“DON’T GO INTO THIS EXPECTING A RAP ALBUM. DON’T GO INTO THIS EXPECTING ANY ALBUM. JUST GO. JUMP INTO IT,” reads an Instagram post shared minutes before Tyler, the Creator’s sixth studio album, IGOR, was released to the world.
Indeed, this lushly produced and sonically jam-packed project doesn’t feel much like a rap album — although it’s hard not to classify it as one.
Everything about IGOR, from its playful features to its thoughtful thematic and lyrical narratives seems to show that it’s a nostalgic, messy and ultimately bittersweet mishmash of emotions. It’s vulnerable and self-reflective, and shows the emotional journey Tyler undertakes when integrating the many sides of his persona into an album — one that is among his best work as a producer and a rapper, in that order.
IGOR’s narrative tells a simple story that feels strangely familiar: You fall for someone and they admit their feelings for you. But they refuse to commit, to go all in. And this drives you insane. You become undefined, and the uncertainty consumes you. You become angry, resentful, frustrated and bitter. Eventually, you come back to your senses, cut your losses and move on.
Tyler’s adept production skills pick up much of the weight in delivering this blunt and emotionally revealing narrative. His production takes a sharp turn from the beautiful, melodic, orchestral production that characterized his previous project (Flower Boy) and shifts toward a more bass and synth-heavy tone packed with unexpected bridges and soul samples. It’s sonically intense and incredibly different from his other work, yet at the same time rarely feels overwhelming or obnoxious.
Every second feels like this is the first big summer album of 2019; one meant to freshly deliver the many emotions it seeks to explore and to cause listeners to quietly contemplate it in a serene space, away from the bustlings of society.
As the album’s emotional narrative begins, we see that Tyler is caught up in a bit of a love triangle: he has a love interest going on with a guy, who reciprocates, but just won’t cut off his ex-girlfriend, despite Tyler’s pleas. Tyler is caught in an emotional limbo, stressed out of his mind and overwhelmed with emotions. Angry and resentful, he fantasizes about a “NEW MAGIC WAND” (which he heavily hints is a gun) to rid himself of his love interest’s ex, and falls prey to his own wishful thinking. If only he was able to get rid of this one person, everything would finally be okay.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this album is the last minute entrance of Igor, the title persona. Tyler’s story, so far, has been one of emotional turbulence, lowkey murder fantasies and paralyzing loneliness. At this point, his desperation to break this cycle is beginning to show.
At the end of the seventh track, “A BOY IS A GUN”, which samples the overwhelmingly nostalgic and beautiful “Bound” by the Ponderosa Twins Plus One, Tyler contemplates the nature of said toxic, one-sided relationship. He says, “You’re a gun ’cause I like you on my side at all times / You keep me safe…Wait, wait, depending on, you know / You could be dangerous to me,”
He feels attracted to this love interest, but ultimately realizes that he could be seriously hurt if he’s not careful. He then decides the relationship is not one worth pursuing and rejects the love interest.
On the ninth track, “WHAT’S GOOD”, Tyler’s heavily distorted voice suddenly departs from the conflicted, meditative mood of the previous songs and is seemingly overtaken by a wild, braggadocious persona more reminiscent of his earlier work, yet tempered with the wisdom he’s accrued. He raps, “Y’all said I wouldn’t go nowhere, took the detour / . . . / If the cop says my name, bitch, I’m Igor!”
Igor seems to be Tyler’s way of reasserting control over his emotions by adopting a hyper-confident persona. Igor is also a stock character in much Gothic fiction, usually acting as assistant to all varieties of evil geniuses. He helps Tyler cope with the pain of pushing away his love interest by adopting something along the lines of a newly realized ego, but reality eventually strikes, upon which Tyler muses, “I don’t know what’s harder, letting go or just being okay with it.” Igor, then, seems to be the sidekick persona — the mad assistant, almost —that Tyler uses in order to pick himself back up; the one that provides the necessary emotional support for a broken heart trying to piece itself together again.
Sonically cohesive and thematically consistent, IGOR succeeds, at once, as a breakup album, a summer vibe album, a skater album and a quintessential Tyler, the Creator album. It succeeds where Tyler has struggled in the past, integrating the bombastic ego of Bastard, Goblin and Wolf, the musical experimentation of Cherry Bomb and the raw honesty rooted in Flower Boy. IGOR depicts a heartfelt narrative with minimal words and maximal musicality and succeeds in creating an album that feels completely different from older works, while still feeling like a type of music that reflects the natural progression of his sound.