Since the fledgling days of Odd Future, Tyler, The Creator has made a name for himself as a problem child; someone who gives no fucks. His shows were rowdy, his lyrics and videos transgressive, and his persona polarizing, to say the very least. Beneath the edgelord façade, however, always lurked a talent waiting to be realized. The now classic track “Yonkers” and its bleak, iconic music video propelled modern mainstream hip hop in a weirder direction. A decent amount of Tyler’s discography is solid (Especially off of “Bastard” and “Goblin”) but overall, he never seemed to be able to decide on his own personal vibe or message (beyond not giving a fuck or pissing people off).
With “Flower Boy,” Tyler’s latest, this all changes. The days of yearning to stab Bruno Mars in his esophagus and “kill people, burn shit, fuck school” chants have faded into the past. “Flower Boy” feels like an ultimate culmination of everything Tyler’s been working for his whole career, from its crystal clean production, melancholy tone, surprisingly intimate writing and rock-solid structure.
It’s immediately apparent that Tyler has made it over the production hump that held back his previous records, especially his last, “Cherry Bomb,” which suffered from dense, crushing production fuzz that Tyler seemed to hide his raps behind. “Flower Boy” finds a precise happy medium between sunny, synth-laden tunes and bass-soaked bangers. Even more remarkable is that Tyler’s message is never lost between mellow, deeply personal tracks like “Where This Flower Blooms” and loud, ruckus ones like “Who Dat Boy.”
Tyler’s psyche lies front and center on this record, and never leaves the spotlight. Perhaps the most overhyped thematic aspect of this record is that of Tyler’s sexuality. Particularly the track “Garden Shed” a gorgeous, spacey, guitar riff -loaded track, where the “coming out” connotations speak for themselves. It gets even more blunt on the standout slapper “I Ain’t Got Time!” where he claims he’s been “kissing white boys since 2004.” This would be far from the first time Tyler’s “come out,” in public though, as he’s joked and hinted about it for years across social media and in interviews. It’s less a revelation for headlines and more just an admirably sincere display of his real self.
This sincerity is further presented in tracks like “911/Mr. Lonely” where Tyler claims “I Can’t even lie, I’ve been lonely as fuck” and “See You Again” a beautifully symphonic love song that presents Tyler’s at his most vulnerable.
There are a couple of weak tracks featured on “Flower Boy.” “Droppin’ Seeds” features a nice, jazzy beat, but a weak Lil Wayne verse, and the record closes with a chill instrumental “Enjoy Right Now, Today” that’s nice on its own, but doesn’t seem to tie up the themes of the album in a neat way as is.
Regardless, “Flower Boy” is an excellent piece of work from Tyler, the Creator, the best so far in his career. His production has never been cleaner or more consistent and his writing never more sincerely personal. The music remains deeply felt, and meticulously crafted throughout, and it finally feels as if Tyler has realized his potential as a musician. Tyler, the persona, seems to finally have been replaced by Tyler, the human being.