Hours before the release of his latest LP, Tyler, The Creator took to Twitter to suggest that fans listen to the album in full, in order, and mindfully, along with a list of things to expect: “Igor. This is not Bastard. This is not Goblin. This is not Wolf. This is not Cherry Bomb. This is not Flower Boy. This is Igor. Don’t go into this expecting a rap album. Don’t go into this expecting any album.” IGOR is definitely in a different league than many of his past LPs, and is Tyler’s most abstract and head-turning album to date: the album relies heavily on instrumental melodies, probably more so than any of his previous albums, and it doesn’t feature as much rapping as you might expect; we don’t even hear Tyler rap until halfway through the third song, and his signature deep-voiced flow is used sparingly, with Tyler typically resorting to pitch-shifted, distorted vocal effects that mask his highly-recognizable voice.
Unlike his past records, IGOR has no immediately clear “hit” or single; many tracks on the record don’t stand out on their own; their impact is fully realized within the full context of the record, with Tyler’s rich production, laced with lush synth melodies and hard-knocking beats, making for an immersive, cohesive listening experience unlike anything he’s done before. The album features some very famous guests, including new and past collaborators Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Playboi Carti, A$AP Rocky, Dev Hynes, Santigold, and Pharrell Williams, just to name a few, and although these artists all have distinct vocal styles you could easily pick out of a lineup, Tyler’s production does a proper job of making them fit within the mold of IGOR‘s sonic landscape. Much of the vocals on IGOR are buried in the mix, which may be a complaint some listeners will have in the coming days (like with Cherry Bomb four years earlier), but the deliberate manipulation of vocals throughout the record spotlights Tyler’s layered production, which is undoubtedly the most remarkable quality about the album.
The album isn’t entirely foreign territory for Tyler, as he does continue down familiar instrumental routes, including mellower moments a la Flower Boy, like on the heartfelt “Earfquake,” the jazzy, soulful “Are We Still Friends?,” and the vocal harmony-laden “Gone, Gone/Thank You” (which features a brief interlude from King Krule), while also retaining some of his more aggressive instrumental tendencies, like on the heavily-distorted “What’s Good.”
IGOR isn’t as immediate as Bastard, as aggressive as Cherry Bomb, or as emotional as Flower Boy, but it doesn’t need to be. Tyler’s mission statement upon dropping the album tells fans to throw away expectations, and to keep an open mind while listening, with absolutely no distractions. While this should be the obvious thought process for any first listen, it’s important to consider Tyler’s fanbase has a history of discomfort with change, and if forcing listeners to reconsider expectations from Tyler’s music means him completely switching up his approach to crafting his records, it signals a path of shared growth between the artist and the listener. As Tyler approaches his 10-year anniversary as a solo artist, these goals of shared growth could not be more timely, and IGOR might be the perfect way to make it happen. IGOR is a worthy entry into Tyler’s creative canon, especially fitting in at a time when other former Odd Future members are also making some of their most experimental music to date.
Stream IGOR in full below.
Although Tyler hasn’t announced a proper tour for the album yet, he’ll be playing a few festivals in 2019, including his own Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival in November, NYC’s Governors Ball later this month, and Delaware’s Firefly in June.