Tyler the Creator - IGOR Album Review

‘Earfquake’ or heartbreak? Tyler, The Creator switches things up with his new album.

Anyone who knows anything about Tyler, The Creator intrinsically associates the rapper, songwriter and producer with hard-hitting lyrics, raw AF realness and dark, bass-filled beats. So how exactly does the soulful R&B single ‘EARFQUAKE’ fit into this formula?

The Critique: First Impressions

The new single ‘EARFQUAKE’ went live on Tyler, The Creator’s YouTube account just yesterday (17th May 2019) and already it’s received a buzzing response from fans and critics. From what I’ve seen from comments thus far, fans are generally praising his musical fluidity; the ability to easily transition into new territory with what sounds like a soul throwback remixed with trap elements and a Playboy Carti verse. Think Jamie Lidell meets XXXTension, as bizarre as that may seem.

While some critics are a little confused about this new direction, it really doesn’t take a genius to understand why Tyler the Creator, real name Tyler Okonma opted for a more classic R&B sound (we’ll cover this subject in just a moment).The creative, odd and socially-awkward music video which looks like an axed 70’s talent show that aired once and became lost to the ages was also well received.

No-one can dismiss the funny, nonsensical nature of the music video though the song itself is about the loss of a lover. It also features a great cameo from actress Tracee Ellis Ross, best known for her role in the US hit comedy show ‘Girlfriends’. Plus, did I mention ‘The Hair’? You need to see the hair! As one YT user hilariously comments “What hairstyle would you like? He-Man.” The best way to summarize the music video is to imagine a SNL skit if Tyler had free reign over it’s direction. It’s goofy, funny and cringey all at the same time. Basically, it doesn’t take itself very seriously… at all, and that’s perfectly fine with me!

A nod to the nostalgic sound of classic soul and R&B or a full transition into the genre?

Personally, I think it’s impossible to gauge what this stint into R&B / Soul music means without listening to the new album IGOR. As you navigate through the track list, you begin to understand that you are following, well... a narrative! Tyler has invited us all into his most vulnerable, inner world where love and heartache resides.

He takes you through the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with dating someone new, falling in love and the crushing realization that what once was is no longer there, leading to an inevitable break-up. Just as his music steps on to new ground so is this feeling of being in love (for Tyler that is). With that in mind, it doesn’t feel as if he is selling out or catering to a different audience. He uses the creative input from the world-renowned producers and singers featured, his signature use of layered, distorted sound and heavy basslines.

Just because it’s not a ‘rap album’ doesn’t make it any less authentic. Tyler is a CREATOR, and disdains being labelled a rapper. It makes sense given his artist name. With this album, Tyler is portraying another dimension of his creativity. In fact, it feels as if he is being as honest as ever, with himself and others. There is raw, unhinged emotion, particularly evident in tracks like ‘NEW MAGIC WAND’, ‘A BOY IS A GUN’ and ‘GONE GONE / THANK YOU.’

The album is a bitter sweet reminder of what’s like to go through your first heartbreak. The highs and lows; the infatuation, ecstasy, jealousy, anger, disbelief and sadness. The sinking, overwhelming reality and the hopeful yearning to have some kind of positive connection with the person we loved and lost. This album has ‘puppy love’ written all over it, but that’s not to undermine it’s content or strength of emotion. It’s just as potent as a first love. If you haven’t already, check out the album and you will clearly see why I have drawn this conclusion. It is the soundtrack of a love-sick Tyler warring with the street Tyler in his very own auditory rom-com.

Sigh poor guy, we’ve all been there!

How influential were the featured artists?

As soon as I started listening to the album, I was immediately hearing a likeness to early day Ye, needless to say I was not shocked to find Kanye West featured on the track ‘PUPPET.’ I don’t doubt that Tyler, as iconic and talented as he is, was inspired by Kanye’s earlier works for this particular album. The little skits and quoted samples are a nice touch, it makes the listener feel as though they are hearing an inner monologue, further providing insight into the thoughts and feelings of a person going through a break-up.

While there are evidently musical influences from Soul music’s hay days (60’s - 80’s), the overall feeling I get from the album is quite literally the scene of an anxiety dream of a love-sick teen in the 70’s. At times, it’s almost nightmare-ish in it’s delivery, forcing you into the depths of his turmoil. It’s the Frankenstein monster of music and emotion, pieced together in challenging ways.

In my mind, the title IGOR was the perfect choice for this album. IGOR represents the willing third-party who helps to create the monster, which in this case is a doomed relationship, which also in turn makes a monster out of him. As much as he is transformed by this experience, his old nonchalant demeanour creeps back in every now and then. He is also evidently mocking the ridiculousness of such a thing as ‘love’, all the while being unable to detach from his feelings.

It’s cleverly conceptualised and unabashed about its subject matter. Very humanistic. At this stage, I would expect nothing less from Tyler, the Creator. It’s difficult to say what the follow up album will be or how this album will impact his future works, but it’s likely that Tyler Okonma will explore new sounds and merge them in genre-defying ways, as he already does. For now, shall we all just kick back and appreciate IGOR for what it is as a stand alone album? Cool.

Music narrative originally published on VIBBIDI. Created by Brenda Adiyiah (@TheLlamaQueen)