Tyler, the Creator's Goblin: A First Listen
Last year, Tyler, the Creator's arresting album Bastard won the then 19-year-old rapper and his vast, motley Odd Future collective attention and praise from sources including Pitchfork andBillboard. His second solo album, Goblin drops next week, the first physical product anyone from this group has released. To call it highly anticipated is an understatement. But is it good? We blogged our thoughts while hearing it for the first time:
Six minutes, spare music, talking back to his deep-voiced therapist alter ego. Two minutes in, I've noted three big differences between this and Bastard's title opening salvo. There are occasional orchestral interjections that are pretty incongruent with the music. Tyler engages an audience for the first time, feeling the need to clarify that he's not actually a rapist/murderer. Also, "I'm not homophobic...faggot." But mainly, this isn't arresting. He rhymes "estrogen" and "pedestrian" awkwardly. "Sometimes I just want to die" was a suicidal teenager clich√© back when Korn got child abuse on MTV. And in fact, this whole psychiatrist's-couch gimmick worked a lot better when we didn't know who Tyler was.
It's important to point out when Tyler's being fun, because it's not often. In "Yonkers," he vows to "make crack rocks out of pussy niggas' fishbones," and brags about "threesomes with a fucking triceratops." The beat's an atonal skeleton, the kind of track that album context can make or break. It sounds good after Goblin's Oedipal six-minute intro. But i don't see myself playing the intro often. And I'm not sure how often I'd need to experience this without the matching cockroach-eating visuals in the video, either.
"Don't do anything I say in this song," he warns "white America." You know he doesn't give a fuck, because he's not even bothering to cultivate the aura of an is-he-or-isn't-he-serious mystery. This is a seven-minute paean to Odd Future's status as radicals, with distorted vocals and drums in a lightly screamed voice. Eminem's pro forma verses on last year's biggest hit, "Love the Way You Lie," are actually scarier-sounding. Tyler's problem is he doesn't know what he's trying to convince people of. He wants us to know he's not anything he says he is, just a pissed off teen. Okay! But he's 20 now. And I'm not sure he stands out so much in the grand scheme of pissed-off, musically inclined teens.
The second half of "Radicals" exploits that "PBR&B" thing the Weeknd and Frank Ocean are cultivating to big noise on the web, and Ocean continues the airy, amateurish synth swirl here. Tyler goes about ten seconds before mentioning his cock; Ocean wants to know if you touch yourself after hours. I laughed at "I'm just in love with you...cunt" and definitely wouldn't trust his "I just wanna talk and conversate."
A shuffling, mock-horror beat, speedy pitch-shifted rapping, and a concept where he's Dracula. The second fun one, which is alarming when one of the most prominent couplets here is "God damn I love bitches/ Especially when they suck dick and wash dishes." But this is as loose as this tight-ass gets, wrapping his voice around "She keeps sending me garlic/ How many times I gotta tell her I'm all-AR-gic" and "I don't want a bride/I just want bone marrow." I don't have a problem with him not having a problem smacking a bitch as long as he stays in character like this. But it feels like he's reaching: From pissed-off teen to fantasy rapist to Nosferatu, the "creator"'s characters are some of the oldest in the book.
"Fuck heaven/ I ain't showing no religion respect": Nice. If you couldn't tell, Tyler's settled into a groove by now. This one's relatively dreamy. He longs to be in "hell, where you don't ever have to fight fair." And he's as insecure as ever. If Method Man confessed he was "ugly," it would be interesting. But Goblin is quickly crossing over into Livejournal territory. He hates himself as much as he hates women, but not as much as he hates the blogs that don't know he's kidding. Maybe the next track will be about how "pathetic" he is. "Sometimes I'm mad, sometimes I'm not," he explains.