Album: Scum Fuck Flower Boy
Artist: Tyler, The Creator
Released: 21st July, 2017
When I heard that Tyler, The Creator’s new album was to be titled Scum Fuck Flower Boy, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It seemed that Tyler’s claims to maturity had been far overstated; the title alone reeked of the juvenile edginess and craving for controversy that Tyler and his Odd Future collective were infamous for. You can only imagine my surprise then, when I discovered to my very pleasant surprise that Scum Fuck Flower Boy – or as it is commercially abbreviated, Flower Boy – is not only Tyler’s most vulnerable and emotionally raw albums, but also shows him at his technical best. Both musically and lyrically, Flower Boy is caught in a surreal space between sweet and sinister – one moment, Tyler is bringing up long buried childhood memories, the next he’s back to banging on about how he’s the hardest thug around. The production supports this odd oscillation, of course, and reveals the intention behind the combative title. The album, which sounds incredibly coherent despite its dual nature, is Tyler’s acknowledgement of his seemingly contradictory sides and an attempt at showing the peace he has made with that fact.
As rosy (pardon the pun) as that premise sounds however, Flower Boy is a heavy album and its mood is consistently melancholic. Tyler’s jaded cynicism and emotional weariness pervades the album; in fact, the album’s opening lines convey this perfectly:
“How many cars can I buy before I run out of drive,
How much drive can I have before I run out of road,
How much road can they pave before I run out of land”
There are mentions aplenty of his loneliness and deep emotional unhappiness, masked, to varying degrees of success, by his attempts to remind his audience of how hard a man he is. In Flower Boy, when Tyler casually name-drops the usual trappings of fame and fortune, he does so with exhaustion; there is less braggadocio and more ‘been there, done that, is that all?’ It’s a subtle change from his disdain for such trappings in his previous albums; there’s more of sense that he sees these things as necessary evils now, like he’s in a strange love-hate relationship with his own success. However, as is frequently the case, art thrives off the artist’s pain; as worrying as Tyler’s emotional state is, Flower Boy showcases the full extent of the promise that Tyler has shown in only flashes thus far. For long-time fans, it must surely be a bittersweet moment; on one hand, Tyler has matured into the artist we always knew he could be, but it seems that he had to pay a heavy emotional toll to get there.
While Tyler’s wit and lyrical dexterity are high-points on Flower Boy, it is Tyler’s production chops that really steal the show. The production is simply gorgeous; it is rich, layered and skillfully toes the line between surreal and sombre. The coherence that the production lends the album is masterful as well; there’s enough variance in the album so no songs sound too alike but there are motifs and melodic refrains that flow very well from one track to the next. The classic blend of jazz and soul continues to work wonders for Tyler’s style, making Flower Boy more vivid and, in conjunction with Tyler’s lyrical imagery, more visual than many of its contemporaries.
For all artistic value in the album then, it is truly a pity that so much of the buzz around it centred on Tyler’s sexuality. Of course, Tyler’s track record of making outrageous statements does him no favours here but, I, for one, am more than happy to take Tyler’s acknowledgement at face value. The subject is handled deftly; Tyler doesn’t make it the centrepiece of the album but it’s clear that ‘Garden Shed’, which most directly references his homosexuality, is meant to be the emotional climax of the album. While the sober tone and relatively mellow production kept the album from topping charts, Scum Fuck Flower Boy is nonetheless an excellent effort from Tyler, The Creator and certainly his best work so far.
Where This Flower Blooms
Who Dat Boy
911 / Mr. Lonely
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