On the first listening of Tyler, the Creator’s third studio album Wolf, the image that immediately comes to mind is Eminem. Specifically his first three albums that delivered controversy and a one-way ticket to fame. You start to question if these two actually feel the emotions of violence that they rap about or if it’s just a gimmick to push headlines and record sales. In Tyler, the Creator’s case, one would assume it’s a little bit of both.
Wolf plays out as an open therapy session starting with his ill feelings towards his biological father (“Answer”) to his difficulty of dealing with his fame (“Colossus”), right down to his failure of dealing with his Grandmother’s death at Cedar Senai Hospital (“Lone”). One of the more interesting tracks on Wolf, “IFHY”, stands out from the rest of tracks. As “IFHY” draws towards the end, we hear a familiar voice chime in, Pharrell Williams, much like Frank Ocean’s voice of albums past. Pharrell, not only adds one of the best voices in popular music, but immediately adds a level of art to Tyler’s effort.
If there is one theme of Wolf, it’s the production value, and “IFHY” is a perfect example. Tyler has even shot a critically-acclaimed video for “IFHY” that Kanye West has featured as the only content available of his self-titled website for over two weeks now. It is important to note, the first single off the album, “Domo 23”, is relatively insignificant to the direction of album, as it represents the Tyler of the past.
The parallels to Eminem, however, just can’t be ignored after listening to this album for the past week. The two songs that begs for the comparison is “Answer” and “Colossus”. “Answer” reads out as a hate letter to Tyler’s estranged father in the vein of Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet”. Of course Eminem’s effort had a catching title and heavy radio rotation, but Tyler’s anger and resentment towards a parent is the similarity. Both Eminem and Tyler’s anger seem to come from the same place. Both have anger, but not from the lack of love, it’s the lack of care. “Colossus”, on the other hand, is Tyler’s “The Way I am” meets “Stan”. The song reenacts a visit to a Six Flags theme park, where he can not do simple things such as riding a roller coaster or buying a churro without being bothered by a fan to take a picture or a sign an autograph. The image that immediately popped into my head was Eminem getting disturbed by a fan while using the bathroom in the video for “The Way I Am”. “Colossus” takes a turn for “Stan” when the fan, who detours Tyler from buying a churro, goes into a detailed story of obsession and homosexual thoughts for Tyler and his music. It’s clear that Tyler, who regularly hangs out at his Melrose clothing store in Los Angeles, just can’t get used to his fame, a source of shame for him.
Although, as promised by Tyler, the production value of Wolf has dramatically increased in his junior album, he’s still yet to deliver much commercial attachment, beside his ever-expanding cult-like fan base. After multiple listenings of Wolf, it becomes clear, however, Tyler simply does not care. Wolf is most definitely Tyler’s best work and it’s not just the aforementioned production value that most critics and fans have been praising. Wolf represents an understanding by Tyler, the Creator of how to structure a verse, a song, and string them together as an album. Almost of all of his songs have a cohesive tone and structured meaning. Tyler’s raps seem to have taken a step forward from the scattered brain ramblings of verses past, where he tried to unleash everything in his mind into one verse or one rhyme. Those ramblings have separated into songs and formed his third studio album, WOLF!