Who Him Is.
It was always evident that Tyler, the Creator was an artist of near-unparalleled ambition. As early as 2009's Bastard, the artist's commitment to high-concept narrative layers was clear, distinguishing him from his contemporaries - even those within the walls of the generationally talented collective Odd Future. Constantly evolving, through Goblin, the excellent Wolf and then (the admittedly less good) Cherry Bomb, Tyler began accumulating a catalogue of projects that provided an early indication of the artist's capacity to create phenomenal music, all while inventing entire narrative worlds for that music to reside within.
With 2017's (scum fuck) Flower Boy Tyler, the Creator seemed to finally realise the potential that he came so close to achieving on Wolf. Almost all at once, each facet of the artist's music seemed to elevate to a new dimension. The production was immaculate; melodies and harmonies perfectly aligned. Populated by sunflowers and bumblebees, Flower Boy arrived as a moment of artistic maturation, blurring Tyler's disparate genre interests into a cohesive sound. Furnished with off-key synths, an unbelievable roster of featured musicians and some of the best performances of the Creator's career, the scale of Tyler's talent was now suddenly inarguable.
Following that (ignoring Dr. Seuss deviations) IGOR stands as not only Tyler, the Creator's best album, but also as one of the best albums to emerge from the Odd Future collective as a whole. Pushing his interest in melding together sounds and styles to an incredible extent, IGOR should be looked back upon as one of the most impressive concept albums of the last decade. Assembling rhythmically dense beats with his newfound capacity for soaring musicality, between 'IGOR'S THEME', 'EARFQUAKE', 'ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?' and more, IGOR could already be the best album that Tyler, the Creator will ever make.
The reason I say all of this, is that CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST finds itself unavoidably in the shadow of IGOR's artistic evolution, for better and for worse. The forward momentum that pushed the last two albums is certainly not running out of steam, with Tyler still confident and imaginative as ever in the creation of his newest project and persona. Every bit a continuation of the extravagant character performances that have defined his music to this point, in truth it might be the case that Flower Boy, IGOR and CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST are best understood as a trilogy of kindred musical spirits in the post-Cherry Bomb era. But where IGOR crafted a new world with incredible success, I think it must be said that Tyler, the Creator's latest album does not create as compelling a concept as his last album. The vision of new character 'Tyler Baudelaire' is at times a slightly indecipherable one, a heightened flaneur of Tyler himself, travelling the European mainland in a manner befitting Charles Baudelaire, but certainly not as accessibly identifiable as his last creation was. Narratively, it was always going to be difficult for Tyler to match the expectations that IGOR created, but this new character seems more than a little underdeveloped in comparison.
From this, it might be surprising to read that CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is my favourite album of the year so far. Despite this latest LP not really representing a conceptual progression, it's still undeniably excellent. I doubt that any fan would honestly consider this latest record a leap forward in what Tyler, the Creator is capable of, but it should be said that the narrative ingenuity of his music is only ever an added bonus to the phenomenal music that sits beneath it. Where IGOR's stood as a concept album of hypnotic inspiration, this album does not paint as vivid a picture as its predecessor, but even in removing this album of its (comparatively) weaker characterisation of luxury vacations and love affairs, what remains is some of the best music to emerge from 2021.
It's unbelievable how Tyler, the Creator can combine totally different sounds while making an album that flows together so seamlessly. The record flicks between outrageously meaty tracks like 'CORSO' and 'LEMONHEAD' and into the nostalgia-infused 90's pop jam 'WUSYANAME'. Inexplicably, it makes total sense. Making a collage out of totally unconnected styles, the Tyler of old and new both share the mic while the music trades between WOLF-era intensity and the soft soundscapes that Flower Boy perfected. It should be whiplash to jump from 'WUSYANAME' into the gruff intensity of 'LUMBERJACK', before flutes and telephone rings transition into the wonderfully ornate 'HOT WIND BLOWS'. It's all a representation of Tyler's incredible library of interests and influences; creating an album as open to Bossa nova as it is to the artist's horrorcore roots.
For this reason, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST might just be the album that best encapsulates precisely who Tyler, the Creator is. Somehow, it stays both entirely true to the artist Tyler has always been, with some cuts sounding like they would've been at home in Odd Future's heyday, and some feeling like they might have been too friendly even for Flower Boy. It's all demonstrative of just how extraordinarily talented Tyler has become both as a producer and writer, while still standing out as an unbelievably talented rapper. It might be a victory lap of an album, not quite as pointedly revolutionary as IGOR and Flower Boy managed to be, but it is still an exhibition of unbelievable skill and creativity. Particularly on the album's two behemoths ('SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE' & 'WILSHIRE') Tyler's capability to invent and reinvent himself proves staggering. While the exceptional 'Sweet' gives way to a wonderfully surprising rocksteady twist, 'WILSHIRE' stands out with some of the best lyrics of the year delivered in a waterfall of emotions outpoured:
"Dirtying my baking pots
Tennis at my mama's spot
Chauffered in a Rolls, the back entrance for them restaurants
Parts playing, chess games, giving wigs pet names
Manicures, night swims, Gerard providing methane"
All things considered, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST stands as an excellent continuation to what is becoming one of the strongest album runs in recent memory. If this album were to be measured against the achievement of IGOR, it ultimately fails to meet the standard of Tyler's previous effort, but considered in isolation it remains one of 2021's most compelling musical additions. While it doesn't revolutionise, it digs into the past and uncovers more potential in the styles that Tyler, the Creator can implement in his unique approach. Cliché's admitted, no-one sounds like him, and CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST could just be his most refinedly 'Tyler-esque' album yet.
- 8.2 -
'CORSO', 'SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE', 'WILSHIRE'
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and co-edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student based at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fleet Foxes shill.