Tyler, The Creator has successfully evolved from a man of shock value into a man of pleasant surprises. Watching his gradual progression from Bastard, the 2009 debut album that introduced Tyler as hip-hop’s foul-mouth, jester of chaos and mutiny, to Flower Boy, his beautiful 2017 masterpiece, represents how immaturity can shed into stunning reinventions.
Now, a decade into his rollercoaster career, Tyler has released his sixth studio album, IGOR. The project follows Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr. Seuss' The Grinch, the 10-minute, six-song EP released last November.
No one expected the 28-year-old polymath to use his creative talents and score the latest rendition of Dr. Seuss' The Grinch; again, a man of pleasant surprises.
From stark, iconic imagery—like devouring a giant cockroach and hanging himself—to vibrant bumblebees and singing about loneliness, everything about Tyler, The Creator’s growth suggests uncertainty. IGOR is the next step on this journey, one without a single to foreshadow the sound or full-length visuals to detail the album’s aesthetic. It’s the mystery that’s endearing.
Only by pressing play will Tyler reveal the next phase in his evolutionary chart, that’s what keeps us hooked, unable to look away.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. "IGOR'S THEME"
Here we go. Oh, I see this is going to be a trip. The longwinded distortion has me anxious. The drums just kicked in sharp and fierce. The synths are menacing, like the sound of an invasion. Strong N.E.R.D influence. The musicality is so layered. Whose voice is that harmonizing? Beautiful keys just emerged from thin air. Where did that touch of the gospel come from? Who is that woman? The additional vocals are so soulful. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. The opening record is unfolding without any forewarning. I’m used to Tyler building worlds throughout his album, but there’s a universe of sounds in this intro alone. Entrancing.
Tyler doesn’t sound like himself, the vocal pitch here is so light. There isn’t any rapping yet, it's all singing. He has such a strong pop sensibility. This record is structured in such a stunning way. I love this. I’m almost certain Tyler has never sounded so radio friendly—or friendly, period. Is Charlie Wilson in the background? There are vocals everywhere. “EARFQUAKE” reminds me of Childish Gambino’s “Sober” from Kauai EP. I didn’t think he could write such a song, and that’s how I feel about Tyler right now. Whoa, Cash Carti! He sounds like a million dollars worth of designer clothes. He has such an appealing voice. He appeared and disappeared like a figment of my imagination. That’s the second surprise Carti performance of the year. He’s the best kind of party crasher. Tyler’s vocals sound great even without the pitch. I need Stevie Wonder to sing a version of “EARFQUAKE.” Incredible.
3. "I THINK"
These drums! What a swing. I feel like we’re marching to a dance party. The production came in with such shine. Oh wow, he's using Kanye’s “Stronger” flow. There’s a synthy bounce. I shouldn’t be surprised Tyler had an album like this in him. This is a natural progression when you consider his influences and how he’s able to internalize them. IGOR just has more individual color. Who is the woman? Her vocals kinda sound like Kali Uchis. These chords are sinking into my fingers and my nails are glowing brighter. The bridge is like watching shooting stars underneath a maple tree in a beautiful city, simply gorgeous. So much instrumentation. Tyler isn’t wasting a single second. When did he start making love songs like this!?
4. "EXACTLY WHAT YOU RUN FROM"
He has Jerrod Carmichael sounding like a Will Smith soundbite. Is he giving Tyler advice on love?
5. “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”
Tyler’s voice is repeating the song’s title. “Running out of time to make you love me.” He’s letting his vocal texture add to the sonic atmosphere. No Auto-Tune, just a perfectly thin vocal register. I love these keys, there's much charisma in the instrumentation’s progression. Hearing various Kanye influences in the song’s sonics. “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” is a full-on jam session. It's crazy how Tyler was the loud, rambunctious rapper and his music only grows quieter and quieter; from being a screaming menace to soothing jams about running out of time. These chords are lifting me to another world.
6. “NEW MAGIC WAND”
The bassline evaporated my mustache. Think about the basslines found on Cherry Bomb but way more contained. My shoulders are starting to bounce. This might be a baby banger. What is that bell sound? Yo, the beat is spazzing. Sounds like it’s tweaking off angel dust bought from a crafty devil. There are so many layers. I'm starting to see a breakup album in IGOR. The flow! Sounds like a ScHoolboy Q flow. These synths are so heavy it could’ve easily been him. Tyler has learned to fill songs with a million ideas and make them sound seamless. What is happening at the end of this song!? The grrr! Yeah, he’s hitting some wild pockets with the flow. The beat is going to explode, it has to. My face is melting. “I want to share last names.” I’m convinced this album wasn’t recorded on Earth and was made during a broken heart period. Unbelievable.
7. “A BOY IS A GUN”
Yes! These vocals! And the transition into the soul beat. So much soul! How does he go from guns being cocked to something this soft and sensual? “A BOY IS A GUN” isn’t the title for a song this elegant. What type of zone did Tyler enter to pull out these arrangements? So much vision in these transitions. So much is being unfolded in very little runtime. The song’s duration doesn’t reflect what the record offers. He’s moving in such unexpected rhythms there’s no traditional song structure. I like it. IGOR is a journey through the layers of Tyler’s imagination and a broken heart. Every song is a different stage in a relationship falling apart. One of my favorites.
Tyler has me hanging on every word. The subject matter reminds me of Kevin Abstract. Need to hear them on something together soon. Tyler’s production talent is on full display. He created a score. He’s also been focused on simpler songwriting rather than bars and lyricism. “I’m your puppet, you control me.” Is that Kanye!? He is singing in the background. Whoa. There are angels all around me. These vocals came from a higher power. Kanye’s vocals are slightly pitched. I really like how it sounds. This album doesn’t stop expanding. It’s a soulful psychedelic progression; something The Beatles might’ve tried under the effects of LSD if they were heavily inspired by N.E.R.D with Tame Impala’s vision. This soulful outro!!!
9. "WHAT'S GOOD"
Electric! It’s a dance record. The reverb on his vocals is heavy. He’s in full character mode with IGOR. Pretty sure the production would be perfect if hell had clubs. Tyler is going off! So much energy. So much life. “Red nose, red nose, all you niggas are clowns.” I laughed. These grooves are something else. Such aggressive production. Every corner of this song is covered in lighter fluid and he just struck a match. I’m leaping out of my seat. INCREDIBLE. What the hell was he thinking about making this song!? There’s nothing orthodox about it! So many cinematic textures.
10. “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU”
Loving how Jerrod Carmichael is being placed throughout the album. Banging! Whoa, such a swift change. This sounds like an elementary school playground anthem. What in the Tevin Campbell is this!? Fairy tale music. “When love’s gone.” Honestly, IGOR feels like a great companion to Matt Martian’s latest album, The Last Party. Both albums touch on coming to terms with love and relationships. “Know that she can’t compete with me.” The little rap pocket he hit is a nice little addition. Chords are stunning. Oh! These drums! This is a heartbreak paradise. Another rap verse, but closer to his natural vocal texture. I wonder if each voice represents a part of the story. I wonder if all these songs are about the same guy?
Quick switch, a bit brighter, it’s a thank you, next without the trap beat and 2 Chainz influence. The palette of chords is so warm.
11. “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE”
Rap verse to start things off. This is a breakup album—unlike any breakup album I’ve ever heard. “Because I don’t love you anymore.” The vocals sound so wild like something David Bowie would’ve attempted. Different sounds are etched into every corner of this one. Who is that? The male vocals? Also getting The Love Below vibes from this album. André's The Love Below on spiritual acid.
12. “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?”
Last song and I’m blown away. The soul just knocked my spirit into another galaxy. Oh, this is beautiful. I’m talking America’s Next Top Model beautiful. I have no idea how people are going to react, but I am speechless. Who knew he could? Who knew!? I need someone to answer, Tyler! The sincerity in his voice. These chords are something else. So many soulful outbursts. IGOR is a cherry bomb of colors. The most sensitive and sincere Tyler has ever sounded. No acts. No gimmicks. Just honest emotions said in the most electrifying way possible.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on Tyler, The Creator's IGOR:
Reaching the end of an album, and having the urge to play it again from the top is a feeling that’s been rare this year. IGOR gave me that feeling.
Tyler, The Creator having a young man break his heart and choosing to tailor IGOR around the calamity was an unbelievable creative decision. At least that’s what I gather from the subject matter.
The songwriting is simple, and concise which allows his production to be spontaneous; every single note is dressed up by a beautiful, progressive arrangement.
Tyler’s former love of disorder is now replaced by a sniper’s precision. There isn't a second wasted. Similar to what Solange did with When I Get Home, IGOR builds atmosphere with a goldmine of distinct vocals and dazzling instrumentation. How features are employed is exciting; how Jerrod Carmichael narration and vocals from Kanye West, Charlie Wilson, Playboi Carti, and more I didn’t catch are scattered throughout the project hidden in corners of songs. The appearances are calculated, every chord and synth has a purpose, and even Tyler's voice is transformed across every track to create an ever-changing experience.
IGOR is an experience; one that sounds like his longtime N.E.R.D admiration became the gateway to his most unique and original world.
This is love as told by Tyler. Romance will never sound the same again.
By Yoh, aka Yoh, The IGOR , aka @Yoh31