The early days of Odd Future instigated extraordinary levels of excitement amongst teenagers and young adults alike. The hype was on another level — I myself was one of many to be lured in. More often than not, however, the buzz outweighed the actual content. Odd Future were a captivating hip-hop outfit with an endearing spirit, but much of the music itself was ultimately underwhelming.
Fast forward to 2017, and it’s only Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and of course Frank Ocean, who have sustained some degree of success. However, whilst the latter two have allowed their music to carry their reputation, a lot of Tyler’s relevance can be put down to multiple controversies and instances of exclusion. His output has been patchy, and that’s putting it kindly: I personally see a downgrade in quality way back from Bastard, gradually sliding to the amateurish Cherry Bomb. After years of being a fan, I had frankly lost interest. Tyler had assumed the position of a gimmick inside my head, and I saw no way back.
A few weeks ago, I listened to “Who Dat Boy / 911”. My interest immediately returned, though I remained cautious. Then came “Boredom”: the first slow-jam from Tyler that I have ever enjoyed. The clumsiness of “VCR” and “Her” had been substituted for an unforeseen elegance, with clear signs of maturity in both personality and artistry.
Flower Boy is Tyler’s most accomplished record to date. His songwriting has hit another level — it’s astonishing to think that this is the same jester who created Goblin and Wolf, and paraded the phrase ‘kill people, burn shit, fuck school’. Flower Boy is instead surprisingly meditative, illustrated with an array of colours, shades, and moods. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Tyler, The Creator track, but “See You Again” is a genuinely gorgeous love song. It’s a stark contrast to his usual hate speech, but this is not so much an apology as much as it is an appeal to be understood. Some of these wistful cuts float by a little easily, but nonetheless, it’s a sheer delight to see Tyler’s talent being used in such delicate fashion.
Flower Boy feels like a reinvention. It’s by no means perfect — the last couple of songs leave a slight taste of disappointment — but it’s enough to get me enthusiastic about Tyler, The Creator again, and that in itself will likely be a significant high point of 2017.
7 out of 10
Having never listened to Tyler, the Creator before, I thoroughly enjoyed Flower Boy. The album’s craft is a pleasure to experience, and the sound is confident and rich. It doesn’t so much command attention as lure it in. Listens through have the sensory, slow-motion quality of a dream, which is quite a feat in any genre, let alone R&B.
Production is polished, but all the individual elements have space to voice themselves. Affairs float from brutalist grinds worthy of Death Grips to glimmering Pink Floyd guitar odes… and it makes sense. It feels right. The fuck? The makeup of each song is super solid, with just the right overlap to keep overall tone consistent.
If anything, the care clearly taken with each track has come at the expense of a bigger picture. The record doesn’t have much going on in the way of progression. That’s kind of its vibe — like dropping into a funky neon dream — but probably what keeps it from being truly affecting. Flower Boy is there, and it’s gorgeous, and it won’t take you any further. But hell, it doesn’t need to. Just sit back and soak it in. It’s worth it, even if you’re not.
8 out of 10
This could’ve easily been a lightweight, offensive, puff of smoke that dissipated without effect into 2017. Tyler, The Creator’s output has varied in quality since the release of his mixtape, Bastard, at the turn of the decade. While the shock factor and raw production of early releases gave me reason to return to them, there was little progression between albums. Flower Boy, however, is a brilliant, pleasant surprise for the year. Toning down the goof a touch and improving significantly on the production values, it’s made for an album that I can’t help but return to.
From the solid, albeit slightly abrupt opener, it’s clear that a change of pace has occurred: both “Foreword” and “Where This Flower Blooms” sound close to Frank Ocean tracks. Instrumentals across the album are very satisfying by themselves, mixing solid beats with a good variety of styles, from the cinematic opening to the lazy psychedelic vibe in “Garden Shed” and the bass heavy grittier pace in the likes of “Who Dat Boy” and “I Ain’t Got Time!”. Vocals across the tracklist retain the honesty from previous output too, so it still feels very much like a Tyler, The Creator album. That said, this is a far maturer, concerted effort and it really has made all the difference.
The only issue I can see comes in the final third of the album, where things seem less organised. While “Glitter” is by no means a bad song, it’s a drop in energy that doesn’t necessarily work as a closing track. Similarly, instrumental track “Enjoy Right Now, Today” meanders between sonic ideas that are interesting enough, but don’t have a huge impact on the listener. It means the final eight minutes dissolve away, which is a definite, albeit non-catastrophic, shame. Despite that, Flower Boy is going to get a lot of plays from me over the next few months, and I’m delighted to have been so surprised by it.
8 out of 10