The Evolution of IGOR: Tyler, the Creator Over Time (previous blog piece)
The Evolution of IGOR: Tyler, the Creator Over Time
By B. F. Harvey
DISCLAIMER: THIS ALBUM DOES INCLUDE SOME LANGUAGE BUT IS FOR THE MOST PART CLEAN
It would be untruthful and wrongfully superfluous to not go into the past of Tyler, the Creator before going into his new album. Tyler used to be inclined towards ignorance and graphic visuals in the attempt to gain shock value and, to some, comedic appeal. His aggressive but playful manner of rapping and taking on music was unparalleled to any other musicians during the first half of his career by continually using what many would consider being homophobic slurs and referencing illegal and gratuitous sexual acts. Tyler, though, was not what he made himself to be in his music. A troll and a comedian, that he was and still is, but he was not an evil or despicable person. That side of himself is only seen in his earlier music such as with albums like “Goblin”, “Bastard”, and “CHERRY BOMB”, and it is merely his expression of the many characters that live inside his immature head. The gross and defiled creature that we see on the cover of “CHERRY BOMB” is a character that Tyler drew repeatedly in his childhood. You could even say that Tyler’s attitudes that are shown in this, the ups of songs like “FIND YOUR WINGS” and the lows of “CHERRY BOMB”, “DEATHCAMP”, and “PILOT”, represent said monster. On “PILOT”, he goes into how he feels that his newfound popularity may be corrupting him and that he is unable to control the plane he is driving, an extended metaphor for his life, whilst in the public eye and that his life is not where he wants it to be.
If the dark monsters and words that Tyler, the Creator were to display on those past three albums truly represent the darkness- “Flower Boy”, his previous album, is the Big Bang that eviscerated the lifelessness of Tyler’s monsters that hid in the shadows from albums prior. From that, Tyler did not defeat the beasts that live inside his heart, instead, he learned to walk alongside them. But here Tyler, the Creator learns to love himself and tackle the problems that faced him. Problems such as the absence of moral values and the overabundance of materialism and fame that caused him to feel trapped, which is displayed on the opening track “Forward”. He goes into how he escaped those traps that he set for himself in the track “Where This Flower Blooms” and goes into the establishment of a new and better Tyler with lines such as, “I rock, I roll, I bloom, I grow,” and, “Flower boy T, that’s me. Rooted from the bottom, bloomed into a tree.” On songs such as “Garden Shed” and “Who Dat Boy” there is the flourishing of Tyler’s own admittance to love, not just of women, but also of his own gender thus potentially displaying another trap that he set for himself long ago- the denial of one's own feelings. He talks of creating a closet to hide in, and on “Garden Shed”, he describes the place where he hid those feelings, but within a garden shed is the soil that feeds the flower and makes it prosper. Tyler further goes on to talk about his feelings of loneliness that were a consequence of his fame on tracks like “Boredom” and “911/ Mr. Lonely”. If there is anyone track that sums up the whole album though, it is “November”. He uses this month as a metaphor for a time of happiness wherein he felt this flourishment of his own human and artistic character. On this track, he talks of his yearning to feel that emotion just one more time, and here he also releases his fear of materialistic loss, of losing his creative abilities, and being put back into the garden shed.
Since “Flower Boy” seemed to be the album where Tyler learned to love himself, “IGOR”, his newest album, is him finding out how to love others, and that, potentially, he may not need to love others. In the first song, “IGOR’S THEME”, it finishes off with the line, “Got my eyes open.” “Flower Boy” was him opening those eyes, and “IGOR” is now him using those eyes. But by opening his eyes and seeing the beauty of love, he faces new obstacles. On “EARFQUAKE”, he sees the guilt of sometimes messing up in a relationship, but on the track “PUPPET”, he sees that he may not have made any mistakes in the first place. That he’s been controlled through his emotions in order to gain his wealth, power, or temporary affection. “IGOR” is a progression/realization of relationships, whether romantic or not romantic. It mostly is on love interests, as such with the third and fourth tracks “I THINK” and “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”. They both talk of the chasing of this person and the fear of losing this love such as on the track “NEW MAGIC WAND” where it then goes into the next track, “A BOY IS A GUN”. This song goes into the danger of that feeling, that emotion of loving another person, as it seems here, he is talking about a boy that he is in love with, not a girl. He acknowledges that what is going on between them may not be the best, but he continues because it is all he knows and wants. This is then followed by “PUPPET”- the controlling side of the romance that leads to the climax of “WHAT’S GOOD” where we see Tyler finally snap, accompanied with a clash of harsh rhythmic tones and him proclaiming that he is, in some way, unstoppable by those who want to hurt him. He even says something that you would expect someone who’s losing their mind would say, stating over ten times, “I see the light.”
From there, the relationship is finally over with the tracks “GONE, GONE/ THANK YOU” and “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” where we see him finding peace amongst the rubble and the fading of that maddening state of mind he was in. Although he also has come to an understanding that he has lost a part of himself in the process, giving that part of himself to the person he was forced to leave. The finale of this whole trek ends with the song “CAN WE STILL BE FRIEND?”. It is the reluctant but common ending to a love story, where it is all over, yet that hope remains. That general hoping of getting back what was lost in some form, to at least have someone to say hello to, being caught in a “matrix” and not understanding when the other person is just toying around. Tyler doesn’t want things to end off on a bad note, and no one knows quite who “IGOR” is, but his face on the cover displays one of either shock, perplexion, or the face of another monster that Tyler is facing. A monster that came as a result of the heartbreak that it has witnessed, and the horrors of a damaged mind and heart.
Either way, if Tyler, the Creator should represent one thing it is not that he is a bisexual rapper who can style himself well and can create a fanatic chord progression, but that he is a changing and prospering person. That, in its very essence, is the strength that holds Tyler’s music up and it is what has held him up to escape the monsters, open his eyes, and give him the ability of judgment through those eyes. This is where the true glorious picture and effect of art comes in. Art is not to stay the same, but it is not to drift too far off either, art is the animal that runs alongside the man in order to help him get where he is going. Tyler, simply put, is the man and his emotions are the animal. Emotions are art in themselves, and he channels that to produce what is some of the best work of the first half of the 21st century. Tyler is the monster, he is the flower boy, and he is IGOR- that is what makes his albums what they are and that, in turn, is what makes Tyler who is he is, and who we are, as a person.