Tyler, the Creator – Wolf Album Review by Jay Fingers

Wolf by Tyler, the Creator

Title: Wolf
Artist: Tyler, the Creator
Label: Odd Future / RED / Sony Music Entertainment
Genre(s): Hip-Hop
Released: April 2, 2013

Tyler, the Creator is immature.

Surely this will not be a revelation to anyone familiar with the music that’s come from the Odd Future frontman the past few years. Yet despite a predilection for juvenile antics and shocking lyrics, Tyler is unquestionably a gifted artist, one who’s continually growing as evidenced on his third studio album, Wolf.

Thematically, Wolf is a bit of a departure from Tyler’s previous efforts Bastard and Goblin. While the album is just as dark (if not darker) than its predecessors, it’s less violent and less reliant on shock value. It’s slightly ironic that Tyler abandoned the “therapy session” framework from his earlier albums as Wolf seems to be his most cathartic work to date. Consider this his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

For instance, Tyler is still very much having difficulty reconciling his relationship (or lack thereof) with his father. After what sounds like a series of gun shots, he opens his verse on the Hodgy Beats-assisted “Jamba” with: “Papa ain’t call/Even though he saw me on TV/But it’s all good/Fuck you.” He then proceeds to exact revenge by forcing his absentee father’s imaginary girlfriend to perform fellatio on him. Later, on the truly affecting “Answer,” he hurls all manner of insults and slurs at his father before admitting that “if [he] ever had the chance to ask [his father why he abandoned him]/And call him/I hope he answers.”

This sort of vulnerability is actually found all over Wolf. Just listen to the anti-drug screed “48,” in which Tyler takes on the role of a remorseful drug dealer. We know he’s never sold dope a day in his life, but that doesn’t take away from its sense of realism or pathos. For added authenticity, Nas bookends the track with words on the ills of the crack game.

There’s also the strangely romantic “IFHY” featuring Tyler’s hero Pharrell Williams. It’s the album obligatory ode to unrequited love (see “She” from Goblin for an even better example). Despite the absolute vitriol in Tyler’s verses, Skateboard P’s crooning and the lush production actually give the song a surreal sense of optimism.

But lest we forget, this is still an OFWGKTA project. Ratchetness abounds. “Colossus” is a “Stan”-like tale of an overzealous fan who runs up on Tyler at an amusement park. It’s hilariously profane and proves that fame isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Mike G and former OF member Casey Veggies spit noteworthy free-associative verses on the bumpin’ “Parking Lot.”

On the Wu-worthy “Rusty,” Tyler addresses his critics’ objections to his use of a certain pejorative (“Saying I hate gays though Frank’s on, like, ten of my songs”) and is flanked by the ever-improving Domo Genesis and ever-impressive Earl Sweatshirt. One of the songs that Frank Ocean appears on, “Slater,” is a breezy cut about riding around and enjoying life. And, of course, there’s always the de rigueur crunk parody song: in this case, “Trashwang,” which gives shine to the crew’s non-rappers, most notably Taco, Jasper Dolphin, and L-Boy.

What’s most impressive about Wolf, though, is that despite all the high-profile cameos (Erykah Badu shows up on the sublime “Treehome95”), Tyler handled the album’s production all by himself. His brand of IDGAF music is an exhilarating blend of Neptunes-era hip-hop and neo-jazz, and it would be surprising if he doesn’t start producing for acts outside Odd Future in the near future.

While his ironic use of ethnic and gay slurs and other shock tactics will doubtlessly rankle the easily offended, Tyler, the Creator is proving himself to be one of hip-hop’s most intriguing talents. Wolf is proof of his progression. It will be exciting to see where he goes from here.

Grade: A-

Best Tracks:

“IFHY” (featuring Pharrell Williams)

“48” (featuring Nas and Frank Ocean)

“Answer”

“Rusty” (featuring Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt)

Related Articles