Tyler, The Creator: Flower Boy review

Tyler finally comes into his own

Claude Brun, Staff Reporter
Originally published October 18, 2017


Tyler, The Creator never really struck a chord for me. I viewed his music as appealing to only his core fan base of edgy and purposely over offensive self-proclaimed weirdos. While a few songs off his prior projects like “She” and “SMUCKERS” attracted me, it was the features I was coming for (Frank Ocean, and Kanye and Lil Wayne respectively.) However, after bumping this album in the background of a long car ride, only out of curiosity, expecting to give into temptation to turn it off two songs in, I found a deep appreciation for this project. Just like before, Tyler’s features shine, with not one feeling out of place or detrimental (yes, even Jaden Smith’s). However, this time Tyler doesn’t feel out shined by the artists he features on this album; he’s the one running the show this time and most of your attention will be focused on him and clever bars he spits with truly unique and unpredictable flows.

In previous projects, Tyler’s lyrical content was forced and gratuitous, but on Flower Boy, they no longer do. I’m not sure if the music has changed drastically or if I have just grown to understand Tyler in a way I didn’t before, but on this project, he is far more honest and genuine than ever. While I always felt like he was putting on an edgy facade to cover up his true self in the past, I think Tyler has finally said “f**k it, I’m just gonna be me,” and it works so well that I wonder why it’s taken him so long to reach this approach to songwriting.

From his confessions of his reliance on material objects to cover up his loneliness on the latter half of the song “911 / Mr. Lonely” to his coming out of the closet as bisexual on several songs in this project, it is clear that Tyler is sick of hiding behind the character that was so loved and hated by many. While we mostly lose the old Tyler, who was the embodiment of teen angst in the hip hop realm, he is replaced with a far more mature artist who seems to have finally come into adulthood, yet he still is able to carry over that energy and aggression that marked his past projects to a few tracks such as “I Ain’t Got Time!” and “Who Dat Boy” which feel like surprising breaks from the laid back energy of the rest of the project, but fit perfectly within the tracklist nonetheless.

Speaking of that track list, it’s packed with some of the chillest and grooviest beats in recent memory, over which Tyler spits a series of infectious flows that always keep you guessing where they will go next. He demonstrates his talent of working with the rhythm of a beat more masterfully here than he ever has before, often crossing the bar line, i.e., splitting one word or phrase over the end of a measure into the start of the next, something few rappers today are creative enough to do. The beats are instrumentally packed full of beautifully mixed and composed synths, piano, and the occasional guitar but sadly the drums often feel washed out and overly mild, a disappointment because when you actually hear them, they sound great, often reminiscent of the boom bap days of hip hop.

These beats, while beautiful, would feel overly sparse and hollow if it wasn’t for the singing and rapping Tyler and his guests place over them. On top of the aforementioned sticky infectious flows, many tracks feature even stickier melodies and moments where you won’t be able to help but sing along, think the hooks on “911,” “Boredom,” and “Glitter.” While not all songs focus on these catchy melodies, the ones that don’t do not feel at all out of place. In fact, the tonal progression and pacing of the album is excellent, mainly due to the fact that Tyler has many good new ideas, but never overuses one, making almost every song feel fresh and new upon first listen. The entire album barely lulls and it never loses its momentum, despite its mostly laid back feel.

The only negative that I can think of regarding the assembly of the album is that several songs end the same way: with an extended instrumental breakdown featuring piano and synthesizers. While it sounds great, by the third time you hear it, you may start to feel that Tyler wasn’t using his full creative potential when ending these songs. Luckily, these monotonous endings are only found on a few tracks in the album’s first half, and Tyler later hits his stride, providing song endings that are unique and flow beautifully into the intros of the following track.

Packed with groovy and relaxing beats paired with catchy and sometimes ferocious flows and features that are perfectly placed, Tyler has finally showed us what he’s really capable of. All he needed to do was get past the over the top facade and really be himself.