Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Wolf," Tyler, the Creator (HHES Review)

Prior to listening to "Wolf," I had only heard negative things about him. I listened to it a little bit and I found his voice and flow interesting, but wasn't wowed. There were a couple of songs that grabbed me a bit, but I didn't think they were world-changers or anything. Then I saw an interview with him and realized that I grew up with guys like him, so I kinda get where he's coming from, even though I disagree with a lot of his choices.

A eponymous first track is almost completely pointless and offensive. It doesn't sound horrible, but the words are horrible. It's followed by "Jamba," which is catchy and well-produced, but once again, contains enough misogyny and homophobia to detract from its quality. The next track "Cowboy" doesn't differ from "Jamba" in any notable way. "Awkward," is kinda different, particularly since it has an actual topic and it reduces the offensive stuff.

"Domo 23" sounds quite a bit different in terms of the production and flow. The lyrics, however, are totally pointless and go back in the more offensive direction. "Answer" shows the production on the album starting to really vary, but the lyrics and flow have been heard a bunch of times already. On this album.

"Slater" is a song about Tyler riding on his bike, and it isn't as exciting as that sounds. "48" is the first time on the album that Tyler really has consistently good lyrics that tell a real story and reveal something about his actual thought process. It also has the worst production so far, despite the Nas samples. Lyrically, "Colossus" is the best writing on the album, with its tale of fan-artist tensions, and the minimalist beat is more than sufficient, even if he still does include some offensive lyrics.

"PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer Lyrics" is a old school freestyle jam that is too mundane to be particularly funny or interesting. "IFHY" is another one of the more lyrically revealing and interesting tracks and although the beat is better than "48," it's still not particularly great. The next track is the most similar to "Colossus," a deeply personal track that gives Tyler the chance to bust loose and show both his songwriting and his vocal skills. The beat isn't amazing, but there are a lot worse on this album. "Parking Lot" is a typical crew shout-out jam, but it's not particularly entertaining. Apparently Tyler doesn't even care for it that much and he said if there's a vinyl version of the album, he'll leave it off.

"Rusty" is a pretty good song in terms of finding a creative way to do something that has been done over and over again, this time it's a combination answer song and "inside the game" complaint song. The lyrics are pretty interesting and original, for the most part, but he once again falls into the pattern of using misogyny and homophobia in a way that is supposedly ironic, but there's no real way to know that unless you've seen interviews with him. On "Trashwang," Tyler and his crew are really angry at someone, but it's not really obvious who. Maybe they're angry at the producer(s) of the album where this is one of the more creative beats and it's not exactly groundbreaking. "Treehome95" is announced as an incomplete song when it comes on. And it is. And it's mostly not Tyler. And it's got an above average beat for this album, but it barely sounds like a Tyler song. Next up is "Tamale," which is the best beat and catchiest song on the album, even if, once again, the lyrics devolve into the same pointless "let's offend just to offend" nonsense. The final song, which includes more of the pointless skit parade on the album. The song is over a totally jacked song (not even a sample) and while the lyrics are above average for the album, the delivery doesn't really match the backing track.

Overall Analysis

Flow: 8. Tyler has an interesting flow, but he doesn't vary it enough and doesn't try to do too much that is challenging. He has two basic flows, his normal voice and his raspier voice. They're both pretty good, but very repetitive.

Lyrics: 7. Most of Tyler's lyrics here are pretty good. He makes two mistakes, though, and he makes them over and over again. The first is the totally offensive language he uses towards women and homosexuals. And he does it so much that it becomes lazy and repetitive. The other thing is that quite a bit, he just randomly throws out lines in a way that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it makes the songs run together and have no real coherence at times.

Message: 3. Most of it doesn't have much of a message and when it does, despite his protestations, it seems like the message is I don't really like gay people (other than Frank Ocean), and I only like women for one thing.

Technical: 6. Sometimes Tyler tries some more advanced rapping techniques, and he usually succeeds, but he doesn't do it too often.

Production: 5. I like minimalism, but it has to be minimal and catchy and connect with the lyrics. That doesn't happen too often.

Versatility: 4. There's only a little bit on the album, most of it is the same thing over and over and over again.

Collaborators: 6. Pretty good people and hot young guys are on the album, but for the most part, they don't stand out and don't add a lot to the album.

History: 7. References: 8. Tyler's a smart guy who has consumed a lot of pop culture (and some history) and that shows throughout the album.

Originality: 6. Tyler's choice of content and his delivery are pretty original, but the rest of what makes up these songs isn't.

Total Score: 63. Tyler has a lot of potential, but he's one of those guys who thinks he's being edgy by using homophobia and misogyny as if that isn't what everyone else is doing. If he got better production and attached as much creativity to the parts of the songs that are anti-woman or anti-gay, he'd be great.

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