Tyler, The Creator’s major label debut Flower Boy is a beautifully composed hip-hop record that utilizes elements of modern rap with R&B, funk and soul music, along with an array of talented guests that enhance the album’s lush aesthetic.
I’ve always seen Tyler as a talented hip-hop artist that – aside from a handful of decent songs and beats – has never truly compiled a full, distinguished project. However, Flower Boy is just that. For the first time, his skills are fully realized for the duration of an entire album, front to back. The end result is one of the best and most enjoyable hip-hop records of this year.
From the moment the record starts, you can sense the creative direction of the album. The opening track “Foreword” is a slow paced cut, rich in colorful synths and full of clever wordplay from Tyler. “Where This Flower Blooms” features a pretty piano introduction and “Garden Shed” is led by booming, fiery guitars riffs, played by Slow Hollows member Austin Feinstein.
“See You Again” and “Boredom” features some amazing guest vocals from Kali Uchis and Rex Orange Country. The latter is enticingly smooth and easy-going, and surely one of my favorite songs this year. The aggressive bangers “Who Dat Boy” and “I Ain’t Got Time” serve to satisfy Tyler’s oldest fans, and do so in the most up to date fashion. A$AP Rocky also shows up for a great feature on the former.
On “911/Mr. Lonely”, Tyler spits his first two verses over a tough bassline and a sinister piano melody, but the chorus is soft and irresistibly catchy. These contrasts and shifts in production are nothing new for Tyler; it’s something he’s always obsessed over, especially on his last album Cherry Bomb. The difference on Flower Boy is that there seems to be a much greater effort to piece together detailed song arrangements that, although varied, make sense stylistically. For the most part, all the musical components fit together remarkably well.
Another quality that really stuck out to me was how well Tyler used his voice to intensify the sound quality of these songs. The way he uses different vocal inflections at the end of his punch lines or to emphasize certain parts of his verses is executed so well and precisely, it reminds me a lot of Kendrick and how he uses his voice like another instrument. Kudos to Tyler and his engineers on the mixing and mastering.
It’s hard to deny just how good this album sounds. There are so many vibrant instrumentals and lovely guest performances, that it’s easy to keep talking about the production and the overall sound of the project. But even though this may be Tyler’s first great album, we already knew he could produce. By far, the most impressive thing about Flower Boy is how vulnerable he makes himself in his songwriting.
It’s not that people didn’t think Tyler was capable of writing meaningful lyrics, but rather, I don’t think we ever thought he would actually come clean like this on wax. From opening up about his sexuality to rapping about how his fame has driven him into complete solitude, this is the most personal we’ve ever heard him. At last, we are able to see his true colors.
To sum it up, Flower Boy hits on all cylinders: Tyler’s rapping is the best it has ever been, the song arrangements are beautiful, and each guest is carefully placed and used to the album’s own benefit. It’s a refreshing change of pace, especially for a guy who in years past has made a habit out of being in the headlines for a lot of things besides music. Perhaps not anymore. Case in point: Flower Boy.