Tyler, The Creator is a rapper and producer from Ladera Heights, California. He debuted in 2009 with the Bastard mixtape which found impressive success, followed by 2011’s Goblin, which made Tyler a household name and landed in the top five on Billboard. During this early portion of his career, Tyler founded the Odd Future rap collective which spawned the careers of multiple stars in today’s alternative hip-hop scene. He went on to drop Wolf and Cherry Bomb, both of which sold quite well. However, after four successful LP’s, his brash, bass-heavy style was beginning to fatigue many listeners. This changed with 2017’s Flower Boy which brought an entirely new sound to Tyler’s discography along with genuinely heartfelt lyrics which dealt with lover, maturity, and coming to terms with his sexuality. Now, two years later, his much anticipated sixth album, IGOR has arrived.
From the first moments of the opener, “IGOR’S THEME,” the daring and unique production style of this record is immediately apparent. Throughout the song, virtually every mixing decision is surprising and unpredictable, particularly the contrast between the organic drums and the very industrial melodies. This is even more noticeable on a cut like “NEW MAGIC WAND,” which boosts a rattling bass and distorted sound effects to all but bury the soft, genuine vocals which cary the lead from behind. Consistently, Tyler chooses to bury excellent melodies as gems to be found on repeat listens while blasting some of the most commanding elements to the forefront.
In addition to the production, the instrumental pallet itself is shockingly broad and creative. “I THINK,” and the closer, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” uses a wide range of interesting synths and percussion instruments to bring an almost mind-bending sound to life. On the other hand, a later cut like “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU,” utilizes everything from wispy acoustic guitars and guttural basses to bizarre vocal effects and oddly bright shakers and snares. Nearly every track is an adventure as we’re never quite given the boundaries for where Tyler is willing to go. Instead, each song feels like a perpetual experiment.
Beyond this, the album’s strongest quality is its tendency to drop into some of the most danceable grooves of the year. Tracks like the massive hit, “EARFQUAKE,” or the equally fantastic, “A BOY IS A GUN,” feature excellent, ear worm choruses which blend perfectly between the modern sensibilities of hip-hop music and a sort of synthetic, industrial Motown style which seems entirely unique to this album.
While this is certainly not the measured, balanced, and well-developed style one would generally associate with good pacing, IGOR instead aims to incapsulate Tyler’s manic energy and does so perfectly. Songs like “RUNNING OUT OF TIME,” and “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” are perhaps the best examples of this, though it’s apparent throughout. Each track seems to bounce endlessly from one creative idea to another, expecting the listener to fill in the blanks to connect them. Through this, the project keeps you inthralled for its full runtime.
Another trick which helps the pacing as well as the songwriting to punch above its weight is Tyler’s tendency to write in parts instead of traditional choruses and verses. Take tracks like “PUPPET,” and “WHAT’S GOOD,” for example, where the entire makeup of the song seems to come unglued and reform every few moments, shifting wildly from heavy hitting bars to flowing grooves and everything in between. Again, the manic energy of the album’s writer bleeds through every note, making every cut a loosely tethered amalgamation of contrary ideas.
Ultimately, I’m left with very few complaints. The album’s loose concept is a bit difficult to follow, but its largely irrelevant and overshadowed by more than a few incredible songs. Mostly, I feel admiration for Tyler, himself. With his early work facing quite a bit of criticism for its abrasive and at times sparse tone, he could easily have retreated into a safer form of mainstream hip-hop. Instead, he stuck to his guns and now comes out the other side having crafted a truly unique sound which is a clear advancement of the sound on the earlier records.
IGOR is a bold and well executed entry into one of the most excited discographies in modern hip-hop.