In the run-up to his new album, Odd Future leader Tyler, The Creator promised everyone a new Tyler; one who was more mature and willing to go forward. This was by and large greeted with muted enthusiasm, since the OF schtick has worn a bit thin in the years since the world picked up on Bastard. Bastard was fresh and exciting; Goblin dropped off after a couple of listens: the best that could be said for Wolf was that it was hit-and-miss. With Cherry Bomb, Tyler had the opportunity to step forward and take his game to the next level.
Sometimes he does that, but a lot of the time he doesn’t.
“DEATHCAMP”, the opening track to both Cherry Bomb and Tyler’s chaotic Coachella set, is a great kick-off. The N.E.R.D. vibe that he nicks here is no accident – in the middle of his second verse he raps “In Search Of… did more for me than Illmatic“. It’s a line that marks a clear divide between him and the old guard of hip hop, and it reminds me of an uncomfortable conversation I had not long ago where I discovered that there was, in fact, such a thing as dad rap. Then “BUFFALO” comes on and it’s about as perfect a Tyler track as you can get. After that, though…
As it turns out, Tyler’s take on maturity is that it involves R&B tracks with some off-kilter melodies. “FIND YOUR WINGS” is where he tries this and fails; “FUCKING YOUNG/PERFECT” is where he manages to pull it off. The noise that makes “DEATHCAMP” so much fun is taken to its extreme on “CHERRY BOMB”, which sounds like nothing so much as an early Wavves track, from back when he thought that heavy clipping made tracks sound cooler. As an artistic statement, I think that “CHERRY BOMB” succeeds, but taken into context with the rest of the album it highlights the biggest problem: everything here feels completely unfinished. God knows no one was rushing Tyler to complete the album. Either he felt he needed to compete with Earl Sweatshirt or he actually thought that a badly mixed, unmastered album made for good hip hop.
The other problem, of course, are the lyrics. We were promised maturity, and what did we get? Liberal use of the word “faggot” despite the slow-crawl backlash he’s received against it, and cringe-fests like “Blow My Load”, which finds him writing lyrics like he’s still 16. In a way, he is. He’s still that kid from the promo shot of Pitchfork’s “/b/ Generation” article, flashing his dick to the photographer with his friends around him. Earl has started the path to being a grown-ass man – a bitter one, to be sure – but Tyler is still running around like it’s 2010 and Odd Future is still the Next Big Thing. I mean, sure, he managed to get both Kanye and Lil’ Wayne on “SMUCKERS”, but who still takes the guy seriously at this point? Far from being OF’s breakout star, he’s seen his star eclipsed by both Earl and Frank Ocean, and he’s not doing anything to try to change that.
Everyone knows that when you hit the drinking age in America, it’s time to leave /b/ for better forums. Everyone except Tyler, anyway.