After an eventful few years between albums, Tyler, the Creator’s follow-up to 2017’s Flower Boy is here. IGOR feels naturally like the next block in Tyler’s evolutionary chain. It is warm and often pretty and all about making sense of love. He seems to have taken lessons from his previous albums, including his stint making compositions inspired by a Grinch movie, and applied them all toward this confessional missive.
Of course, in Tyler’s eyes, this is its own thing, separate from all of his preceding releases. “Don’t go into this expecting a rap album,” he wrote of IGOR in a long post before its release. “Don’t go into this expecting any album.” So what, exactly, should you expect? Here are five things to listen for on your initial spins of IGOR.
“They Gon’ Feel This One”
Beneath the surface, unrequited love is the thread most often carried throughout Tyler’s records, but IGOR is by far his most blunt about it. For much of its 39-minute runtime, Tyler is just trying to get the love he deserves. There is an arc of lost love, from the initial infatuation phase to the manipulation and falling out of love stages, all of which are played out across song titles: “I Think [I’m Falling in Love],” “[I’m Your] Puppet,” “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” and “Are We Still Friends?”
Singing is often a vehicle through which rappers convey emotional honesty, so it should come as no surprise that Tyler’s most lovelorn album finds him embracing his vocal range. He bares all to someone who won’t do him the same courtesy. These songs seem to be addressed to the same person, or at least the same kind of person: a lover who can’t reciprocate because they can’t be true to themselves. (“You never lived in your truth, I’m just happy I lived in it/But I finally found peace, so peace,” goes one of the album’s best kiss-offs.) Tyler forgoes a happy ending for something realer: “Thank you for the love, thank you for the joy/But I will never want to fall in love again.”
It’s OK to Expect a Rap Album, But Expect a Tyler Album First
Whereas Flower Boy was inspired in part by pop structures (particularly Max Martin’s catalog of hits and Pharrell’s work with Justin Timberlake), IGOR is more experimental in form. The traditional rap songcraft of two 16s and a hook is abandoned in favor of something looser. This is a rap album, just a sort of wonky one; his bars are often heavily distorted and pushed into the margins. Really, everything is distorted, including the drums, which bop a bit more. There isn’t a lot of what might be considered dance music in Tyler’s back catalog, but “I Think” and “What’s Good” are clearly among his most grooveable tracks ever. The focus here is on melodies, Tyler’s beloved chords (primarily featured through pianos), and his carefully arranged and warped vocals. Heavily influenced by N.E.R.D., the album sounds a bit like he’s taking a mulligan on Cherry Bomb.
With A Little Help From His Friends
As IGOR’s cover notes, all the songs were written, produced, and arranged by Tyler, but close collaborators help actualize the ambitious undertaking. Many of these voices retreat as quickly as they appear, and without any credited guests they can get lost in the maelstrom of sound. Frequent harmonizer Kali Uchis appears on “IGOR’s Theme,” bending with Tyler’s vocals and masking when they dip out of tune. Friends Frank Ocean and A$AP Rocky sneak onto “Running Out of Time” and “New Magic Wand,” respectively. Mentors Pharrell Williams and Kanye West contribute considerate if not nonessential verses. Santigold has a cameo, Lil Uzi Vert has a writing credit (“IGOR’s Theme”), and Playboi Carti hogs the spotlight on “Earfquake.”
Jerrod Carmichael Plays the Voice of Reason
Tyler didn’t do much press surrounding Flower Boy, but he did sit down with comic Jerrod Carmichael for an hour-long taped interview. They never dug much deeper than Tyler’s love of chords and the general song-making process, avoiding questions about the emotional tenor and content of the songs. When Carmichael shows up on IGOR, it feels like the closing of a loop. He appears twice with quick aphorisms: on the brief interlude “Exactly What You Run From You End Up Chasing” and to open “New Magic Wand” (“Sometimes you gotta close a door to open a window”). There seems to be some parallels between Carmichael and Tyler. On the comedian’s HBO show “Home Videos,” he recently told his mom, “I’ve hooked up with dudes before”—a revelation not unlike Tyler’s on Flower Boy’s “I Ain’t Got Time!” On IGOR, Tyler defines these relationships a little more, particularly on “A Boy is a Gun.”
- “Man, I wish you would call me/By your name cause I’m sorry/This is not apology” (“I Think”)
A noted Tim Chalamet fan, Tyler sneaks in another reference.
- “I ain’t takin’ you home, yeah, I’m brushin’ you off/‘Cause this parka is Comme, you’re my favorite garçon” (“A Boy is a Gun”)
- “How the fuck you quiet with the mic on?/I don’t get anxiety, you Sam Bowie-ass niggas/I just get my Mike on” (“What’s Good”)
On an album largely about feelings, here’s a flash of Tyler’s signature braggadocio.
- “Hard to believe in God when there ain’t no mirrors around” (“What’s Good”)
It just wouldn’t be a Tyler album if he weren’t blasphemous in some way.