As a queer person, even the name Tyler The Creator induces wince of discomfort, for this is a man who was famously banned from fulfilling touring commitments in the UK as a result of the homophobic rhetoric he notoriously spouted on past releases. Nevertheless, I approached Flower Boy with as open a mind as possible, and found that perhaps Tyler has matured into a less problematic individual.
Tyler has always been forthcoming with his language choices; favouring those of the four-letter variety almost exclusively, but on the opening Foreword, it seems with time has come a lyrical maturity that we all believed him capable of. The political heartbeat sees Tyler taking a concerned walk through the world he lives in. Asking the question “how many riots can there be until black lives matter” whilst also name-checking the KKK and corrupt police forces, Tyler proves there is a socially conscious head on his shoulders.
This newly found ‘wokeness’ is all the more pertinent with recent rumours surrounding Tyler’s sexuality hitting the headlines, as fans speculate that perhaps his previously vocal homophobia was an attempt to distract from his queerness. We may never have the answers, and to be honest as long as Tyler continues to educate himself and be less homophobic – there will be winners on every level of the hip-hop scene whether that be for fans or other musicians themselves.
Whereas his previous three records have been aggressive in their image, delivery and names; Flower Boy is a welcome to the softer side of Tyler The Creator. The fierce flow is still there, but tracks such as Sometimes and See You Again have a warmth that strips back the bravado and the brashness in exchange for a more wholesome image.
Who Dat Boy and Pothole are throwbacks to Goblin era Tyler angst, as he waxes lyrical about being stuck in traffic when all he wants to do is get away from the world. The “still hungry” Tyler references his Wolf record loosely, indicating that he is perfectly aware of how he got his start in life and won’t be straying too far from his unique style.
The ebb and flow between tracks like Boredom and I Ain’t Got Time isn’t naturally progressive, and the stop start nature give the record a chaotic sound that isn’t quite fully rounded or thought through. But if you’ve ever seen an interview with the animated Tyler, it will make slightly more sense as to why the sounds are all over the place.
Sadly, the song titled Glitter isn’t the synth driven queer banger that a song of such a title should be, much to my disappointment. Tyler’s flow is too quick for the chilled out pace of this tune, once again giving it that bouncing off the walls pacing. If fidget spinners are keeping kids from shouting and screaming, perhaps Tyler needs to find the musical equivalent.
The messy putting together of Flower Boy wears a little too thin towards the end, ending up detracting from some quite good individual tracks that really catch the eyes and ears. But at the back of my mind, is the niggling thought that it won’t be long before Tyler says something again problematic, making me scared to appreciate the music that he makes in full capacity.