‘Flower Boy’ is the fourth full length album from Odd Future founder Tyler, The Creator and marks a turning point for the famously controversial rapper.
Continuing the theme of some of our favourite albums this year, such as 4:44 and This Old Dog, ‘Flower Boy’ shows an unexpected level of self reflection, personal growth, maturity, and vulnerability. The rapper who was previously regarded as being so profane and tasteless that he was even banned from entering certain countries, The United Kingdom being one such example, has now blossomed into a softer, more self-aware and more complete individual resulting in his most accomplished album yet.
In an age where it is no longer essential to appear bullish or insusceptible to harm to be idolised, where strength is no longer reliant upon appearing brash or omniscient, Tyler, like many other artists seems to have learnt that much of the adoration in modern music comes from sympathy, and understanding. ‘Flower Boy’ is certainly Tyler’s best and most cohesive work so far, it is no longer bogged down with attempts at creating outrage. The public now know what to expect from Tyler, The Creator his shock value has decreased and his lyrics are no longer as provocative as before. In fact, the most shocking thing Tyler may have ever done is this unexpected growth in character and the revelation of his true emotions. In acknowledging his confusion and weaknesses Tyler has opened himself up to a new kind of respect. The previously violent, misogynistic and homophobic lyrics of his past albums are totally sidelined in favour of a more meditative and reflective collage of songs, memories and emotions.
As the title suggests ‘Flower Boy’ shows a transformational and softer side to Tyler. As per usual, he addresses the things that have shaped him as a person, however, this time around Tyler fully gets into the essence of his ideas, not being sidetracked or rushed he injects an elegance and care into his work that we have not yet seen before. There is a carefully constructed and thought out plan, where in the past, Tyler’s albums have been bloated and messy. It is very clear to see that within Tyler’s past work he often gets carried away and too self involved, adding jokes, making oddball references, juxtaposing tracks or features where they are not necessary and occasionally even detrimental to the overall flow of the album. However, this is not the case with ‘Flower Boy’, it feels like the first fully realised album that Tyler has constructed. Every collaboration feels well thought out and complements the themes and sounds Tyler is aiming for. Throughout the album the trademark Odd Future sound is fused with orchestration, beautiful vocals and unpredictable chord progressions, fully discarding the aggression of his previous work in favour of an exploration of more smooth, soulful and jazz inspired direction. Where before his raps could be considered fairly juvenile and substanceless attempts at creating controversy, Tyler now confronts some of the most significant subject matter possible. Throughout the album Tyler tackles, loneliness, the breakdown of friendships, love, confusion and, above all, coming to terms with oneself.
This huge focus on coming to terms with oneself has led people to make a large fuss about what is Tyler’s apparent confirmation of his homosexuality, resulting in them completely overlooking his actual personality traits and artistic decisions and focusing simply upon the shock-value and repercussions of this potential revelation. This is resulted in a lot of invasive questioning and even a degree of de-legitimization of Tyler’s self-exploration upon the album. Regardless of sexuality, Tyler opens himself up bravely on ‘Flower Boy’, exposing a deeply intimate aspect of his psyche. Tyler has not directly addressed the subject of his sexuality upon the album’s release, nor should he have to. The album acts as means for Tyler to come to terms with himself, and less about stirring up the public. It is reductive and narrow minded to view the album simply as an explanation or an apology for his past controversies, former homophobic slurs and misogynistic lyrics.
‘Flower Boy’ is a more positive, sincere and wistful evolution to Tyler, The Creator, which perhaps, if not hindered by the media, will mark the beginning of his metamorphosis into his full potential.