Tyler, The Creator isn’t your traditional rapper. In fact, his mission in life seems to be pouring lighter fluid over tradition and then lighting a match. He doesn’t make conventional rap albums and he isn’t confined by what is accepted as popular or in-demand. Since the very beginning, he has challenged the system, broken all the rules and created his own lane. He’s hard to love and easy to hate, but if you could get over his rough exterior there’s something special at the core.
Even in the early days of Odd Future, if you could see past the rebellious defiance, childish immaturity, overwhelming obnoxiousness, and his crass use of offensive slurs there was a creative genius behind the mountain of madness. There is no separating the two, the same way you can’t separate Michael Jordan one of the greatest to ever touch a basketball and Michael Jordan the prick or Kanye West the musical mastermind from Kanye West the asshole. Tyler is both Dennis The Menace and Vincent Van Gogh, painfully mischievous and artistically astounding.
A few months ago, I labeled his latest album, Cherry Bomb, audio chaos, and my opinion hasn’t changed much. A lot of the album is still a strain on the ears due to his erratic mixing preference, and repeat listens haven’t made me any more comfortable. The title track is so excruciating my brain feels like it’s being cooked very slowly in an oven from hell. But what really bothered me was the song before it, “Find Your Wings,” which is absolutely beautiful. The production is arranged heavenly, the elegant horns and lush keys combined with the many angelic vocalists make a song that is unlike anything in his catalog.
It’s impressive how Tyler uses his notoriety to acquire resources that weren’t possible a few years ago. Tyler isn’t DJ Khaled, someone that recycles the same artists and getting the same results each time. Tyler nabbed Roy Ayers, Kali Uchis, Syd, and more to impact just one record that is less than three minutes long. You’ll leave “Find Your Wings” believing he’s a visionary and by the next song ready to swallow a cherry bomb.
From start to finish the album is in a constant state of fluctuation. It can go from boisterous and rambunctious to grandiose and gorgeous, at times it’s a juxtaposition of both. Take “Blow My Load,” for example. Lyrically it’s raunchy and perverted, a dedication to the art of cunnilingus, but Stevie Wonder doing adlibs in the background and Syd’s second-half appearance affects the entire atmosphere. It’s both dirty and sensual, a love song that could only come from the mind of a man-child.
“Fucking Young” and “Perfect” exist in this same plane of absurdity. A song about struggling with affection for an underage girl is painfully awkward but the moment Kali Uchis appears it becomes pleasant, no longer a dirty song about longing for the illegal that Tyga could relate to but unrequited love that is poetic enough to be scored in a remake of Romeo and Juliet. The album is ludicrous, by far the most Tyler-esque creation in his catalog.
Finding your wings is the message that reoccurs throughout the album. Each album Tyler removes himself further from the father issues and horrorcore concepts that were apparent on Bastard, the album that jumpstarted his career. All his former trademarks are left behind in his gloomy past. Success has affected him in the most positive way, no longer the melancholy misfit but a businessman that made all his dreams come true. In his own way, Tyler wants this for all the kids that look up to him as a role model. It’s a role he embraces. He loathes drugs and alcohol, has a strong disdain for sheep that follow trends, and has always dared to speak his mind. That’s a side of Tyler that is most strongly represented between the lines of Cherry Bomb—finding success while being yourself without conforming.
I wanted this album to be the one that would take Tyler, The Creator into a more popular league of artists but he continues to avoid the other side. He made a similar move with Wolf; the song “Bimmer” that featured Frank Ocean had crossover appeal if released as a single. Instead of taking a potential hit to iTunes, he attached the song to two others in a seven-minute mashup.
Cherry Bomb is somehow Tyler's best and most unbearable album. “Smuckers” and “2Seater” will get repeat listens, but “Buffalo” or “Pilot,” both with enough bass to blow out an eardrum, are hard passes. Even the biggest Tyler advocates can’t vouch for this project from top to bottom. It’s overly ambitious, a cluster of good and bad ideas, the kind of album that gets made when you are itching with creativity and no ceiling to limit the madness. What I like about Tyler is his disdain of comfortability. There isn’t anything safe about his artistry. He took a risk making an album that even his biggest core followers could dislike. That’s the gamble he made with Cherry Bomb, and one I’m certain he has yet to regret.
Tyler is a mad genius just like the idols he traces. You can hear the influences in the music. As he continues to improve, I predict he will be influencing the next generation of passionate musicians and artists that strive to break the rules. The next wave of rule makers that will spin this game on its head. Cherry Bomb isn’t for everyone but it wasn’t meant to be a commercial success. It was meant to be a statement that there are two sides of Tyler, The Creator. Despite growing older, maturing, he is still very much the same guy. A menace and a genius. You can’t have one without the other.
It’s beautiful chaos.
By Yoh, aka Come Back to Yoh, aka @Yoh31