Tyler, The Creator, Scum Fuck Flower Boy

Tyler, The Creator
Scum Fuck Flower Boy

(Columbia)
Release Date: July 21, 2017

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Flower Power
Written by Silas Valentino

Somehow it happened, right as America was stumbling towards a social riot (a chaotic atmosphere he surly would have encouraged in his younger years) but somehow, against brand and perceived logic, Tyler, The Creator has matured.

The Los Angeles rapper and producer–who was the de-facto leader of the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All collective–has progressed onto a major label – Columbia – and just released his most adult collection of rhymes and beats yet.

Gone are those terribly fetching boasts such as “Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” – Tyler has entered an identity crisis. Is he a “scum fuck” or a “flower boy”? Man or child? Rapper or producer? But the main theme across these 14 tracks are is he gay, straight or bisexual? With enough polarizing doubt to spin a SUPREME hat 360-degrees around, Tyler uses Scum Fuck Flower Boy, his fourth album, as a public and audio diary to air his uncertainties. The finished product is polished, cohesive and a giant leap forward for an artist who made his crash onto the scene in 2011 by literally going bonkers, eating a cockroach in the process.

Tyler leads off with “Foreword” where he mixes a kraut guitar cover of Can’s “Spoon” (reimagined by Sonic Youth) with the silky, contemporary R&B delivered by the British weirdo Rex Orange County. It’s a casual blend that begins to unravel Tyler’s dubious sexual orientation when he hollers: “Shout out to the girls that I lead on/For occasional head and always keeping my bed warm/And trying their hardest to keep my head on straight.” It’s the first hint into this album’s ultimate theme, a is-he/isn’t-he quandary, and subtleties quickly fade.

He really begins to delve into his sexuality in “Garden Shed” (featuring a heavenly melody that recalls the retro-soul evoked in Childish Gambino’s recent “Me and Your Mama”) and compares a garden shed with being held up “in the closet.” He invites listeners in when he spits: “Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase/Thought it’d be like the phrase; ‘poof,’ gone But, it’s still goin’ on.”

Earlier Tyler records often played off the therapist-client scenario–his 2011 album Goblin begins as a counseling session–but now he’s opened the door for his legion of Golf Wang fans to hear him out, in sincerity, on a subject that’s hovered over him since OFWGKTM sprouted out of Tumblr. For what seems like the entirety of his career, Tyler has been condemned as a homophobe yet as revealed in Scum Fuck Flower Boy, that may have just been a “beard” all along.

When he’s not dispelling old character tropes, Tyler fattens Scum Fuck Flower Boy with some satisfying singles, notably “911 / Mr. Lonely” and “Who Dat Boy?” featuring A$AP Rocky. The latter is a guaranteed big bass pleaser that’ll fit nicely in Tyler’s punk repertoire when performing live whereas “911 / Mr. Lonely” begins as a mid-tempo nod to the soulful funk of The Gap Band before being consumed by the clattering of an electric snare beat in the latter half of the song. The theme of duality thickens.

Tyler never explicitly reveals his hand and we’re left with wondering if this aural exploration into his sexuality is just a put-on. He’s always been a hard act to pin down but he’s consistently referred to himself as a producer first–a title he backs up with the album closer “Enjoy Right Now, Today.” It’s an instrumental, full of wah-wah, cheeseball synths and a cracking beat, but it’s a confident close to an album that blossoms with uncertainty.

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