Tyler, The Creator is 24 years old now. It’s a head trip to think that Odd Future, a wildly thrown together collective of ragtag Ladera Heights teenagers, rose to prominence almost five years ago. At their most elusive, OF was billed as a breath of fresh air in a typically typecast genre. Their DIY punk aesthetic combined with a melding of Slim Shady LP horrorcore and brash immaturity resulted in a receptive combination of head scratching and fascination. There was nothing else like them on the market.
Cut to 2015, Earl’s taken the route of becoming a manic depressive street preacher. Frank Ocean seems to have distanced himself from association. The rest of the crew spends their time recording radio shows, making clothes, throwing carnivals, taking photos, filming Loiter Squad, being the stereotypical nuisance they’re known for, and releasing music that varies heavily in quality. With Earl and Frank having put their affiliation with OF on the back burner, Tyler is now seemingly alone at the forefront of attention for a collective that may or may not be waning in relevance. Which ultimately begs the question, is Tyler still interesting enough to deserve your consideration?
Cherry Bomb, his fourth LP, is a stark contrast from where Tyler was with Bastard to where Tyler is now. It’s thematically dissimilar to Goblin but more akin to Wolf. He’s traded the rape and violence for a more happy-go-lucky yet emphatically upset inflection. However, this is still the uncompromisingly immature, frustrated, daddy hating, braggadocio rapper we’ve all come to expect. The songs are standard Tyler fare. Fucking Young is an interestingly disturbing, lush, Lolita-esque exploration of pedophilia. Blowmyload is a song about performing oral sex on Cara Delevigne. Buffalo is pure off the cuff call em’ out fervor. Lyrically, the content spans from cringeworthy to clever. There are moments where his excess dulls and it feels like constant repetition; the homophobic slurs and dick referencing tends to ware on you. Luckily the last half-dozen tracks are unique enough to hold involvement.
The more interesting moments fall on the uncredited guest features. The Brownstains is instant rap gratification, hearing Schoolboy Q and Tyler trade verses over a clanking bass heavy beat is immensely satisfying. Smuckers gets donned with none other than Kanye West and Lil Wayne, each bringing their signature flair. West drops his best guest verse all year, ‘I’m the free nigga archetype’. Weezy channels Tha Carter II, delivering the mid 2000s slime that birthed Young Thug. Tyler’s personal hero, Pharrell, even swings by on the Clipse quoting Keep Da O’s, with an oddly pitched delivery .
That’s not the only place you’ll find Pharrell on the record. Produced entirely by Tyler, the album is steeped in N.E.R.D. influence. Proudly wearing his inspirations on his sleeve, he draws on everyone from Toro y Moi to Death Grips. Sonically, the beats fluctuate in quality. Tyler has an obvious ear for composition, melodies on tracks like Find Your Wings, Fucking Young, Smuckers, Okaga CA, and 2Seater are absolutely gorgeous. His ability to mesh together such varied instrumentation is phenomenal.
In other cases, he completely misses the mark. Cherry Bomb, Run, and Pilot, despite their intended context and heaviness, are some of the three worst sounding tracks not just on the album, but in his entire discography.
Tyler’s problem has always been consistency. Cherry Bomb is saddled with potential, but the overall quality and cohesiveness is hampered by the parts that let it down. The first half of the record is forgettable, even getting to the point where Tyler’s self indulgence becomes grating. The latter half, with the assistance of guest features and stronger production, manages to salvage the LP. His selling point has always been his persona, and if you’ve come expecting more of the same you’ll leave content. It’s not bad per say, it’s just not enough of a distinct progression to make it memorable. It’ll sate, but it won’t inspire the rhetoric Bastard once did.