Review: Tyler, The Creator, ‘Flower Boy’

Flower Boy is Tyler, The Creator’s smoothest and most mature project to date.

Tyler, The Creator has always had a rough and abrasive sound to his music, laced with his signature controversy to troll the media into talking about him (smart). That’s all absent for the entirety of the record, and subsequently shows a great display of musical growth, particularly as a producer as he produced the entire album start to finish.

Sonically, Flower Boy is bright, colourful and sunny, but that’s just on the surface. Once you dig past the positive sound it’s juxtaposed with Tyler’s depressive and confessional words. Tyler’s managed to make the soulful experimentation that he tried loosely on Cherry Bomb work successfully this time round. Tracks like “Where This Flower Blossoms” highlights the album’s luscious production the best with its mixture of electronica and glimpses of strings and piano. Flower Boy‘s delicate production is deliberate because it accurately fits the narrative of ‘being a flower boy’. It reaches its peak on “Garden Shed”, both sonically and lyrically (“This is a crucial subject matter / Sensitive like cooking batter”). It sets a statement of intent, a sense of seriousness that’s never been present in the Odd Future man’s music.

This sound is consistent across the album apart from the suspenseful “Who Dat Boy”, which builds up tension brilliantly in the first minute like a horror movie. “I Ain’t Got Time” is the second anomaly, the “DEATHCAMP” of the record, flipping the Arabian sample brilliantly to create an energetic track. It’s a shame Kanye rejected the chance to work with Tyler on the song. It would have been a perfect song for him to have laid down a verse on. Both songs include Tyler’s strongest rap performances on the album as it allows him to take his usual approach and flex his rapping ability.

The most surprising aspect of the album (besides the lyrical transparency) is Tyler’s singing. He does a good job at suppressing his deep voice in the singing, like on “See You Again” and “Garden Shed”. Didn’t even recognise that it was him at first.

For the most part Flower Boy possesses a very depressing tone to it. From the mellow sound and from a lyrical standpoint it doesn’t sound like Tyler is in a happy place in life. You can hear this in many verse scattered throughout, but most particularly on “911 / Mr. Lonely”. I hope he manages to get help, but from an artistic standpoint it is really effective in making you feel what he’s feeling.

I know you sick of me talkin’ ’bout cars
But what the fuck else do you want from me?
That is the only thing keepin’ me company
Purchase some things until I’m annoyed
These items is fillin’ the void
Been fillin’ it for so long
I don’t even know if it’s shit I enjoy

Conceptually there’s some notable themes being thrown around here, with the main one being sexuality. I haven’t been able to tie it all together (like when he gets out of the car at the end of the final track and the theme of driving on “Pothole”), but there’s some intriguing moments, like on the end of “November”. During the final verse, you can hear a phone waiting for the other line to pick up, but it goes to voicemail, which leads to “Glitter” being a failed voicemail confession. The voice message at the end of “Glitter” (“We didn’t get your message, either because you were not speaking or because of a bad connection“) could be a metaphor for Tyler continuously aiming to come out as gay but has been unable to get his ‘message’ across.

The album’s full title is another interesting concept. Scum Fuck and Flower Boy is a bit of an oxymoron and probably represents his personality in the best way possible. And what was so great about November anyway?

Tyler doesn’t give all the answers on this album, but he opens up in ways that he never has before. The mellow sound merged with the lyrical sensitivity shows a new depth to Tyler not just as an artist but as a person. Thus Flower Boy may just be the strongest project in his eccentric catalogue.

Rating: 8.5 / 10

Best tracks: “Garden Shed”, “Boredom”, “November”, “Foreword”, “Where This Flower Blossoms”, “I Ain’t Got Time”, “See You Again”