When Tyler, the Creator dropped Cherry Bomb in 2015, many fans didn’t know what to think. The classic Odd Future style was there, having an aggressive feel to all the raps, and very stripped-down production. Neo-soul and hardcore hip hop met at a very awkward crossroad which led Cherry Bomb to be anything but a consistent album. It was messy and poorly produced, lacking any real sense of identity. Tyler as a rapper was not very interesting in both his delivery and lyrical content, which wasn’t made any easier to listen to with the questionable choices in production. As many shortcomings as there were on that project, it showed that there was real artistic potential inside of Tyler, the Creator, and it hadn’t come into full bloom. That was until his fourth full-length album, Flower Boy, or as it was promoted, Scum Fuck Flower Boy.
Since Flower Boy was released, all of the talk has been about Tyler’s apparent coming out as homosexual on the tracks “I Ain’t Got Time” and “Garden Shed”. This isn’t something that should be focused on, because it really isn’t a dominant theme of the project, but is a cool way for him to be honest about himself to his fans (if this is all true, because it’s still all speculations). It sets the tone for a more personal and introspective project, different from a lot of Tyler’s work since Wolf.
Where Cherry Bomb couldn’t tell if it wanted to be a hardcore hip hop or a neo-soul/hip hop fusion album, Flower Boy is much more focused, and builds upon the neo-soul sound that Tyler previously explored. Throughout the album there is a smooth, mellowed-out style of production (with a few exceptions) which is surprisingly complimented by Tyler’s somewhat gritty flow. Some of the tracks have piano lines, choirs and backing vocals, and funky synths, all new things for Tyler, The Creator’s music, and most of which are done well, sounding thought out and polished. The best example of this is the fourth track “See You Again” featuring frequent collaborator Kali Uchis, which features a brilliantly sweet bridge and chorus followed by one of Tyler’s most energetic performances on the album.
The biggest turn-off from most of the music that Tyler has put out for many is immature, edgy lyrics that sound kind of ridiculous when actually read. Flower Boy shows movement away from this and into more meaningful and appealing lyrics, with a revolving theme of loneliness. Within that general idea of loneliness and interactions with others, Tyler explores his affection for cars, his sexuality, and toned-down versions of the unforgivingly explicit themes that ran rampant on early Odd Future songs. This lyrical maturity allows Flower Boy to appeal to a much wider range of listeners, especially those who turned their noses up at the lyrics that dominated the internet from 2010-2013.
Some of the more underwhelming areas of Flower Boy are songs that have potential but fail to fully come together, like “Glitter” and “Potholes”. Each song has a repetitive chorus and goes for about a minute longer than it should do; all that needed to be stripped away was extra instrumental time or the final hook. The Golf Radio skits that pop up here and there are a really awkward feature which either needed to be added in greater depth or completely stripped from the album all together.
Tyler, the Creator still isn’t really among the best-of-the-best rappers out there right now, despite what might have been argued years ago. He still can be corny and explicit for no apparent reason, but it’s all part of his character. Flower Boy shows how he has changed as an artist in the 8 years that he’s been putting out music, and how focusing on one main sound can result in an album that shows just how far he has come as an artist in his fruitful career.