Picture this: An old, abandoned factory. Windows broken in, wind howling through, some prankster kids break in and turn a lever. The assembly line starts up, moaning with the shedding of years of rust, and iron castings start churning down the assembly belt. The children run away when they think they hear a ghost in the dark corner. No one remembers to hit the lever to turn it off, and for months, all these useless castings reach the end of the line, topple over, and pile up on the cement ground, corroding in the crippled building. In the years to follow, rumors spread around the neighborhood schools that the factory is haunted, and the homeless discover it’s a decent place to squat in the cold, wintery months.
This is “Goblin.”
Welcome to the world of Tyler, the Creator, twenty-year-old brainchild of the hip-hop collective “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.” Faced with almost instant notoriety after the release of his first proper album, “Bastard,” Tyler, the Creator has since dealt with an onslaught of attention, ranging from performances on Jimmy Fallon’s late night television show, to supportive tweets from hip-hop industry giants such as Flying Lotus, to a recent escapade outside of Newbury Comics in Boston, Massachusetts, where a mob of fans swarmed an autograph signing and led to police intervention.
All this and more has served as fodder in Tyler’s latest album, “Goblin,” A no-holds-barred introspective look at the biggest rap sensation since Lil’ Wayne. Tyler, the Creator makes his life since “Bastard” the focal point of his newest album, leaving little for the imagination as he touches on his numerous insecurities, doubts, and suspicions with the listening audience and leaving no room for satisfied thoughts or positive thinking. For example, on more than one occasion Tyler speaks on his lack of a father figure, citing him as the reason he wants to encourage kids to “burn shit” and “fuck school.” Violent acts are hardly a rarity here, as Tyler paints countless vicious scenes too obscene for print. His lyrics harken to an era of creepy side show carnival acts, where visitors feel guilty for viewing, but are too hungry with curiosity to look away. There’s no refraining from profanity on this album, either, as every track is littered with countless curses and horrid imagery. Yet behind it all, a faint sense of satire and sarcasm glue all the over-the-top-ness of it together, leaving the listener just barely teetering on the edge of the fence, with shock and horror on one side, and laughter and tom-foolery on the other. Tyler isn’t out to be taken too seriously, but it’s not too hard to see that he loves the fact that plenty of PTA members will take him as such, regardless.
The lyrics on “Goblin” will unquestionably be dated in five years. Tyler spits about Tumblr, Facebook, texting, and even Cartoon Network staples Adventure Time and Flapjack through the album. This isn’t, however, a bad thing, in the context of it’s surroundings. As the culture that Tyler and his generation have come from is itself one of constant pop-culture references and aging technology, it’s hard to see why his lyrics should be any different. In the blink of a decade, the mass population has jumped through countless social media outlets (anyone out there remember the good ol’ days of AOL Instant Messenger?) just trying to stay current. Videogame systems have come in and out of the American home, and movie theaters have been replaced by VCR’s, which in turn were replaced by DVD’s, replaced with on-demand programing. So who cares if the music Tyler is creating manages to stay current, either? His generation is one of quick consumption and disposal, and both his lyrical content and stylistic flow seem to mirror this cultural truth.
Instrumentally speaking, the music matches the lyrical content well. These aren’t Beastie Boys beats, by any means. Sparse, cold bass lines soak the album, dissonant, lonely notes strike the keyboard, and grating sounds, like on the track “Yonkers,” are reminiscent of claws on the chalkboard. At some points, it’s more successful than others. As if the music director of Hitchcock’s “Pyscho” was hired to orchestrate a haunted house attraction at Six Flags, at some points “Goblin’s” beats are strictly fear inducing. At others, they can be like a predictable hand popping out of the dark and grabbing your shoulder. You’re used to the technique, and although earlier on it was effective, at the end of the ride, it’s just become cheesy. There are also a few instrumental tracks, such as “AU79” and “Untitled 63,” that just come across awkward and time consuming. Their necessity on the album seems questionable, and at a total run time of over an hour and thirteen minutes, one wonders if they could have been cut for conciseness.
Tyler, the Creator’s sophomore effort hardly comes across Sophomoric. It’s hard to believe it’s the product of a boy just barely out of his teens, and it’s even more impressive to see someone of twenty be able to harness all the attention Tyler has received and use it for such powerful means. While it’s certainly easy to allow the kind of fame Tyler has recently gained go to one’s head and produce a lackluster second try, Tyler has proven he’s much more than a one-album-wonder.
The world is yours, Tyler.
Written by Dean Goranites