Love him or hate him, Odd Future (you know, that group of young Los Angeles natives who took over the Internet at one point and made headlines due to their aggressive and quite absurd music/brand)’s Tyler, The Creator- the sort of face of the group- is out with his latest solo release, Wolf. Tyler is that creepy guy who ate a cockroach in that darkly humorous yet sort of sickening black and white video for his most popular track “Yonkers”. Since that song, a couple worldwide tours, multiple albums released on the self-named record company Odd Future, a television show called Loiter Squad on the Adult Swim network, a very successful clothing line and merchandise collection including socks, skateboards, pants, and jackets, and even a carnival, it would seems that Odd Future and Tyler himself seem to be doing pretty well for themselves.
Last we heard of the Odd Future collective as a whole was with 2012’s Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 and Tyler was last heard on the closing finale track “Oldie”. In Tyler’s last verse he is heard saying “I started an empire, I ‘aint even old enough to drink a f***ing beer yet, I’m tipsy off this soda pop” and pretty much, on one final triumphant verse, states how Odd Future has made it. With a legion of an absolutely hard core and cult-like fan base, it seems Tyler and his gang at that time had taken over the music and internet hype by storm.
Fast-forward to 2013 and things are a little different. A lot can occur in today’s industry with some artists literally lasting less than 2-3 weeks in the spotlight, plenty other rap ‘posies’ have followed and taken the attention away from the O.F crew. Groups like A$AP, Raider Klan, Black Hippy (Kendrick Lamar) have all basked in their moments of fame and still continue on to prosper. From the outsider’s perspective, it would have seemed like Odd Future has now taken the back seat. However, members of O.F have continually been putting out records and now it would seem that Tyler the Creator’s Wolf is the latest coming out of the infamous brand name.
Tyler, The Creator is an artist that is very easy to hate. Known for his completely uncensored, vulgar, and at times, quite nonsensical sound and image, he is not really a figure that first seems very attractive to invest time into unless you are an angry, adolescent kid. At the root of it all, Tyler is ultimately one of the greatest trolls in all of the internet and music industry today. He is so easily able to take nothing seriously, enrage probably thousands of people, and has amounted to so much success based off a ‘donut’ logo and shirts with cats. It is an incredible success story; a bunch of suburban kids with almost nothing break through and end up owning a store in L.A and driving high-end BMW’s with a network show and travelling worldwide before some members are even out of high school thanks to some music they recorded in their garage that just happened to become infectiously viral.
Wolf is the third installment of a three-part series of solo releases by Tyler, the previous two being 2009’s Bastard and 2011’s Goblin. All of these albums follow a particular ‘theme’ and explore the multi-personality psyche of Tyler. Wolf continues on with this dialogue and focuses on the alter-ego Wolf, as well, explores the themes of death, change, and is almost his sobering up to the rollercoaster of fame that had engulfed him from years past and reflects on where exactly he stands as of now.
It is an interesting narrative to follow as Tyler has a very rambunctious, creative, fascinating and yet repulsive and sometimes disturbingly dark imaginative. His voice is deep and his baritones shake your core like a growl that he can manipulate from fierce to sometimes humble and soft, with beats that crawl and creep while others bounce around chaotically without relent. When thrown in the mix of today’s rap, it can sometimes be a nice change of pace as some dark humour and ridiculous, self-aware lyrics can be quite refreshing compared to other artists and their sometimes repetitive and club-trash sound. Tyler is making music he wants to make, without a worry for sales or popularity. He makes these albums for himself first and foremost.
Wolf opens up with the self-titled intro track “WOLF’ which introduces us to Tyler singing “F*** you” and certain homophobic slurs over a sweeping and almost dream-like array of soft percussion and an angelic choir in almost hilariously stupid and ridiculously ironic fashion. It is an introduction that few artists would ever come up with or attempt and could not be a more perfect opening not only for the album, but Tyler as an artist today.
Right off the start it is clear to see just what sort of character he really is and whether he appeals to you or not. He is certainly not someone to take too seriously yet also deserves a certain sort of undivided attention. After “WOLF” comes “Jamba” where Tyler and O.F member Hodgy Beats rap over a hard-hitting, grimy, and laden with analog synth instrumental. Throughout the album, there is a certain almost ‘jazz’ and ‘R&B’ influence in his instrumentals and beats, most are relatively slow and filled with varying piano/key board notes and plenty of more abstract, sometimes psychedelically weird interludes.
‘Awkward’ tells a story from Tyler’s youth about a kiss with a girl and here it is clear that in the midst of the vileness, there is a certain story-teller talent to Tyler with a soft and emotional side.
In ‘Colossus’, Tyler reflects on his fame and his devoted fans and how he has come to deal with the success and as well, addresses his critics and those that speak out against him and his message. The album as a conceptual whole is certainly an interesting piece of music however, the songs by themselves are quite weak and without the whole album narrative to back them up, can seem quite insignificant and a little trivial.
On the closing track, ‘Lone’, Tyler reflects on his family, his grandmother’s death, and himself as a growing adult reaching almost full maturity. It would seem that Tyler is far from maturity but on this track, and even throughout the entirety of the album, we hear a Tyler that is confused, overwhelmed, and almost a victim to his own success.
He is still only a kid but one that is full of ambition and has followed through with his dreams and vision, and that is something to admire, right? Having recently just directed a commercial for Mountain Dew and continually making music and extensively touring, it is safe to say that Tyler and the rest of the O.F crew are working hard and once again, hate them or love them, seem to have no limit as to just how far they will take themselves.