27 Apr 2015

Tyler, The Creator / Cherry Bomb (album review)

"I'm not a fuckin' role model, I'm a 19 year old fucking emotional coaster with pipe dreams" rapped Tyler, on his 2011 album Goblin's title track. But whilst four years down the line, maybe the emotional coaster's still there, Tyler, you'd think, is nigh on everything to look out for in alternative hip-hop, right?

Cherry Bomb is the OF man's fourth solo record, and it's potentially his most ambitious yet, in terms of the fact it spans the most genres; some tracks have a strong smooth jazz feel, while one or two at least allude to the dreamy beach-pop championed by the likes of the Creator's fave, Mac DeMarco. It remains musically strong throughout the most part, with Tyler's rap very strong. But in the past Tyler's been shouted down for using slurs, covering (rightfully) taboo topics, and generally immature themes. Whilst he's cleaned up his act a bit, the listener is still barraged by obscenities, and it's all too often just way too much to handle.

It does have it's highlights though. 2Seater is a driving song that starts off pretty standard, before some discourse interrupts, and the listener's sent away in a kind of dream-pop-esque balloon of tranquility. But whilst bits are a lot softer than any of his work to date, Cherry Bomb's title track, alongside some others, is a incessant, owing more to the hammering psychosis hip-hop of Death Grips than anything else. It's a furious mix of blocky synths, Tyler's vocals at his vicious best, and some stomping drum beats. However, the highlights aren't as much as a comodity as you'd like for one of the leading lights in hip-hop, and whilst his rapping is much more articulate than it has been, bits of what he has to say leave a lot to be desired, to say the least.

I think, perhaps it's more than just difficult to get behind all Tyler says on this record though; repetition of the homophobic slur 'faggot' is not needed, as a barrage of it comes out on Buffalo, especially degrading because it's used so casually. And the songs (take Blow My Load as an example) all too often portray women in a way that is sexist and degrading. I'm not enough of an aficionado to comment on whether it's all part of an act or a persona, because the rapper uses his larger-than-life appearance to great effect, but whether that's the case or not, Blow My Load would make anyone actively listening want to spew. Mind you, choosing to listen to a song called Blow My Load is asking for trouble.

It's a shame that kind of backwards thinking could really take the edge off of an album that's very musically progressive, but that's the way it is with Cherry Bomb. On this album Tyler experiences a lot more emotionally than the constant self-depreciation of his earlier material, and whilst he channels too much of it into lazy homophobia. Whilst musical talent is more than on show, and there are brilliant songs on this record, it's probably not for me, or anyone who naturally calls out sexism and bigotry. There's no malice to what Tyler says, and that's a huge positive, but really, you'd like someone only a few steps away from being a cultural figurehead to have much more progressive thoughts on some of the matters he comments on. This guy's seriously talented, and whilst this work might not be the real deal in many ways, once he sorts out his immature thought processes, he's going to be on to a winner.