Tyler, The Creator – Goblin album review

Despite the fact that Tyler the Creator and his ragtag group of somewhat disturbed, darkly humorous, verbally dextrous rapping youths, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA or just Odd Future, for short) have gained a lot of steam over the past few months, it’s actually a bit surprising how long it took for them to start catching on.  While they’ve had a small cult following virtually since their original mixtape was released in 2008, it wasn’t until the 1-2 punch of Tyler’s minimalist, self-directed video for “Yonkers” and him and fellow member Hodgy Beats’ ludicrously energetic performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (with The Roots as their backup band, natch) at the tail end of last year that the Odd Future hype ship really started to sail.  Indeed, though Goblin is Tyler the Creator’s second full-length album, and the hip-hop collective’s twelfth overall, it’s going to be most of the world’s introduction to Odd Future’s particular brand of twisted, violent, hard-hitting alternative hip-hop.

It’s a lot of pressure on one man’s shoulders, especially one as young and ambitious as Tyler, and it shows; whereas in the past, Odd Future has been unflinching and unapologetic in their vision, on Goblin, Tyler is all too aware that the world – or at the very least, the internet – is now watching.  Due to this we get several flashes throughout the album of a self-doubt that has never been felt in any of the collective’s past releases; on the titular album opener, Tyler remarks “I’m not that great of a rapper, but on the whole I’m pretty cool, right?” and he feels the need to preface over-the-top aggressiveness of “Radicals” with a disclaimer to not do anything he says in the song because “it’s fucking fiction”.  It’s a pretty clear shift in his persona, but it’s one that works rather well, giving the album a sense of maturity and self-awareness that was somewhat lacking in past releases.

In fact, it’s when this maturity falters that Goblin does as well.  This album is long.  At 74 minutes, it’s almost an entire disc worth of material, and needless to say, not all of it is gold.  Actually, there are really only three weak tracks, but they serve to totally ruin the flow of the album; the aforementioned “Radicals” is over 7 minutes long and goes absolutely nowhere; “Fish” and “Bitch Suck Dick” are essentially extended joke tracks about that are filled with some pretty embarrassing lyrics.  To be fair, “Bitch Suck Dick” is actually a legitimately funny song by itself, serving as a biting parody of terrible mainstream party hip-hop, but in the context of the album it really drags it down.  And “Fish” is really just bad

But here’s the thing; take out these three tracks and suddenly the album gets 15 minutes shorter and a hell of a lot tighter.  Tyler’s production is nastier, meaner, and thicker than it’s ever been, and his lyrics are among his best work, flowing from emotional distress, sly commentary on the state of hip-hop and Odd Future’s own burgeoning fame, and obscure references to cartoons and movies at the drop of a hat.  Conceptually, the album continues the framing device of Tyler speaking to his “therapist” Dr. T.C that began on Bastard, but by fleshing out his own character a little bit better, the concept is much stronger, creating a more well-defined arc.  This is also easily the most emotionally effective Odd Future release, with Tyler constantly fighting between his various alter-egos, resulting in a complete breakdown at the end of the album that is completely genuine sounding and honestly pretty disturbing.

So, does Goblin live up to the hype?  Surprisingly, yeah, mostly. Tyler won’t be getting that Grammy he wants so badly with Goblin – but he’s certainly closer than he’s ever been.  For the most part, his rhymes are sharp, and his production is fantastic.  It’s easily the most artistic album Odd Future have released, and as a result, it’s as good an introduction to their world as any of their other strong releases.    With its weak tracks excised, it’s damn near a masterpiece, but those few tracks really do weigh it down.  Regardless, Goblin is a more-than-capable culmination of everything they’ve been trying to do up to now.  Only time – and a second wave of new albums – will tell if Tyler the Creator’s band of misfits can cross over into the mainstream consciousness, but for now, it seems like the future is going to be very Odd indeed.

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