Tyler, The Creator is a name that needs no introduction.
The Los Angeles-based artist went from one of the most polarising figures in music to one of the most praised. All in the span of a couple of years. Now, a decade into his career. With a Grammy to his name and a fire feature run in 2020 – Tyler, The Creator returns with his latest album in two years titled, "CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST".
The album starts off with "SIR BAUDELAIRE", which has a beautiful, jazzy and luxurious feel to it with the piano chords. Mach-Hommy and Westside Gunn come to mind when hearing the beat. Of course, with the latter having used the same instrumental before.
So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Tyler shouted Westside Gunn out on IG live just after the album's release for "making him rap again". And with Tyler saying, "Wolf Haley" just before starting his verse, I knew we were getting Tyler the rapper again. Tyler's lyrics on this track match the production as he speaks on the extravagance of his living, mentioning travels around the Globe, being at the French Opens, and drinking water from Geneva. Not only is this an update on where he's been but it comes across as interesting too - making for a solid opening.
Before I progress, I do have to mention that DJ Drama makes an appearance throughout most of the album, serving as a hypeman to Tyler, and his brash narrations are not only entertaining but provide the feel of good ol' hip hop projects of the past. This is further explained in the second track "CORSO", a song that makes your head bob.
"LEMONHEAD" has a good amount of 808s and trumpets, making for a solid trap beat, and it's no surprise that Tyler chose 42 Dugg (who's accustomed to this lane of music) to complement him on this track. The ending of "LEMONHEAD" slows down the song into a calmer nature, which transitions well into the fourth song, "WUSYANAME".
"WUSYANAME" sees Tyler opt for a more romantic route, complemented by the flowery composition of the track. It sounds like a fusion of lo-fi and 90's R&B. Ty Dolla $ign provides background vocal backings, various adlibs to Tyler lyrics and an alternative melody to the instrumentation.
Tyler starts off his verse funny as hell.
That isn't how I'd start a conversation with my crush, but it suits an eccentric figure like him. He continues his verse by expressing things he'd like to do together with this girl – catching a film, exfoliating skin, smelling perfumes, dining and the cliches that you'd expect from couples. The song’s chorus is quite simple yet effective, he raps, "What's your name girlfriend, what's your name?". The second feature is one that took many by surprise, Youngboy NBA.
He absolutely kills his verse. The best part is how well Youngboy NBA fits in too. With autotune laced, he sings well and manages to emphasise the main idea of interest and romance before the chorus returns to conclude the track.
Following this song is "LUMBERJACK". The main single for the album. While the change from the previous song to this one is quite abrupt and can throw you off (which can be said for other song-changes now and then throughout the tracklist), "LUMBERJACK" is a certified rap head's banger.
Funny enough, I was initially mixed on the song when I first heard it as a single. But with every listen, it grew on me. To such an extent, I rap alongside the hook and view it as one of my favourites on the album.
"ROLLS ROYCE PULL UP,
BLACK BOY HOP OUT.
SHOUTOUT TO MY MOTHER AND MY FATHER,
DIDN'T PULL OUT.
MSG SELL OUT!"
"CALL ME LUMBERJACK CAUSE I WISH A NIGGA WOULD"
I can’t help but love it when I hear a young black man talking his shit! This track feels very reminiscent of pre-Cherry Bomb Tyler from a lyrical standpoint, except with a more mature demeanour and a way more polished pen.
The positive attitude that Tyler has towards his father not "pulling out" with his mother indicating how Tyler has progressed past the longing pain of his father leaving him; no longer shadowing gloom over the outcome.
While lines like "whips on whips, my ancestors got their backs out" have the right amount of edginess yet thoughtout nature, and lines like "my nigga tall look like a bitch, I call him Mulan" are witty. Tyler has the right combo of hard-hitting bars, a lil bit of flex and personality. Making for a short yet enjoyable listen.
The next track, "HOT WIND BLOWS" fittingly has this exotic sample and lovely wind instrumentation that carries out a snazzy mood to it. It’s almost enchanting. The type of woodwind melody that could control a snake. DJ DRAMA cames through with all the energy, and amusingly speaks about 'bout being, "On a yacht, a young lady just fed me french vanilla ice-cream, we all got our toes out too".
This track sees the return of the dynamic duo of Tyler, The Creator and Lil Wayne. At this point these two are like Rooney and Ronaldo, MJ and Pippen, Kobe and Shaq. Big numbers only.
They just can't miss together. Tyler's verse gives us an insight into his traveling routine – speaking of women, flights, boats or being chauffeured and having doors opened for him. The imagery is vivid.
"Crossing lines like immigrants and benefit from it.
Keep on stunting on these niggas, make them sick to their stomach.
You don't understand, fish so fresh that you can taste the sand."
Then up comes "Weezy F Baby" himself. Wayne enters with urgency. He sounds hungry (staying consistent with his features, rather than his own songs nowadays though). He isn't saying much but it do be slapping. Making references to Odd Future Wolf Gang and using his slick flow to make him stand out. Changing rhyme schemes and high rhyme density, he taps into every beat pocket.
The transition to the next track "MASSA" is smooth. The beginning of MASSA carries out the same kind of production as the previous joint. Tyler narrates on the importance of doing what makes you happy and how he started finding himself the moment he first left his comfort zone, Los Angeles.
Midway through his dialogue, the main beat for the song starts up. It sees Tyler open up with a hook that goes, "Massa couldn't catch me, my legs long than a bitch, got too much self-respect, I wash my hands before I piss." While it's easy to see the humour in these lines. When you consider how people usually (hopefully) wash their hands after pissing but Tyler values himself that he decides to do it beforehand as well. The real beauty in this hook is that it showcases how Tyler references how nothing, not even a slave owner, could ever hold him back. He is a slave to nothing. He’s too valuable to himself.
As the song progresses, it sees Tyler address a few things which many have wondered. Aspects that led to the change in his musical direction and how the story of how his career has ended up shaping up and evolving. Tyler talks about how he feels as though he matured lately. With reference to his puberty, only arriving at age 23 – which is why Cherry Bomb saw the changes artistically in his previous music that it did. The attention to detail is a pleasure to witness. He goes onto speak about how his tastes started diversifying and developing but how people kept clinging onto the first perception they had of him and his music. And although, this has lessened to a degree nowadays – it still happens occasionally happens where fans want the "old Tyler".
Tyler also dives into the parallels that occurred in his real-life once his music started amassing more popularity, fame, and fortune. Revealing how his mother was living in a shelter when "Yonkers" had dropped but how he was able to get her out following its success. Aspects like getting used to cameras and flights were also new to him, considering his working to lower-middle-class upbringing. Which people often dismiss because he isn't a stereotypical persona of that environment. In the second verse, Tyler dives deeper into his personal life and insecurities. How he's grown. How he strives for perfection in his art. How he’s had relationship issues because of his sexuality.
"Everyone I ever loved had to be loved in the shadows. Tug of war between X and Y (which are the male and female chromosomes), it felt like a custody battle." To show how comfortable he's now become with himself to express this, and doing so with a crazy flow and delivery – it’s a moment.
What I love about this song is that it's the first time Tyler has addressed the common chatters surrounding his change. He shows self-introspection and tells us why why and how his music has changed alongside other aspects of his life; all from a third point of view. Much like Tyler said in his verse, "this perspective of the peak of a bird." One of the standout songs on the album.
The 8th track of the album, which now puts us halfway through, is "RUNITUP". "RUNITUP" carries on the momentum of positivity and growth. But with that said, Tyler is talking his shit again!
"Niggas treated my nuance like it nuisance so I said fuck 'em. I ain't never had anxiety I ain't never second guess myself."
"I'm that nigga."
DJ Drama adds to this energy over beautiful trumpets. The track is easy to vibe with – uplifting, and enjoyable. With an enchanting hook repeating, "WE GON RUN IT UP!" and a short verse from Tyler and a pleasant feature from Teezo Touchdown.
The following song on the album is titled "MANIFESTO". The production on this song sounds extremely influenced. It sounds like something you'd hear from the late and great, MF DOOM. Tyler comes in questioning why people follow what they follow. He uses religion as an example of how people can go their whole lives thinking a certain way without question, simply because of indoctrination. He instead chooses to be who he is, by his own accord. After this short verse from Tyler, there's a beat switch, and along with that comes a familiar voice to Odd Future fans, Domo Genesis.
The stan in me (and many others all over Twitter) was geeking when I heard Domo Genesis. And seeing that this is his first collaboration with Tyler since 2016, he had no other choice BUT to come out as fired up as he did. Nigga rapped like the rent was due. With a very energetic yet powerful entrance, aided by a good lyrical performance with lines like "People try to twist my view on some contortionist shit" and "When you peep inside my mind it's madness, when I see peace I'm like a fiend - uh - I gotta have it"
Straight after this, Tyler matches Domo’s energy. Rapping like he doesn’t own a festival (Camp Flog Gnaw) which reportedly amassed over $21 million in revenue alone. Mad hungry. He address a couple situations: He apologizes to Selena Gomez for explicit tweets he made towards her 10 years ago, but following it up with a wild line about how he wanted to fuck Bieber, Justin (side note: tying the name Justin with the word "just in" for the next line was brilliant). He ends it off in a similar vein to Domo as he speaks about societal issues and race.
The 10th track of the album is 10 minutes long, largely focused on the idea of love, and is divided by two parts. Tyler is known for separating the 10th track of his albums into parts.
"SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE", featuring Brent Faiyaz and Fana Hues. Tyler embraces his singing side for the duration of the entire track, accompanying Brent Faiyaz and Fana Hues who add assistance, seeing that Tyler isn't the most gifted singer but has learnt to use the trait better and better over time.
The first half of the track is "SWEET". It starts off with Tyler talking normally, trying to convince someone to join him somewhere that they probably shouldn't be... ("listen, the driver gon' drop you off." "I don't know, make something up, tell him something.")
Once the song begins, it has this lively feeling to the instrumentation. Feels warm, like something you'd hear a live band play at a wedding. As the lyrics talk about falling in love with someone, the track focuses on the idea of sweetness. With the chorus being "We should call you sugar because you're so sweet. You're the sweetest thing that I've known." Tyler’s so infatuated that he can only see them as sweet, regardless of what they do.
The second half of the track, "I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE", sees a change in production. Even though it does maintain the same mellow but bright sonics, it shifts into a more reggae-inspired sound with lovely piano keys. This half of the track has more sombre lyrics compared to the first half of the song. Tyler raps, "What makes you think I'm not in love? How could you know what's best for us? Why am I here standing alone? Cause I thought you wanted to dance."
Fana Hues plays the role of the significant other that Tyler is talking about in the song. As she sings her side of the situation, as the woman who led Tyler on. This sees Tyler have a rap verse speaking of how this experience left him heartbroken and regret filled. This two-part track is simplistic in theory. With few lyrics that are reoccurring but it's so powerful and is an important part of the album. It provides foreshadowing for an upcoming song, that goes more in-depth on this situation.
Next up is "MOMMA TALK". A short audio from Tyler's mom, talking about how proud she is for her son. She definitely knows how to fight, lmaaaao. A middle aged women unafraid and ready to beat anybody's ass to protect her son. The placement of this audio is fitting (seeing that the last track ended on a note of hurt for Tyler) but this humour also helps shift the album away from sadness; back to positivity with the following song, "RISE!"
"RISE!" returns to the idea of upliftment and satisfaction. Tyler uses this track to talk about achievement and "rising to the top". It's about proving doubters wrong. Featured artist, DAISY WORLD, harmonizes and has a good verse that aligns with the same positive affirmations.
"BLESSED" goes back to Tyler's narration and sees him expressing the delight he has in and how his life shaped. From music to everyday living, friendships, fashion and health. Everything. Everything he puts his effort into is coming back to him tenfold, making him feel grateful. He also encourages others to explore what life has to offer and to "come see the world" - a metaphor for living life in a way that makes you happy. The message is amazing, especially towards the tail-end of the album.
The 14th track of the album is "JUGGERNAUT", featuring Pharrell and Lil Uzi Vert. The production is best described as idiosyncratic. Uzi floats on his verse and Pharrell offers a good appearance too.
Next up is the second last track on the album, "WILSHIRE". Remember the foreshadowing I previously mentioned regarding Tyler and the person he was interested in? Well, the penultimate track on the album goes further in-depth into that relationship/friendship/situation, 8 minutes worth of depth.
"WILSHIRE" sees Tyler speak about how he started falling for someone that he was friends with. But how her relationship with someone else created a barrier for their affections for one another. Despite the relationship that she was in, Tyler speaks about how they continued spending more and more intimate time together which only enhanced his feelings for her. Knowing she felt the same way, it only ended up creating more problems for both as they found themselves in a love triangle with herself, Tyler and the person she was with (who was a friend of Tyler, but their friendship began deteriorating). Tyler expresses how his relationship with her progresses and ultimately concludes despite how much he cares for her, all over a single loop that's fitting for something so long and expressive.
This is one of, if not, the best song on the album. Tyler not only displays how well-crafted his writing has become, but this is the first fully storytelling-esque song we've gotten from Tyler probably since “Colossus” on his 2013 album, “Wolf". Tyler's ability to put us in his shoes on this song and keep us intrigued on what's gonna happen next for so long is worthy of applause, filled with bars and sentiment.
And even though the mixing on this track can come off as unpleasant to some – especially considering the clipping noise in the right channel (which can be heard on the right ear) and how the recording on the mic can feel quite close up - I feel as though these elements add to honesty of the track rather than detract.
The final track of the album is named "SAFARI", which is a fitting one to end on based on the album's themes. On "SAFARI", Tyler looks back on his travels and journeys, what he's gained, and how he's now returning home. Tyler also reflects on his recent successes, including his Grammy win, and noticeably – he’s rapping with high levels of confidence. Ending off the album with the words, "Wolf", a nod to OFWGKTA and his previous album of the same name, showing that he'll always have OF at heart. This song concludes the main themes of traveling, the journey, and the destination (that were heard all over the album) pretty well.
"CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST" is a wonderful album. It displays the perfect balance in a record.
From Tyler's personality shining brightly, to how layered the production is with diversified life and instrumentation, to Tyler's constantly improving writing ability which showcases his capability to shift from humorous to serious to braggadocious to emotional. And STILL sound in his bag, regardless of which direction he chooses to go into.
Something that we don't talk about enough is the skill Tyler has at orchestrating a song and picking the right features for the right songs, especially features you'd least expect to fit into a certain type of sound. The thing I love most about "CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST" is that it sounds like Tyler is being reflective of how his life and career progression, giving us an outlook at the headspace that he's in right now.
He isn't going for a specific concept or character - like his earlier albums (mainly Bastard, Goblin and a bit of Wolf) which had an edgy characterisation to them nor Igor (which was brilliant but followed the main concept of a love story behind the character of Igor). Nor is it delving deeply into the concept of his self-discovery (much like Flowerboy).
But while there is a loose concept of growth and journey (travel), it feels more as though he's looking back and is giving us TYLER. Who Tyler is as a person, at the moment.
"CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST" is easily one of, if not, my favourite project to come out so far this year. And if we're keeping it a buck, Tyler is on a 3peat with this, Igor and Flowerboy. He’s also in the run for the best rapper discography over the course of the last 5 years.
It's always interesting seeing where an artist will go next, especially one as fearless and gifted as Tyler, The Creator. But while we have all the time in the world to ponder about that, let's enjoy this album for as long as we can. Because it might just be Tyler's best work yet.
Written by Ipeleng Thobejane | Twitter @InsightThobe
Edited by Dithekgo Mogadime | Twitter @DithekgoM