted with playful piano chords while Tyler sings in a pitched-up autotune. Tyler attempts to hit a high note, we instantly hear a count-off as the landscape drops completely and we hear “I THINK.” The now-normal voiced Tyler voices the protagonist’s concerns about his mental state and his feelings for a significant other, as the production provides an almost anxious mania to the listeners before a jazzy interlude gives them a second to gather their composure before the they are thrust back in.
“It would be easy for someone to hear tracks from this album and never in their life believe that Tyler, the Creator was the mastermind behind it. That’s where the genius in this album truly lies; Tyler’s ability to transform his sound in such an unrecognizable way but still use the same tools to achieve this.”
After his moment of self-reflection, Igor comes to the realization that his relationship is fast-approaching the end and tells their significant other that they’re “RUNNING OUT OF TIME,” to borrow the song’s title. Tyler’s pitched-up voice sounds equal parts desperate and relieved as Igor seems to come to terms with the impending break-up. The production is at times sparse, but still lush as flittering synths dance above the mix and a race car zooms sparingly in the background. We see Igor’s darker side on “NEW MAGIC WAND,” as threatens the lives of his love interest and their ex over a dark, but still enticingly glitzy track which prominently features the album’s characteristically driving bassline and blaring sirens of synths. Continuing down the darker path, Igor likens relationships to guns on “A BOY IS A GUN*” over one of the more ambitious arrangements on the album, featuring beautiful keys throughout, and a soulful sample and chorus backing Tyler.
Igor, always battling with the complexities of love, weighs the pro’s and con’s of being too eager to please in a relationship and is joined by Kanye on “PUPPET,” which features a sample from indie-pop band Part Time, as Tyler’s pitched up voice navigates a two-note piano loop which bears striking resemblance to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” before a beautiful cacophony of strings, synths, and a chorus of voices rises, announcing the arrival of Yeezy who spits a verse that’s dampened by the track’s maximalist production. Igor and Tyler alike are given a chance to let out their aggression on “WHAT’S GOOD,” which seems like a rejected cut from Cherry Bomb that was repurposed for Tyler’s newfound sound. The same could not be said for “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU.” The first half song is more Tune-Yards than Tyler, the Creator, but it’s easily one of the best moments on the album as Tyler and CeeLo Green huff helium, as the poppy production deteriorates we get a darker, boom-bap influenced beat as the mix gets sparser and sparser before it transforms into a euphoric goodbye, as Igor bids adieu to his significant other.
As we approach the end of the album, Igor tries to appear as though he’s not bothered by the end of a relationship on the superb “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE,” which features Tyler using just about ever tool in his musical arsenal; thumping drums, pitched up voice, chorus tracks, guitar, and glitzy synths to name a few. The album closes with the dreamlike “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS,” as Igor and his ex themselves the titular question over soulful production that could’ve easily been an Al Green song, who coincidentally is sampled.
It would be easy for someone to hear tracks from this album and never in their life believe that Tyler, the Creator was the mastermind behind it. That’s where the genius in this album truly lies; Tyler’s ability to transform his sound in such an unrecognizable way but still use the same tools to achieve this. It’s an ability he had to hone early on in his career when he was creating narrative-driven projects with diverse casts of characters, but he’s now mastered. Using this mastery, he’s able to create albums that you never would imagine coming from him and exceed at it. Not only is he making amazing music, it sounds like he’s having fun doing it to, which seemed to be the issue with Cherry Bomb. He’s making the music that he wants to make, and although his music has always been, at times, painfully personal, Igor is personal in a whole different way; it’s like a secret that we’re all just fortunate Tyler let us in on.
Check out the new album below here.