Tyler, The Creator Tyler, The CreatorGoblin
Tyler, The Creator is complaining, and with some reason, about the label he and his music have been landed with in a part of the music press and a certain sector of the public ever since he emerged as one of the future hopes of hip-hop. His music and that of his hard-to-label collective OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), both with an excessively prolific output –their productions consist of notable releases and insignificant filler in a never-ending string of mixtapes– is interesting for three important reasons: the boundary-breaking ambition of their sound, the splendid use of the Internet for distribution and the group’s activities, and the injection of attractive and devastating sap into hip-hop.
Returning to the aforementioned typecasting, on the opening track of “Goblin”, Tyler, The Creator’s much-anticipated debut for the XL label, the rapper and producer exclaims, “What you think I record for? / To have a bunch of critics call my shit a bunch of horrorcore?”, tired of the press and public wanting to see in his songs the reincarnation of a subgenre in decline for years. The reference has as much to do with his lyrics as with his particular way of producing, but once you’ve heard and digested “Goblin”, no easy task, indeed, the feeling is that more than an update of horrorcore, the record proposes a claustrophobic, psychotic, terrifying backside to the sound of The Neptunes circa 2000-2002. The picture, painted as it is, couldn’t be more exciting and fascinating, and the perception that Pharrell Williams is an influence remains latent in songs like “She”, “Nightmare”, “Her” and “Analog”, mid-tempo, digital synthesizer tracks that mix soul, rap and pop, but with a bonus of secrecy and darkness that makes the concept even more charming.
The level of perversion and re-composition of this aesthetic is one of the strong points of an album that manages to incorporate cryptic lyrics which are tense, schizophrenic even, very unhealthy, in this kind of fresh and urban sound. It’s beyond doubt that horrorcore does appear from time to time on the record, like on “Yonkers” or “Transylvania”, for example, so the label does make some kind of sense, partly. But even so, I don’t think that particular flag covers the cargo. While horrorcore was basically based on a clear formula of samples of violins, cellos and old horror soundtracks, deep basses and very cinematic lyrics with basic horror film concepts, exemplified perfectly in the legacy of Gravediggaz and Flatlinerz, Tyler’s vision is rather different. For starters, his rhymes are thought provoking, inducing paranoia, disturbing metaphors and, often indecipherable, concepts that flee from the gothic cliché; furthermore, they mix with personal, sexual or emotional tales that have nothing to do with that imagery. And in second place, the production doesn’t fit the parameters, but couples elements of southern rap, ambient, The Neptunes and even El-P, via Cannibal Ox.
Imaginative, daring, not part of any scene, attractive to both hipsters and headz but hard to access for the masses, baroque and absolutely unclassifiable, “Goblin” (in every way superior to “Bastard”, his self-released debut) is the album OFWGKTA needed to convince the most sceptics –yours truly among them– of the possibilities of a future and, above all, of growth and evolution for the collective, and particularly of their leader, a Tyler, The Creator who shows all the signs and talent of becoming the RZA for the 21st Century.