Tyler, the Creator: “IGOR” (Album Review)

Tyler, the Creator
Tyler, the Creator himself in promotional photos; Credit: Press/Tyler, the Creator

The multi-hyphenate LA rapper, musician and producer’s fifth album is impressionistic and emotionally charged showcasing an auteur refining his style and barring his all more than ever before.

Tyler, the Creator’s albums have largely been defined by absences – of his father, of critical acclaim, of success, of love. He always responded to what was missing in his life with antagonism with album after album, until 2017 when he released one of his best works to date Flower Boy, a twinge of nostalgia and a sunny lens interpretation of his childhood. The preceding release represented a more upbeat and cohesive sound/theme which Tyler continues on his fifth studio album. On IGOR, he adopts a dark and twisted sound with superb production and twisting lyrics that draw you into a thrilling unknown.

Igor - Tyler, the Creator.jpg
IGOR Album Cover featuring Tyler, the Creator as the eponymous conceptual character

IGOR sounds like the work of a perfectionist giving shape to his more radical ideas similar to the way Dr. Frankenstein gives birth to his monster of a creation (IGOR takes his resemblance/themes from the famed monster). Tyler produced, wrote and arranged the entirety of the album with some surprise vocal cameos from some of his favorite and closest collaborators but he’s not venturing into the world of traditional pop tracks with the sonic arcs of his creations. The songs don’t build to a crescendo in the traditional sense… they mostly begin there. The opening theme “IGOR’S THEME” serves as a recurring motif of doom that hides in the shadows (and features a spooky croon from Lil Uzi Vert). You can hear it pop up in specifically curated moments like “NEW MAGIC WAND” where a spooky synth interrupts Tyler’s thought process. In such instances, Tyler masterfully layers candied keys and harmonizing vocals.

Notable throughout the album, we don’t hear Tyler rap on the the openings of his songs and it continues to yearn with single “EARFQUAKE,” a dizzying R&B creation that could have only come from his mind. It is with this track that we first hear Tyler’s vanishing relationship. With a first pitched-up and later untreated sound, Tyler’s vocals are pleading but not cloying. It is with this track that it becomes apparent that IGOR is a gracious and giving breakup album whose narrative is much more fleshed out and clearer as one progresses through the record. Tyler goes through undulations of denial and acceptance and spends considerable energy hoping to help his beloved find satisfaction.

Stream the Album now through Spotify!

There’s a deepness and strong emotional center in IGOR where each song’s momentum propels him forward emotionally. And it’s during this stretch that Tyler is at his most creatively fluid like on “A BOY IS A GUN*” where he flattens his voice to sing the word “gun.” Or on the Kanye-assisted track “PUPPET” where he uses varied tone and tempo to reflect the volatility of Tyler’s emotions across the album. Most of the songs do not have a natural ending and they just come to a halt. With such production, it may be unsettled but its never restless. Tyler grapples with uncertainty and unfulfillment, and he delivers an album that feels suspended in midair. The lines between desire and reality are blurred; the lines between an internal monologue and human conversation are blurred as well.

Tyler has never shied away from sharing what he has thought his life was missing. IGOR is the first time Tyler has not been motivated by an absence of something in his life but it is because he lost a bit of himself in someone else. “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” is the album’s rough and honeyed ending and it is Tyler’s last attempt at salvaging the relationship he introduced form the beginning. He asks for a compromise of friendship. The track, as with much of the album, ends sharply with a synth that never resolves its buzz. And as with most art, there’s nothing left to say when you’ve given all of yourself away.

JAKKAWI: A-

Essential Track(s): “EARFQUAKE”, “PUPPET”, “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU”, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS”

EARFQUAKE Music Video featuring Tracee Ellis Ross; All Rights and Video owned by Tyler, the creator & SME (on behalf of Columbia), Sony ATV Publishing and 1 Music Rights Societies
Released: May 17, 2019.
Genre(s): Hip hop, funk, R&B.
Label: A Boy is a Gun, Columbia.
Featured Artist(s): Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, Solange, Jerrod Carmichael, Kanye West.
Tour: IGOR World Tour (as of publishing) as well as various festivals [Bumbershoot - Seattle; Day N Vegas - Las Vegas; Camp Flog Gnaw - LA]
Vinyl Edition: Yes - through various outlets (as of publishing).

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