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Revisiting Tyler The Creator’s ‘Flower Boy’ three years later

Revisiting Tyler The Creator’s ‘Flower Boy’ three years later

Revisiting Tyler The Creator’s ‘Flower Boy’ three years later
July 30
10:00 2020

For starters, I’ve never been the biggest Tyler, The Creator fan out there. I respected his talent, especially during his run with Odd Future, but I couldn’t get past his psychotic edgelord persona and his third studio album “Cherry Bomb” left a sour taste in my mouth. But in the summer of 2017 with the release of his fourth studio album, “Flower Boy,” I realized not only did Tyler leave behind his past, but he bloomed into something bigger than he ever dreamed he’d be.

Last week marked the three year anniversary of “Flower Boy,” which was by far, one of the best albums to be released in 2017 — in a year that saw releases from Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Frank Ocean and Taylor Swift. Tyler not only delivered an amazing album that had no skippable tracks from front to back, it also became a soundtrack I listened to more times than I can count and defined that summer for me.

Tyler’s previous works (“Bastard,” “Goblin” and “Wolf”) were always marred by inconsistent sounds and production. Which makes sense, as Tyler produces all the music he makes. But as he grew more comfortable with himself as an artist and what he liked, he still somehow missed the mark. For every good song he released like “Tamale” or “Smuckers,” he’d ruin all that goodwill with uneven production or edgy, sometimes even homophobic, lyrics. On “Flower Boy” however, Tyler finally came into his own as an artist and musician, the rough edges all but sanded away, and Tyler bloomed into a newfound maturity.

Flowers grow from dark moments, and “Flower Boy’s” themes of missed connections and the resulting depression resonate in a thoughtful way. The album was initially titled “Scum F*ck/Flower Boy” and the connection to the title and his songs is clear (“Who Dat Boy,” “I Ain’t Got Time!” In those songs, you can hear Tyler boast to an extreme and almost horrific level of self-confidence and individuality, but the other songs in the album like “911/Mr. Lonely,” “Pothole” and “Boredom” establish a desire to be loved and to find fulfillment.

These desires and feelings are complex and explored to their fullest. Tyler flexes his cars and money but later admits that’s just filling a void left by the absence of affection, and it’s not working (“I know you sick of me talkin’ ’bout cars/ But what the fuck else do you want from me / That is the only thing keepin’ me company.”) Tyler wants to love, but he feels he can’t show it. In “Garden Shed,” he comes to terms with his feelings of love and the struggles of hiding his bisexuality from his friends, realizing that in the end, he doesn’t want to hide himself anymore and that it’s okay to be vulnerable.

I listened to this album the entire summer and listening to it now three years later, it reminds me of pining after a crush but being too emotionally unavailable to actually try and do anything about it. “See You Again” and “911/Mr. Lonely” are two ends of the same coin of crushing on someone. The high and excitement of long-awaited affection and love, then the depression and desperation when the relationship doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. It’s something that’s happened to me countless times in my life, and I’m sure others who read this can relate all too well.

Here with “Flower Boy,” Tyler has finally blossomed as a lyricist and producer. The production is fantastic and other-worldly. The pretty and melodic neo-soul vibes mixed with Tyler’s rapping…*chef’s kiss*. It’s surprising that Justin Bieber, Zayn Malik and Nicki Minaj passed on some of the beats presented on the album. And unlike Tyler’s previous efforts, “Flower Boy” is more personal and subdued, whereas projects like “Cherry Bomb” was just Tyler just trying to be edgy for the sake of it. This is the album where it all came together for Tyler. While personally, I find his 2019 album “Igor” to be his best project to date, “Flower Boy” was Tyler’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” moment — that moment where his ambitions and talent truly came together.

Overall, listen to “Flower Boy” again if you have the chance. Before this album, I always felt like I was forcing myself to like him because of the potential I saw in him in the past, but this is where everything clicked. It’s been three years, and Tyler finally has his Grammy, so if you read all of this and haven’t stopped to listen to “Flower Boy,” you’re missing a seriously great piece of work.

Featured image: Courtesy Columbia Records

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Chance Townsend

Chance Townsend

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