Tyler, The Creator: Wolf
In many ways, Wolf is a continuation of 2011’s Goblin. Tyler, the Creator’s favorite lyrical themes are still here, as is his general approach, which combines modern rap with more out-there influences. There’s something different about this one though. Tyler had said this album would focus more on production and have fewer rap songs. Well, there’s a ton of rapping all over Wolf, not that that’s a bad thing. Tyler has one of the most original voices in hip hop today and when his Odd Future pals show up to trade verses, it’s even better. He did get into production in a big way though.
People who have only heard the single, “Domo23,” will probably be surprised by how chilled-out this album is as a whole. While that song was made to be played in clubs, the majority of the rest of the album is heavily influenced by classic soul. These traditional sounds are then augmented with syncopated drum-machine beats and keyboards in Tyler’s idiosyncratic style. The effect is dreamy, yet grounded. Plenty of tracks could be classified as beautiful, as long as the lyrics don’t bother you.
Of course there are songs that can compete with anything Tyler’s new-school hip-hop contemporaries are releasing, like the aforementioned “Domo23” and “Trashwang,” in which he knowingly says, “I want the black kids to like me for this one.” This record is all about the surprises though. “Tamale” is an amazing Bollywood-style jam that will make you want to dance so badly, except that it’s next to impossible to follow the beat. Then there’s “Colossus,” an extremely arresting track that begins typically enough with the line, “Went to Six Flags, six fags came up and say ‘Ey-yo’,” but then takes an unexpected turn. It becomes an earnest conversation between an obsessed fan who gets emotional, confessing how important Tyler’s music has been to him and how it’s changed his life and Tyler himself, who doesn’t want to come off as unappreciative, but just wants to ride roller coasters. This is a truthful quandary that he probably has to deal with regularly and it’s expertly executed. It’s like Eminem’s “Stan,” but way less heavy-handed.
The scale of Wolf is epic and can be overwhelming to try to take in all at once. This easily could have been turned into two complimentary albums like Radiohead did with Kid A and Amnesiac. That isn’t how Tyler, the Creator works though. Next year he’ll be onto the next thing and these songs will be old news.