Tyler, the Creator is tough to get a handle on. He complains about being misunderstood but seems almost to revel in the inability of the mainstream to know what to make of him and OFWGKTA as a whole.
Case in point: he opens “Radicals” by saying, “Hey, don’t do anything that I say in this song, okay? / It’s fuckin’ fiction. / If anything happens, don’t fuckin’ blame me, white America, fuck Bill O’Reilly.”
The chorus to that song? It includes: “Kill people / burn shit / fuck school.”
Most criticism of the group is aimed at their aggressive, often offensive pro-rape, anti-school, anti-pretty-much-everything lyrics and comes to a screeching halt when it comes to their music. Tyler is an energetic and enigmatic MC whose main tactic is his ability to make his songs seethe with the anger that comes with being down-and-out in Los Angeles.
Their live shows are legend and some of that punk energy flows through on the album, almost to the detriment of the work. Although part of what makes Tyler great is his eternal battle with the critics who want to censor him. His album, Goblin, spends a lot of time talking about how people react to Tyler and not quite enough time cutting loose and having fun.
“Yonkers,” the lead single and only song to get a video to my knowledge, is a highlight of the album and follows the spoken-word introduction. The song takes the form of a self-contradictory conversation between Tyler and Wolf Haley, his more aggressive alter ego.
“Green paper, gold teeth and pregnant gold retrievers all I want / Fuck money, diamonds and bitches, don’t need ‘em,” he raps.
Tyler is at his best here, finding the perfect medium between all-out aggression and silliness that makes his work so listenable and entertaining.
Another album highlight is “Tron Cat,” which belies its cutesy singing intro with one of the darkest sets of lyrics on the album. Bass swells in and out of the track, accompanied by a stuttering drum as Tyler flows for the entire duration. The closest that “Tron Cat” comes to a hook is when the beat drops out, replaced by piano and a female singing a series of “la la’s” as Tyler delivers the following lyric:
“Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome / You got a fuckin’ death wish? I’m a genie, it’ll get done.”
Considering that he regularly says things like the above, any disclaimer that he includes with the album is pretty much made ridiculous. We all — at least the people that are in on the joke — get that he’s joking or playing a character, but that still doesn’t mean that we’re playing this for our grandparents (unless your grandma is the one in Boo Ya Pictures’ “Grandma Reads Odd Future’s Tweets” video. That lady is a hero.)
The overall style of the album is worth discussion. Tyler never comes closer than “Kill people / burn shit / fuck school,” to a chorus or hook, meaning that the album requires that you actually listen rather than marking time between T-Pain singing sections. In that way, it comes closer to early ’90s alternative rap, when rappers asked their audience to react to more than how good it feels to make money, and hey, aren’t hoes amazing?
Considering that my expectations for this album were pretty much that it would be the greatest rap album ever, Goblin rates as a slight disappointment. That doesn’t mean that it’s not an awesome album that displays a shocking amount of promise. Tyler would probably tell you himself that he has a long way to go both as a rapper and producer, but Goblin is evidence of a young man well on his way to super-stardom.
Oh, and I forgot to mention this, but “Sandwitches” fucking slap