words fae ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)
Who exactly Tyler the Creator is, has always been up for debate. He started as the driving force behind hip-hop collective Odd Future that made superstars out of Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, and more recently, The Internet.
The group’s aggressive image attracted the media’s attention instantly and Tyler’s bizarre antics, as well as interviews, helped land him a show on Adult Swim with his buddies joining him on Loiter Squad. Tyler’s music reflected his behavior in the public’s eye when he released Goblin in 2011: critics pointed out the absurd number of times Tyler uses homophobic slurs throughout the album but failed to mention the immensely dark and troubled tone of the album itself. There is a track near the end of the album where Tyler metaphorically kills his friends, and the album itself deals with Tyler talking to a therapist named Dr. TC (Tyler’s Consciousness.)
Following up Goblin was Wolf, the second effort from the face of Odd Future still retained the jagged edges from Goblin but featured much more tender production and a theme centered around summer camp, love, and jealousy. It would be the last album Tyler would put together while Odd Future was still active. Cherry Bomb followed almost exactly two years later and contained some of Tyler’s messiest and most beautiful tracks he has ever released. Altogether, it made for a cluttered release that most die-hard fans will defend but the public has forgotten.
A little over two years later, Tyler emerges as a confidently bloomed bud. He releases Flower Boy, a personal album that references his sexuality for the first time and his relationship with friends and family. Long gone are the jagged edges of Goblin, in its place rests a perfectly crafted album with memorable tracks, excellent production, and amazing features from the likes of up-and-comers Rex Orange County, Kali Uchis and Steve Lacy, in addition to established acts like Frank Ocean and Lil Wayne. Now proving himself as a creative genius after fashion shows, a successful collaboration with Converse’s One-Star, grammy nominations for Flower Boy, we wonder where he will go from here.
Revisiting Tyler’s old discography can be fairly nostalgic despite being less than a decade old, memories of watching him evolve being particularly rose-tinted but it’s difficult to argue that a good chunk of his early material hasn’t stood the test of time. It took a bit for Tyler to find his footing as a musical artist and though he may have had a certain vision for all of those albums, it doesn’t mean that every song in its own way fits or is actually good at all. There is quite a number of duds on his first 4 albums (if you include mixtape Bastard). With that being said, where there is darkness there is light and Tyler is responsible for some of the best rap music of this decade. He should not be viewed as anything but a monumental inspiration to this generation and an artist to watch for years to come so, without further ado, here’s the cream of the crop when it comes to Wolf Haley’s list of tracks.
Treehome95 is just a taste of the potential Tyler had in jazz when it was released. While the cut may have been off-putting to a lot of fans when it showed up on Wolf, it still shows a connection to his current work. The gentle side of Tyler that didn’t often come out was a change of pace that much desired and this cut was only something that amplified it. Erykah Badu and Coco Owino lend gorgeous vocals to help fill out the track. By the time it ends at its 3-minute mark, it’s too soon.
Tyler speaks bluntly to his father on Answer with a fiery flow that resembles early Eminem. The production on this track is easy to love: the drums sound incredible paired with the guitar tone and sure, Syd could have done really well with a bigger role than background vocals on this cut, but there’s a reason why it’s appearing on this list regardless.
8. Where This Flower Blooms
The ‘proper’ introduction to Flower Boy, Tyler sounds fearless on this track with Frank; like they have both come into their own. Tyler brings the listener into his world with great production and even better verses.
She doesn’t really seem like it’s a stand-alone Tyler track. Frank Ocean takes such big strides at the beginning of the track that Tyler quickly falls behind. With that being said, the hook is something most Tyler fans will never forget. Infectious, unsettling, and oddly beautiful. The unfortunate part about revisiting this track is thinking about how Tyler’s early lyrics will affect the replayability of his music in the already-quick pace our culture is moving at.
When the music video for this came out, it was hard not to be blown away. Tyler standing in an enormous doll-house plastered is prosthetics captured the creepy vibe that this song gives off. Released during a peak in Tyler’s aggressiveness, this cut also came off Wolf, which is also the first time we are able to see any vulnerability from Tyler. It’s an excellent blend of the two in this song especially, the brash opening lines compared to the exquisite performance from Pharrell to end things off.
This beat can really fuck you up on first listen, featuring some of the best production on the album. The theme of the song and the features from his friends that lead into the beat switch up make it an easy one to adore, seeing Tyler deliver one of his best performances in the first verse with an incredible flow.
A standout cut after the release of Tyler’s most popular album, Flower Boy. Tyler unexpectedly dropped OKRA with a fantastic music video in 2018 after staying relatively quiet, retaining the lyrical elements of Flower Boy by keeping it real and bluntly rapping from a personal perspective. The production elements are very thick with a quick tempo, making it one of Tyler’s most hard-hitting songs ever.
A fan favorite, Smuckers was a huge standout on Tyler’s most polarizing effort, Cherry Bomb. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Tyler all bring their writing chops to extreme highs and pays off in one of the best posse cuts of this generation. For die-hard Kanye fans, his verse is one of the best he has dropped this decade. Lil Wayne is able to bring the song to a satisfying close with his verse towards the back end of the song. Smuckers is a song so well put together that it will age like wine.
2. See You Again
See You Again is the prime example of the current Tyler era and the best way to be able to pin down his current sound. Kali Uchis takes a chance to really shine on this track and even though she and Tyler have collaborated, nothing they’ve done has ever sounded this grand. The hook is infectious, and the flow of Tyler’s verses is something we come to expect from him. It could very well be debated that See You Again helped break down the doors for stars like Rex Orange County and Steve Lacy to bring this “anti-pop” sound into an underground mainstream audience.
1. 911/Mr. Lonely
This is one of Tyler’s best examples of when everything comes perfectly together in his head. Steve Lacy’s vocals, the Frank feature, the seamless transition into Mr. Lonely, the energy that flows from the funk of the first track into the bangin’ second. The grasp this track has you is scary, making itself an immediate favourite for many fans and a welcoming update to any listeners or critics that had written Tyler off early in his career.