“They gon’ feel this one,” sings Tyler, the Creator on the opening track of his fifth studio album, “IGOR.”
Prior to the LP’s release, Tyler took to Twitter and Instagram to warn his fans: “This is not Cherry Bomb. This is not Flower Boy. Don’t go into this expecting a rap album. Don’t go into this expecting any album.”
As promised, “IGOR” takes listeners on a genre-bending journey, one with a narrative completely different from the artist’s previous projects. Experimental in its truest form, the project follows the rapper on a journey to make sense of love and heartbreak.
A follow-up to 2017’s “Flower Boy,” “IGOR” is sprinkled with features with artists like Kanye West and Playboi Carti that add creative touches without disrupting the flow of the record. A$AP Rocky spits on “NEW MAGIC WAND,” and Pharrell William joins in on the closing ballad, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” Comedian Jarrod Carmichael plays the voice of reason on “WHAT’S GOOD,” where his remarks are sparse yet poignant: “I don’t know what’s harder, letting go or just being okay with it.”
The dark and twisted mutterings of “IGOR” shed light on a side of Tyler his fans have never seen before, one that downplays his indomitable personality and elucidates his insecurities, inner turmoil and conflicting feelings about love. The project is decidedly indecisive, and the path it takes is not only unpredictable and disorganized, but also unabashedly passionate.
“I THINK” is groovy and upbeat, with a slick beat switch that leads into a funk jam. On the stuttering, offbeat “A BOY IS A GUN.”, Tyler is vulnerable and pissed: “You so motherfucking dangerous.”
“GONE,GONE / THANK YOU” features some of the album’s most honest, heart wrenching bars: “Keep it going / The Band-Aid is falling off now / And now I’m scarred for life.”
Contrary to his previous works, “IGOR” focuses on sonic texture over song structure. The album is rife with baselines and out-of-key synths, with splashes of funk percussion and piano. The album is disjointed yet impeccable, pulling the unsuspecting listener through pleasantly surprising twists and turns. Vocals are often buried under an avalanche of arrangements, an interesting stylistic swerve for an artist whose strengths lie largely in his creative raps.
In fact, Tyler raps less than ever before on this album. Critics might say he’s sacrificing authenticity to appeal to the masses, but nothing about this album says sellout. Rather, it says the opposite. Tyler, the Creator has undergone an artistic evolution, moving further and further into his own lane and redefining the bounds of hip-hop.
“IGOR” undeniably marks a new age in Tyler’s artistic self-conception. He has, to some extent, traded in his outlandish provocations for meaning and substance, without giving up the trademark unorthodoxy of the Tyler, the Creator brand. “IGOR” feels symbolic of the fact that Tyler has transcended the “rapper” label and now exists in a space beyond genre and convention.
“IGOR” will not be remembered for its narrative or songwriting. The lyrics can be highly repetitive and are more often than not masked by music. Those who came to hear Tyler frantically spit rhymes should look to his previous work.
Instead, “IGOR” is a collection of sounds, scenes and memories carefully put together to evoke raw emotion. The project is emblematic of Tyler’s personal and professional growth and sets a high standard for his next project.