Tyler, the Creator's Boy's Club

His violent, difficult Goblin talks itself into a corner

Tyler, the Creator's Boy's Club

For an album so undeniably 2011, Tyler, the Creator's Goblin sure starts off sounding a lot like 1993. The first words we hear him spit on Goblin are "I'm not a fuckin' role model"—a slightly altered version of Charles Barkley's notorious Nike commercial from Clinton's first year in office, as well as the driving discourse of Tupac Shakur's fiery second album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.

It's a strangely out of time way for Tyler to introduce himself, and it's not a look the fashion-conscious 20-year-old wears particularly well. In part, that's because the censorship battles accompanying rap's extended entrance into American pop culture seem quaint in 2011. But it's also because Tyler's fighting a handful of well-intentioned people who chatter about music (including yours truly) who are uneasy about gleefully granting Next Big Thing status to a kid with a Tumblr and fantasies about punching pregnant women.

Tyler's not sure who he's supposed to be yet, this much is clear. As a result, Goblin is much more understandable not as a statement of purpose, but as a therapy session. The kid born Tyler Okonma is a fatherless, gawky digital native who came up in a world where it's harder than ever for a confused kid to get a proper sense of scale, let alone decorum. For every thousand retweets he's received, you get the feeling he's spent hours k-holing in messageboard hell. Not once, but twice, he lashes out at those critics and bloggers who dare call his music—and its uniformly gothic, cavernous beats, fascination with the number 666, guttural croak and penchant for detailed rape narratives—"horrorcore." Fair enough, you don't want to be lumped in with Gravediggaz. But the devil's in the details, dude.

Tyler, the Creator at (relative) rest
Mehan Jayasuriya
Tyler, the Creator at (relative) rest

Inherent in Tyler's aesthetic is a lack of impulse control, and at 74 minutes Goblin is far too long by half, a fact not helped by his (and engineer/mixer Syd the Kid's) fondness for the dark, dreamlike synth pads that underscore nearly every moment. His lyrics are compelling, but in a way that often mirrors his Twitter feed, and there's a reason the microblogging service isn't meant as an archive. It's worth getting to the end of the album, but he doesn't make it easy. Even with Tyler's dramatic Taxi Driver-biting ending, the dreary eight-minute posse cut "Window" plays like a dark Hieroglyphics studio goof, and that's followed by the throwaway instrumental "AU79," which makes for about two minutes worth of interesting material out of nearly 12.

Those two minutes feature Tyler, of course, and when he's on—as he is on about half of Goblin—he's nothing short of remarkable. The still-stunning "Yonkers," with its opening line of the year "I'm a fucking walking paradox/No I'm not," feels more polished than much of Goblin's material, although it certainly fits well with it. There's no doubt that Tyler can rap his ass off and switch registers seamlessly, that he has a knack for narrative arcs and theatrical flourishes (no spoilers, but when "Golden" finally arrives, we get a goofy-but-gripping psychodramatic twist), and his production work, while draining in bulk, sets an effectively ominous mood. Goblin is an auteur's coming-out party, and dozens of kids are going to try--and fail--to imitate it in the next few months.

Yet on a record full of shocks, Goblin's biggest surprise is Tyler's maturity and range, showcased best on the quietly stunning "Her." His own "Passin' Me By," the track is a heart-wrenchingly specific tale of unrequited teen love communicated entirely through the banal distance of digital technologies, epitomized by the sweet/creepy lyric "her name is my password." (Jesus.) The sinuous Frank Ocean feature "She" ramps up the voyeurism (the hook: "blinds wide open, so we can/see you in the dark when you're sleepin'") but keeps things within a Rear Window framework. He admits he's going through the dating motions strictly to get laid, but he also says that his violent front is just a show for his boys.

But at the same time, fuck that, you know? Because the repugnant misogynistic bullshit on Goblin sort of cancels any goodwill I have toward the guy. Particularly because it feels more like search engine optimization; Tyler makes no bones about his desire to hit the pop charts, and on too much of Goblin, he's doing it in the tawdriest way possible. There's the repellent "Bitch Suck Dick," the aesthetic equivalent of a pop-up window advertising a snuff flick shot in an abandoned Van Nuys condo. The gang-bang fantasy comprising the second half of "Fish"—the girl gives Tyler VD, he goes to find his gun. The previously available "Sandwitches," on which Hodgy Beats revels in the notion of assaulting a pregnant woman. The Dracula drag of "Transylvania."

He doesn't stop at mere descriptions, though: he tries to tell us how to take it by 1) denying his fans an aspirational approach to his celebrity status ("not a role model"), 2) ascribing his worst impulses to his alter-ego "Tron Cat," and 3) playing us for dupes ("I'm not a rapist"/ "I'm not a homophobe"). Each of these excuses falls flat, because the only way this sort of angry-boy/killin' bitches/fuck faggots rhetoric works—to the degree that it ever actually should—is by presenting it without remorse or any sort of explanation.

Instead, Tyler keeps talking. He tacks an awkward PSA to the front of "Radicals," Goblin's straight-up hilarious "Break Shit" moment, which he caps with the empty provocation "fuck Bill O'Reilly." "Radicals" empties the political connotations of that term but keeps the shell, filling it with the more flexible signifier drawn from skate culture. It's like Tyler saw how "Fuck you/I won't do what you tell me" devolved in a flash from molotovs to Jager bombs, and thought it the perfect branding opportunity. (If only "Kill People/Burn Shit/Fuck School" hadn’t already been perfected—with a catchy tune, no less—by Alice Cooper nearly 40 years ago.) When the meds kick in at song's end, you can almost see him drowsily punching the air as he conks out after his tantrum.

Goblin's highest points and most infuriating moments come from the fact that it's a vérité depiction of the worst aspects of American boy culture. You know, hating girls because they don't like you because you're a weirdo, hating any and all authority figures because they try to tell you how not to be such a weirdo. But most importantly (and scarily), there's the part that involves lashing out about being viewed as a weirdo, and being summarily rewarded—i.e. seen as normal—for doing so. (It probably goes without saying that girls don't have the same luxury.) Nobody cares about Tyler the Creator being someone's role model in 2011. Which in a way, is the scariest thing about Goblin—too much of his scary fantasizing, for too many boys, is all too normal.

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22 comments
Basiic_nerd
Basiic_nerd

I FUKKN LOVE TYLER THE CREATOR && OFWGKTA ND IF U DONT WAT DO U LIKE???

Zak22 Zs
Zak22 Zs

This review is idiotic and imbecilic. He clearly says that this record is not made for old, white people like you. So shut up and review The Dave Matthews Band or something.

DeathtoFakeness
DeathtoFakeness

15 minutes of Fame are up. Tyler is still very much a confused teenager who doesn't know shit about the world which to me is annoying as fuck.

Rreality
Rreality

Young Tyler makes raps middleschoolers at daycamp make to impress themselves. It is all excrement, excrement, excrement. And yeah a lot of the rhymes are clever and really funny but no more so than anyone else's. So no genius. It IS however a bit of an antidote to 40 year old millionaire entertainers faking they are still ghetto thugs whiile tricked out in luxury apparel. In the end after Tyler cashes in it will just be the same old rap dog chasing its own tail. But what does it say about the White Order that it is fascinated by a young man of African descent who has an act built on rap's mainstay, the pretend sociopath? Slavery in this culture isn't over.

againstPC
againstPC

You PC critics are a bunch of jokes. Since when was rock, punk, and hip hop not misogynistic? Oh yeah, don't forget jazz, classical and everything else. Jay Z and Kanye made a career out of it. Biggie and Tupac, Wu Tang Clang, all of them. Nirvana, hey, Polly want a Cracker? Black Flag? Sex Pistols? That name alone is misogynistic; plus Sid killed his girlfriend; Syd Barrett beat women, and Kurt Cobain beat his wife. And the list goes on and on of so called PC writing that the VV delivers. You go to church or something?

Jim
Jim

Great point about the over-explanation/disclaimers - it's to the point on the album where any social commentary (or anything that can be perceived as social commentary, at least) is almost made redundant by his "this isn't real!" ramblings. It's a Lady Gaga "my performance is so loaded with symbolism" moment. Or maybe subtlety is too much to expect of acts out to be popular. That said, I think there are some interesting ties between Angry Boy America and family/social breakdowns and pressures, which might not be new but does seem on purpose, as opposed to generic misogynistic/homophobic rappers. Then again, his media calls of "I'm just a kid having fun, not thinking about that shit" when asked about his 'irreverent' name-calling is pretty boring - dude, if you're old enough to recognize it, you ain't a kid no more, just like the rest of us.

statusChange
statusChange

What does it means to empower young straight males in america?

Jhnleap
Jhnleap

Still trying to figure out what Odd Future is.

Nujack City
Nujack City

For everyone saying this is the new face of hhip hop, I disagree. Fashionista, angry, punk rappers have been around for the past couple of years. Tyler is the only one to garner the biggest buzz. While I enjoy some of his work I can't get behind all the hype. And I couldn't listen to rap songs that go over seven minutes. Hopefully he will evolve into a dope lyricist and songwriter who doesnt need to have lines just for shock value to impress his boys.

Dan
Dan

Pretty on point, but I still think everyone's reading into this too much. They're baiting you, like Howard Stern or Eminem used to do. Nothing original or particularly compelling to see here. Their 15 minutes will be over soon... and if not, I look forward to making fun of their dumb fans for years to come.

RacecaR
RacecaR

I know that most people don't care anymore and that they are going to curse me out for saying this stuff. No wonder this country is messed up, when people listen to this kind of music with profanity, sexual garbage and violence, they think it is all right. First of all don't give me that crap about freedom of speech, freedom of speech is not about behaving or acting like this, if the founding fathers who wrote the freedom of speech found out that it would end up like this they would be devastated. When I look at the kids today they all have filthy things coming out of their mouth with no respect for anyone, sleeping around with everyone, no wonder half of them are suffering from STD's and other sexual diseases. This kind of crap has to stop, again I know you want to curse or beat the hell out of me, but I know that there are still decent people out there who think that this kind of stuff Is wrong and it is wrong. We have taken freedom of speech and threw it in a toilet ball with raw sewage swimming around it. The way society is going the way it is (Lack of respect, STD's, Violence, Divorces, anything goes and nothing is wrong any more) imagine how bad it is going to be in another 25 years, we have to change our ways and become decent with high morals or this country is going to go down. Again I know most of you reading this don't give a crap and are laughing at me really hard, but that's the truth.

janedonuts
janedonuts

After hearing all the hype a couple of months ago, I tried listening to one of his songs, and while I found the music compelling, the misogyny in the lyrics was an immediate turnoff, so I probably won't bother. I overlooked in lots of hip hop I've loved in the past (Biggie, Dre, Tupac, etc), but I think I'm done. Too old, I guess.

The Ghettosavant
The Ghettosavant

Clearly the album worked if you're so conflicted about it. Odd Future is punk music. That's all. Re-fucking-lax.

stateoftheheart
stateoftheheart

It's fairly obvious that OFWGKTA ain't for everyone. It sure as fuck ain't for Steve Harvey, oops I mean Eric Harvey. I can say without a doubt that, much like my girlfriend, Eric worships crap bands like Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and annoying shit like Mumford & Sons. While this music may have some rebellious relevance in the dormitories of overpriviledged sorority chicks, let's face it, it's music for people who don't give a shit about music. Odd Future, despite the vulgarities and shit that obviously annoys Prince Eric here, is the new face of hip-hop. Sorting out whether or not every lyric is pc or not might be fun for some douchebags, I for one don't take it so seriously, and instead LIKE IT. Eric, please stick to writing reviews for bands that don't need it like Phoenix and The Shoegazers.

Chris McIntyre
Chris McIntyre

This review seems like it was written by someone with no knowledge of what Odd Future are about or what Tyler stands for. Ironically there's a line which addresses this EXACT thing on 'Goblin'.

If the reviewer had properly listened to Tyler's first album Bastard, 'Her' would not come as a surprise. Take a moment to listen to 'Inglorius' or 'Parade' for some deeper themes about not having a father and growing up, respectively. Then maybe his "maturity and range" wouldn't come as such a surprise.

Presumably the "repugnant misogynistic bullshit" in 'A Clockwork Orange' also ruins that book and movie for the reviewer too? And you sure as hell have never enjoyed a Tarantino film.

Not a bad review overall, but really, please listen to the back catalogue and do some research on an artist before

drewslugmoar
drewslugmoar

Whenever the 'indie-rock' 'cutting edge' 'trendsetting' 'taste making' magazines and blogs spend too much time analyzing a rap record then the sales are never worth a shit.

Camnking1
Camnking1

dude made mad money and his crew are coming out with major label albums too ... its not 15 minutes ... more like a few hours ... it aint up either

Guest
Guest

when did Kurt beat his wife

chelsea.marek
chelsea.marek

@Chris McIntyre


Thank you! I'm a little behind in actually looking into OF due to run ins in the past with crap articles like this, but better late than never. This guy really hasn't done the research and I'm almost certain that if he had, he would have written a different piece.


The first song I heard was 'Tamale' and I was basically just like what is going on here and then when it slows down and he explains his thoughts on his father, basically everything after that has made sense. After being inundated with horseshit lyrics in hip hop for almost two decades, I'll take the exaggerated misogyny because at least there's some meaning to it here. Anyone with two brain cells can tell this is commentary- and they should listen. Want to know the ramifications of growing up fatherless in a world dominated by the internet? Well, here you go.


Honestly, The Notebook did more to disparage progressive ideas about women than Odd Future EVER will. Frankly, I'm tired of hip hop artists talking about having tons of money & bitches on their FIRST SINGLE. Did you sell fucking real estate before or wtf? Poo pooing on Tyler's standard grade teenage insecurities (oh you don't like me, well I never liked you anyway!) just because he exaggerates the later (presumably just because and maybe because fuck you), doesn't leave me with much respect for the author. 


The only reason Tyler keeps trying to explain himself is because dumb articles like this keep being written. Very few people create content just to create content. Apparently even less know to take it for more than face value.

 
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