Tyler, the Creator - Igor REVIEW
By: Kyle Wheelock
In 2017, Tyler, the Creator released his fourth solo studio album, Flower Boy. I’ve previously gushed about Flower Boy here on this site; from its mature and introspective lyrics to the beautiful instrumentations, there’s a LOT to like about that album. So much so, I named it my rap album of the year, and since then have placed it in my top five albums of all time. To this day I (and many others) have rightfully awarded Flower Boy much praise for being such a tight, polished work from someone who made a name for themselves by being the exact opposite.
But, this article isn’t about Flower Boy (try to remember that when I mention it twenty more times), it’s about Tyler’s new album: Igor. Album to album, Tyler never sounds the same, he always switches up his style to varying degrees as he experiments and learns with different song structures and instruments, though this has been met with mixed reception by fans. On most of his previous albums, Tyler has been very open about his desire to rap less and produce more, it’s not a secret. And personally, I’m always here for an artist experimenting and changing, it keeps things exciting and fresh. The problem here is, being first known as a RAPper, people who tune into a Tyler project want to hear him RAP and are usually disappointed when he doesn’t (at least, not in the way that they would want him to). Apart from 2015’s Cherry Bomb, the criticism towards Tyler’s projects have almost nothing to do with his production, rather it’s his rapping (or lack thereof) and lyrical content that alienate older fans.
All of this is to say, Tyler is still being expected of some fans to make another Goblin (2011) or Wolf (2013), despite him more or less stating he has no interest in doing such a thing anymore. Remember this when talking about Igor, because calling this a rap album just seems so unfair. After a few listens, it’s clear Igor is, front to back, Tyler flexing his growth as a producer more than a rapper. In fact, the album is almost completely devoid of any rapping, save for a few moments like the end of, “New Magic Wand,” or, “What’s good.” And, I’ll be honest, a lot of the appeal of Flower Boy was the rapping, the way Tyler delivered those personal lyrics, so initially not having that was a knock against Igor for me. Initially, anyway.
At first, Igor’s production carried it for me, which says a lot about how jaw dropping the chords and melodies are. I’ve never considered myself a fan of Playboi Carti, at all. Like, ever. Naturally I WASN’T excited to see he was featured on the second track, “Earfquake,” I had already had it set in my mind that I was going to get a good song dragged down by…whatever Carti decided to do. But god damn dude, by the time Carti comes in, I was already on cloud nine, there’s VERY little anyone could’ve done to ruin the song by that point; it contains a lot of the same soulful, R&B samples songs like, “911,” had on Flower Boy, both of which are some of the only (if not THE only) Tyler, the Creator songs that would make me want to dance. There’s this carefree groove to, “Earfquake,” that contrasts so much with the previous track, “Igor’s Theme,” this distorted synth heavy banger that makes you just bob your head to.
The very next track, “I Think,” has a unique kind of danceability to it, it very clearly is not rap and isn’t trying to be. I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of a comparable artist or song for it and, the best I can come up with is Estelle’s, “American Boy,” of all things. Sonically they’re very different yes, but they both have this similar bouncy, almost disco sounding drum patterns present throughout them. The point is, it definitely isn’t contemporary rap, and at this point it was pretty clear to me what I was really getting into. And again, it’s not a surprise, Tyler has been playing with these sounds and rhythms since Cherry Bomb (and Wolf as well, but to a much lesser extent): simultaneously, “Running out of Time,” musically reminds me of both, “IFHY,” and, “Fucking Perfect,” but much more evolved than those tracks. Tyler has come so far in his career as far as his production goes, so much so that him forgoing lyrics in order to flex what he can do with a keyboard is well worth it.
From here, the album doesn’t really stop, it’s nonstop production brilliance, even on, “Puppet,” which, at least at this exact moment, might be my least favorite track on the album just because of the way it starts. And even then, “Puppet,” is still a good song in a vacuum musically, and that’s not even including the lyrical purpose it serves. Above I said this album initially felt like it was missing some of the depth that made Flower Boy such a treasure for me. Granted, it can be unfair, constantly comparing every album an artist releases to a previous one, especially when you’re looking for something that they’re very much clear on not doing anymore. That being said, it’s hard to fully enjoy an album when you’ve heard them JUST do the thing on their last one.
But, even though Tyler isn’t spitting bar after bar, much of the same themes that were present on Flower Boy are actually still around on Igor. It isn’t stated as explicitly, but Igor chronicles the beginning and end of a troubled relationship. Over the course of the track list, Tyler goes from running away from love, to wanting it, finding it, and then dealing with these new feelings. Sexuality and identity also come up in places that give the story more context, like on, “Running out of Time,” which does a great job tying all the themes together. The song starts with the chorus, Tyler talking about trying to make this mystery person love them, before transitioning into the verses and bridge, all of with deal with lying to yourself and the world around you, hiding the real you, and an ex-girlfriend who is still in the picture, making whatever situation Tyler has landed himself in even more complicated.
It has been heavily speculated (but never verified) that around the time Flower Boy came out, Tyler was in a relationship with someone and that some of the songs on the album were even about him. Again, while the two were spotted everywhere together, nothing was ever confirmed, so it’s hard to say what did or didn’t happen, or what song is about who. However, a lot of the lyrics on Igor line up with this (if you want to believe the rumors that is), and if that IS the case, then to me, that makes Igor as personal as Flower Boy.
Again, if you choose to subscribe to the rumors that Tyler was in a relationship, then tracks like, “A Boy is a Gun,” make a LOT more sense lyrically, and give an interesting insight to life of a relatively private person (like, “You invited me to breakfast, why the fuck your ex here? / Well, let's see if you 'round the god around this time next year”). So do the tracks, “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” and, “Are We Still Friends,” which…are pretty self-explanatory, really.
While it may not cover such a wide variety of topics, Igor definitely goes deep on a few key issues that make for a really eye widening listen, even though he isn’t rapping his way through them; the medium might be different, but the message is definitely still the same. All of that, combined with Tyler’s very clear improvement and continued experimentation on production, and honestly you have an album that could rival Flower Boy in terms of quality. Well, assuming you liked Flower Boy for what it was, that is. But, if you’re still part of the group that thinks Tyler peaked on Wolf then I’m afraid this album might not change your mind, because it’s definitely a continuation of the same path he’s been on for a while now.
TL;DR Igor is solid, with absolutely amazing production and a consistent theme/concept, it takes the best bits of Flower Boy, and expands on them
Highlights: “Igor’s Theme,” “Earfquake,” “New Magic Wand,” and, “A Boy is a Gun,”