The point of a 1-Listen review is to provide a gut reaction, stream of consciousness, no-editing and no-rewinding take that reflect everyone's first time hearing an album or song.
Opinions change and songs will grow on you, but the first time you press play on a new single or project is a dance with your intuition. That’s why I feel I should open this with the qualification: I haven't always been a fan of Tyler, The Creator.
Part of the reason is simply regional preference. The Atlanta-based sounds now dominating rap charts were gaining momentum just hours from my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, while Odd Future was 2,300 miles across the country tending their freshly planted seedling in the field of hip-hop subgenres. It’s also because my angst phase came later than most.
In recent months, I’ve found myself looking back at Tyler's catalog. I admire the holistic producer-rapper approach Tyler took on Wolf and its evidence of growth, but I’m a sucker for aggressive Tyler. It’s jarring and juvenile. He also seems to flex his dexterity as a wordsmith more on fast-paced tracks like “Telephone Calls”—from the latest A$AP Mob tape—and “What the Fuck Right Now,” his rework of Kanye’s “Freestyle 4.”
Tyler’s best at delivering missiles of uninhibited emotion.
I’m assuming he’s dropping an album in about forty minutes, but artists have a knack for creating hype around ambiguous dates. I’m preparing myself for an album, but I'm prepared to pivot if necessary.
Welp, he proved me wrong. It's a video for "Who Dat Boy," a new single featuring collaborator and BFF A$AP Rocky.
It’s 4 p.m. PST, I have nothing else going on, let’s work with Tyler and modify this feature to a 1-Watch review.
The song opens with a chilling synth. Is that a shot of Tyler crafting the melody? No, he’s welding something. Either way, whoever produced this record—likely Tyler—has been taking notes from those boys in Atlanta.
Oh, here he is, and he’s on the street now. Stumbling. He’s stumbling through these bars effortlessly, too.
I got what I asked for: aggressive Tyler. Except authoritarian is a more appropriate description. He’s giving us his verse while cop cars and fire trucks are whizzing past. Are they looking for him?
A GUDDA GUDDA REFERENCE?!? “Fresh to death like I got dressed in a coffin,” my high school self can now rest in peace.
The beat’s got this “popping” drum to it. Honestly, I thought it was a notification on my phone.
He’s knocking on a door, oh shit, it’s Rocky. Their contrasts blend perfectly. Tyler beats you over the head, while Rocky persuades you to stand by his side. His voice slides across the track like new bowling shoes on a freshly waxed lane.
Now Rocky is performing surgery? On Tyler?? He’s giving him a face transplant, but the cops are interrupting the procedure. Maybe a subtle statement about career evolution and feeling the need to keep fans happy.
Whose face is that on Tyler? It looks familiar. Shit, Rocky was someone else, too? He just took off his mask and now they’re in Tyler’s favorite sports car, speeding away from the cops.
The beat changed and now I’m looking at Tyler and Rocky (?) in a park with cherry blossoms. This is kick-your-feet-up-and-sip music.
It was only one viewing, but I might change my “Tyler preference” after that last bit. He wrote that conclusion for me, I’m done talking.