Image via Julien Tell //
It was no doubt a huge turning point in the career of the ‘Yonkers’ rapper. The outrageous MC, once banned from Australia and branded a hip hop larrikin, smashing all preconceived notions of him with a single album. Afterwards, the haters were silenced and detractors were forced to eat their words; and the world finally woke up to the full enormity of Tyler, the Creator’s artistry.
And as we said, he’s now a bonafide superstar, regularly selling out arenas and headlining festivals across the globe. It seems unlikely that the once misunderstood rapper would find such mass adoration from a landscape that was initially anxious to embrace him. But just going off his recent Aussie performances and the seemingly endless level of demand there is for him right now, it’s safe to say his time is now.
Naturally, the rapper’s rise to GOAT status and his recent performances around the country have got us a bit nostalgic for the 2017 album. So much so that we figured we’d take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of its best tracks and how it’s aged five years on. Check it below.
Beginning with the introspective ‘Foreword’, the album starts things on a noticeably more vulnerable note than past records Cherry Bomb, Wolf and Goblin. The minimal glitches and guitar strums have a distinct DIY quality to them, a sentiment enhanced by 19-year-old Rex Orange County’s tenor vocals that serve up plenty of feels to indulge in.
It definitely sets a nice tone for the rest of the album, one that straddles the line between hip hop introspection and R&B / soul nirvana (a sound that’s rife within contemporary music in 2022). And aside from all of the musical fangirling, it served as our introduction to Rex! A Tyler co-sign that we can all get around.
Getting a Frank Ocean feature on an album is no easy task, but of course, Tyler pulled out all the stops for Flower Boy. The two appease the Odd Future faithfuls with a tag team of moody rhythms and melodics, driven forth by a skeletal beat with frenetic vocal lines atop. Frank’s unpredictable utterances help add a spacey vibe to the cut that feels eerie yet familiar and helps inform the moodiness of the following interlude ‘Sometimes’. Speaking of which, Tyler really shows how far his piano and singing chops have come on the thirty-second snippet, with the two of which being put to supreme use on the following cut, ‘See You Again’.
One of the all-time standouts on the album, ‘See You Again’ ft. Kali Uchis has managed to remain just as infectious and impactful with the masses all these years later. From the gentle piano lines to Tyler and Kali’s harmonising and, of course, Kali’s buttery vocals that add equal measures of sensuality and hope to the overall track, it’s a dream combination. Add the fact that the arrangement as a whole is a soundscape of soul-stirring, and you’ve got a truly music-defining song on your hands (look at any R&B album released in 2022 and tell me I’m wrong). It’s no surprise that it still receives roaring cheers whenever it’s played live in 2022 (especially at this year’s Splendour in the Grass. If you know, you know!).
But of course, Tyler still had plenty of the hip hop monster rearing to go within him in 2017, a sentiment fully realised on the explosive ‘Who Dat Boy’ ft. A$AP Rocky. Characterised by anxiety-inducing synths and keys, the track listens like the sonic embodiment of an assault on the senses, which is further strengthened by Tyler and Rocky’s respective verses (of course, they go all the way in).
Naturally, it regularly makes for one of the most chaotic moments of the rapper’s set at the inevitable beat drop (I’m still recovering from that death pit at Qudos Bank), but alas, it’s quintessential Tyler, and it’s bundles of fun. And unlike a lot of hip hop heaters released in 2017 and even now, ‘Who Dat Boy’ still manages to feel fun and easily accessible, consequently keeping it different from the masses over a sustained period of time.
A personal favourite (which is easily one of Tyler’s greatest tracks of all time) is ‘911/Mr. Lonely’ with Steve Lacy, Frank Ocean and Schoolboy Q is a perfect representation of Flower Boy as a whole. The first half of the song showcases Tyler’s prowess as an arranger and producer, putting a new-age twist on Gap Band’s ‘Outstanding’ that Steve absolutely crushes.
The second half, however, is a hip-hop lover’s dream, Tyler jumping on with Schoolboy Q for a fast-paced heater about vulnerability and connection. And let’s not forget Frank’s infamous “chirp chirp” line, the reclusive maestro injecting both levity and emotion into the dream crossover. But don’t get it twisted, due to the flow of Tyler’s current set list, this track doesn’t make a whole lot of sense still being played in his concerts in 2022, but it’s got so much feeling behind it that it’s still one of his most adored tracks to this day. Hence why it’s consistently been one of the standout moments of his Aussie shows thus far.
Tyler’s never been one to fear the wonkiness, a theme fully embraced on ‘November’ which utilises moody synths and laid-back flows that go all the way in. The repetition of ‘Take me back to November’ captures a nostalgia for times gone by that we can all relate to, and also serves as an anchor point old mate springs into a fluid rap verse from. Despite the lyrical dexterity old mate displays on the track, this is the most relaxed we see him on the album (while in rapper mode), a clear indication of how far he’s come as an MC since he first burst onto the scene with Odd Future.
Finally, the hip hop don finishes with ‘Enjoy Right Now, Today’, a free-spirited bop that strips his artistry to its bare roots. At the end of the day, it’s just Tyler goofing around with splashes of sample and instrumentation wizardry, a concoction that’s led to him achieving GOAT status and selling out shows across Australia in 2022. To get even deeper about it, you can hear hints of upcoming albums like 2019’s Igor and last year’s Call Me If You Get Lost, the creative liberation inherent to ‘Enjoy Right Now’ and Flower Boy as a whole setting him on a path to GOAT status.