I only listen to instrumentals when I’m working on piece of writing, so that I don’t get distracted by the tension between the words in my head and the words in my ears. However, when I’m doing more practical work, I find that hip-hop is the perfect accompaniment.
I prefer to discover new artists in this time, so that I may be immersed in the poetry and allow my spontaneous response to their flow subtly manifest itself into my work.
Last week I had less than 12 hours to tailor myself a suit for an impromptu wedding… well the wedding wasn’t impromptu, only my invitation to it. Anyway, I had a suit to make and not much time to do it in. So, I decided to check out the new Tyler, the Creator album: ‘Flower Boy’.
Imma be real. I been sleepin’ on Tyler.
I didn’t really know who this chap was until very recently. My boy Earl gave him a shout out in the first verse of ‘Chum’…
Searching for a big brother, Tyler was that
And plus he liked how I rap, the blunted mice in the trap
…and had him as a feature on the chorus of ‘Whoa’. But other than that, I been sleepin’ on the kid. Until now.
You see, the media blew up over ‘Flower Boy’. A huge wave of controversy erupted over the fact that this was Tyler’s “coming out” album. On the one side you had the sceptics claiming that this was all some sort of elaborate prank. On the other side you had the over-aggrandisers billing Tyler as the sole ”gay saviour” of the hip-hop community (Frank Ocean?? Azealia Banks?? Angel Haze??).
Nonetheless, as I am both a hip-hop lover and member of the LGBT+ community, I felt compelled to give this thing a listen, just to see what the fuss was all about.
Oh boy, the kid’s got bars.
First thing to notice is repetition Okay, Okay, Okay, Okay; Garden Shed, Garden Shed, Garden Shed, Garden Shed; Lonely, Lonely, Lonely, Lonely; Boredom, Boredom, Boredom, Bordem, Boredom, Boredom. Tyler uses the words not only for their semantic value but also as a percussive instrument, counting out the beat. The repetition also symbolises the endless cycle Tyler seems to find himself in.
Continues trend of jazzy hip-hop recently made popular on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Especially in 911/Mr Lonely, which feels like the sonic equivalent of a glitchy 90s beach holiday VHS tape.
Subversion of rap tropes. Objectifies “white boys” instead of the more typical “black girls”, shifting a perceived racial power dynamic. Also using cars and wealth as symbols of his loneliness as opposed to symbols of power.
Altogether, the album tells a story of self-acceptance. Tyler does not completely lose his insecurity but he learns to deal with it. Whilst Garden Shed is the most emotionally vulnerable (as shown by Tyler’s vocals not being heard until halfway through the song where he explodes with emotion), November is Tyler’s acceptance of his mood and his first honest attempt to heal himself.
Scott’s favourite song is Ain’t got Time! Because it is an absolute banger which fills him with confidence every time he listens to it. His Wedding Rap was thematically inspired by the last verse of this song.