Music Reviews

With IGOR, Tyler, the Creator Smartly Builds On His Entire Career

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Genre: Alt-Hip Hop

Favorite Tracks: “A BOY IS A GUN*,” “EARFQUAKE,” “WHAT’S GOOD,” “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”

A lot of people were shocked at the release of Tyler, the Creator’s newest album, IGOR. He announced it just two weeks before its release date, in what feels like a trend in the rap community, and wore a blonde wig throughout much of the album’s cryptic promotional videos. While Tyler’s last album, 2016’s FLOWER BOY, surprised many fans with its themes, subject matter, and overall musical tone, IGOR seemed poised to be a continuation of the “Flower Boy Tyler.” Instead, his latest album turned out to be a culmination of all of Tyler’s previous work, including the albums that got him banned from multiple countries and have people online questioning why he has not yet been cancelled. In Tyler’s words: “It kinda all lead up to this.”

In the Spring of 2012, Tyler, The Creator and his Odd Future collective had just released THE OF TAPE VOL. 2. Tyler went on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 show to discuss the album, Lowe complimenting his production by noting “‘Doms’ beat is probably the illest.” Tyler told him about the creation of the song, adding “I had keys and a synth in it and stuff but I took it out, they do come in, at one point towards the end, right before the song ends.” “Doms” overarching beat is remarkably similar to that of IGOR’s opening track; the difference between “IGOR’S THEME” and “Doms,” however, comes in the songs’ development. While both run just over three minutes, Tyler doesn’t wait until the end to bring in the melody on “IGOR’S THEME,” it becomes the centerpiece.

Tyler didn’t abandon his routes or forget about the “early stuff,” as many fans might suggest. He built on it, combining the 808-heavy beats of BASTARD with his more melodic, jazzier production from FLOWER BOY. Tyler spoke with Lowe again for IGOR’s release, echoing this point by comparing his music to a breakfast platter with bacon, eggs, and pancakes. “I was giving people a lot of eggs, but over time it doesn’t have as much, and it’s more pancakes and bacon.” He’d go on to add that IGOR is “the potent core of everything I love musically,” and spoke on feeling “like I didn’t even make this album I’m such a fan of it,” getting giddy while discussing the chord structure on “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” and the musical breakdown on “NEW MAGIC WAND.”

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Despite Tyler’s clear love and admiration for his creation, IGOR, somewhat ironically, is a breakup album. We first are introduced to Tyler’s fractured relationship on “EARFQUAKE,” as he begs in a pitched-up falsetto for his partner not to leave before the album quickly devolves into a sporadic examination of emotions. “I THINK” shows Tyler in a state of unrest, but after he reaches the eventual decision to believe in love, we hear him in a different, more determined mindset on the following track, “RUNNING OUT OF TIME,” where he tells his lover to “take your mask off.” No song on the album ends the same way that it begins and Tyler is seemingly fueled by the shifts in structure within each track. By the time we reach the latter half of the album Tyler rolls through his emotions, displaying pure desperation (“NEW MAGIC WAND”), anger, regret (“A BOY IS A GUN”), and eventually acceptance (“GONE GONE / THANK YOU”) as he grows along the way.

Growth is a very important aspect of IGOR; Tyler leads us through his journey of self-reflection after an uneasy breakup and we see him eventually reach acceptance and even acknowledge his own growth on the album’s penultimate track, “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE.” But beyond the content of the music, IGOR represents growth for Tyler as an artist, who took everything he had made before and molded it together into a 40-minute breakup album, overcoming not only a lost love, but stigmas surrounding his music and sexuality as well. He’s finally making the music he’s always wanted to make—it may have been a tumultuous and zany ride to get to this point, but it shows.

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The final song on the album, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?,” beautifully wraps things up, both thematically, with Tyler questioning whether or not he and his former lover can remain friends, and musically, as the song erupts into a Jack White guitar solo over a chorus of Tyler’s vocals and synths welded together into one. Where many songs on the album end rather abruptly, Tyler makes sure to give his finale all the deserved fanfare. On an album where emotions play the starring role like a soundtrack to INSIDE OUT, he makes sure to close it all out in the most grandiose way possible, because, for Tyler, “It kinda all lead up to this.”

In that very same BBC interview from 2012, Tyler mentions, to a shocked Lowe, that his favorite song on THE OF TAPE VOL. 2 is the melodic “Analog 2,” a Frank Ocean and Syd-assisted love song that is more reminiscent of his work on FLOWER BOY than it is anything else on that tape. As Lowe calls it “soulful,” Tyler says, “If that’s what you want to call it. I just want to make music like that forever.”

Lucas Frangiosa
Lucas is a contributing writer, musician, and frequent concertgoer. He can juggle two items simultaneously, likes strawberry milkshakes, giraffes, and Oxford Commas. You can find his writing about funk, hip hop, and all things groovy on Peanut Butter and Good Jams

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