Tyler, the Creator
Ever since his self-released “Bastard”, Tyler the Creator has been riding on a wave of hype due to his violent, homophobic lyrics that at times resemble a hip-hop take on “A Clockwork Orange.” Tyler, along with his group Odd Future, have been raising high expectations ever since, whether it be their high-energy performance on Jimmy Fallon or their endless stream of mix tapes over the past two years. Eventually, Tyler found himself signing with XL Records, resulting in one of the most anticipated albums of 2011 in “Goblin.”
I’m one of those that was excited for “Goblin,” after gobbling up “Bastard” and its raw, intimate lyrics. Throughout, the songs are infused with a unique, at times hilarious voice that has been missing from hip-hop for a while now. The stage was set: Odd Future were to be the next Wu Tang and Tyler the next GZA.
And of course, just as we were ready for Tyler the Creator to crack into the mainstream and stake his claim as a heavy-hitter, the mysterious “Goblin” steps out from the shadows and resembles Gizmo more than a full-fledged Gremlin. Yes, the hype is the rug in the room, and it has just been pulled out from under Tyler’s feet.
I would like to blame the production here. The beats are lame, melodies are absent, and the synths are limp. While the energetic tracks on “Bastard” have your head bouncing, “Goblin” is simply mind numbing.
But it’s not the production that brings this album down. As a lyricist, Tyler the Creator doesn’t need songs to carry him; his words are the proverbial pair of footprints in the sand when there was only one. And there are some great, cutting lyrics here, especially on “Sandwitches” and “Yonkers,” the latter being the one song on the album that I’ve listened to a dozen times the past few weeks. But there are 14 other songs on this album that lack the same bite.
“Yonkers,” one of the few highlights of “Goblin”:
The authenticity of his venom on “Bastard” now at times borders on cliché and predictable, much in the same way Eminem’s endless spew of anger quickly became anesthetizing and commonplace. While Tyler got a lot of attention for his unwillingness to quit using the word “Faggot,” it feels like at times on “Goblin” he’s grasping for more controversial straws, yet, in this case, he comes up empty-handed. He goes after bloggers, white people, and Bill O’Reilly; easy targets by any standard (I fit under two of those categories, and no, I’m not Bill O’Reilly). But still, it’s not the beats; it’s not the lyrics; it’s not the attacks on Bill O’Reilly. It’s the concept that flushes this “Goblin” like a “Ghoulie.”
They used to call me “The Concept Album Kid,” but on “Goblin,” the psychiatrist gimmick makes much of the album unlistenable. On one hand I commend Tyler for not simply trying to create a radio-friendly album that could have pushed him into the mainstream, but his concept here is the biggest swing and a miss since Casey went to bat. Almost every track features the psychiatrist character, talking to Tyler in an irritating voice that resembles an anonymous interview on Dateline NBC. He questions Tyler from song to song, pleading with him to open up, ignore his haters, or talk about his parents. While I get that this creates continuity of narrative, it also distracts from anything Tyler has to say, and in the end, weakens the once toxic voice that made “Bastard” so riveting. At times he sounds whiney, and other times like a hypocrite, but worst of all, he sounds uninteresting.