Two summers ago, Tyler, the Creator dropped his fifth album, “Flower Boy,” and it is probably the densest project in his discography, both lyrically and sonically. Having self-produced the entire 2017 album, Tyler laced the album with a plurality of instrumentation. From the bass-bumping, explosive promotional single “Who Dat Boy,” to the somber atmosphere of “Garden Shed,” accented with piano keys and electric guitar riffs, the album represents an all-in-one experience of Tyler’s widespread capabilities as a producer.
On the flip side, Tyler certainly brought robust bars for his vocal performances on “Flower Boy,” notably on tracks “November,” “Where This Flower Blooms (feat. Frank Ocean)” and “Pothole.” The project also represents a rather pivotal point in his career, in which he provided his listeners with insight into his sexuality with lines, “Next line will have ‘em like “Whoa” / I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004” from “I Ain’t Got Time!” He also expresses some of his pent-up feelings regarding his sexuality on the track “Garden Shed.”
These intimate moments where Tyler give his fans a peak into his real-life are especially brow-raising considering his past accusations of homophobia, which came as a result of the slurs he used to describe the queer community. In anticipation for “IGOR,” many fans were wondering if he would elaborate on this contradiction. However, the narratives, precise themes and lyrical density of “Flower Boy” are nowhere to be found on “IGOR,” but based on how Tyler frames the album for his audience in a message he shared via Instagram, “IGOR” is meant to be its own distinct creation.
But what Tyler is trying to convey to his audience on “IGOR,” and what his fans can expect from his newest project, is far from what anyone anticipated.
Although, as a producer, Tyler has always seemed to be in the driver’s seat because of his niche, abstract and immersing sound, on “IGOR,” it seems that Tyler, as a rapper, has not only been downgraded to a passenger role, but thrown entirely out of the vehicle altogether. “IGOR” is mostly an instrumental album, which Tyler establishes immediately in the first three tracks.
The first track is represented as the “theme song” of the album, titled “IGOR’S THEME.” The track begins abruptly, with menacing, electric synths that warp from ear to ear, until percussion knocks and echoed background vocals enter the setting. The beat is animate, accelerating and decelerating fluidly throughout the track.
“IGOR’S THEME” includes no distinct vocal verses but is centered around the rendition, “Ridin’ ‘round town, they gon’ feel this one,” which Tyler revealed in his Instagram story days after the release, and is vocalized by Lil Uzi Vert. He wrote, “Also funny n—s can’t tell ‘uzi’ singing on ‘igors theme.’ I even tagged him and n—s like nah haha.”
When I first heard the track, I didn’t recognize Lil Uzi’s sound, which may be a way of Tyler highlighting his masterful abilities with vocal effects — he has been known to create characters by enhancing and altering the levels of his own voice. The artist’s ability to take a high-profile artist and leave no trace of his signature sound, while maintaining an alluring experience with the feature, is a statement of his skill.
Another trending guest is featured on the next track, “EARFQUAKE.” Tyler leads the chorus of the electrically buzzing track and invites Playboi Carti to deliver the song’s sole verse. Carti’s performance is far from a climax to the track, with lax bars that reflect his effortless, mumble-rap style.
The feature sags the track’s quality because of how Tyler structured the instrumental around his style, having the bass fade out and employing delicate piano keys while harmonizing background vocals. Thus, Carti’s feature is an anti-climactic missed opportunity, especially considering the richness of Tyler’s production on the track.
Tyler weaves his first verse on “IGOR” into the album’s third track, the wonderfully bouncy and marvelous “I THINK.” The cut starts off with a jungle-like pitter patter that compellingly builds as Tyler delivers a quick-tempo verse about approaching love. Solange then joins vocals with Tyler, and their chemistry brings the boogie-worthy sound of “I THINK” to supernova. The bridge of the track is an incredibly dynamic cool-down, leading to an astounding final burst of action.
So far, Tyler’s instrumentals on “IGOR” are captivating, as he creates active environments that pleasantly sway through different phases of rhythms. On the vocal side, by including three guests in the first three tracks and mostly providing ad-libs and bref background appearances, Tyler is rather distant from center stage. In addition, the choruses he has performed are rather thin and are usually communicated in one line. Nonetheless, the production on “IGOR” will force you to continue listening anyway.
The theme of love is the common thread throughout “IGOR.” Tracks like “EARFQUAKE” and “I THINK” make up the beginning of the album and express the sensation of finding love. Essentially, however, the rest of the album seeks to uncover the dark sides of love, like on “PUPPET” or the loss of love on tracks, “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” and “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE.”
Tyler does not drown his listeners with his feelings though — he summons the anarchist flair of his past works with chaotic tracks “NEW MAGIC WAND” and “WHAT’S GOOD.” Both tracks thunder with wailing sirens and electronic intensity, but Tyler serves his borderline seizure-worthy instrumentation in reasonable doses. Using his autonomy of rhythm that is prevalent throughout “IGOR,” the 28-year-old eases his listeners through the aggression rather than piling it into an indigestible blob, like some of the tracks that plagued the listening experience of his previous album, “CHERRY BOMB.”
The forceful numbers on “IGOR” not only include moments of relief within themselves but are followed up by the infectious slow jams “A BOY IS A GUN” and “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU.” “A BOY IS A GUN” may be the best and most wholesome track of the album, featuring a catchy hook and soothing classical jazz sounds, as well as background vocal samples. On “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU,” guest CeeLo Green delivers a heavily distorted but intriguing hook to the track.
Similar to Lil Uzi, Tyler removes any trace of Green’s signature sound but still makes his presence an admirable component to the track. In addition, on “PUPPET,” Tyler made room for a forgetful Kanye West appearance, where West slurred his words through a brief performance that brought little to the cut.
Tyler also includes a lengthy verse near the end of “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU,” a surprise considering his heretofore absence. On the track, he teases the vocal delivery that many fans wish was more present on the album. However, the complexity of the instrumentals might not necessarily be “rapable,” and he may have abandoned the medium in order to be sonically more ambitious.