Tyler, The Creator Defies Genre with ‘IGOR’

Courtesy of Nick X. Dierl

Tyler, The Creator pulls listeners out of their musical comfort zone with his sixth studio album “IGOR,” released May 17. His strategic instrumental layering permeates all aspects of the album from the love-filled pop to his angry rapping proving his artistic maturity.

Tyler took to Twitter the night before the album’s release urging fans to set aside all preconceived notions about his newest work.

“Don’t go into this expecting a rap album,” he said in a tweet. Don’t go into this expecting any album. Just go, jump into it.”

The tweet also contained instructions for a fan’s first listen. He said to find a place free of distractions — whether it be taking a walk or drive or by laying down. “Whatever it is you choose, fully indulge. With volume,” Tyler said in the tweet.

A droning synthesizer of “IGOR’S THEME” — the album’s introductory song — welcomes the listener to their distraction-free experience. The track sets the tone for the album introducing a complex layering of synths, backing vocals, piano and futuristic space-themed sound effects. The repeated phrase “He’s coming riding ’round town, they gon’ feel this way” throughout allows the vocals to blend with the other elements of the song.

This emphasis on the instrumentals pulls it away from being a clear-cut rap album. Tyler has been defying genres throughout his career with intricate beats and diverse instrumentals. The hazy genre categorization speaks not only to Tyler’s evolution as an artist but also to his innovation.

“IGOR” offers undeniable growth for Tyler as a heated attitude and repeated use of homophobic slurs in “Goblin” has calmed down. Tyler builds on the softer side of his music that he began on “Flower Boy” and brings it full force in “IGOR.”

Industry giants Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Jack White and Pharrell are a few of the “helping hands” attributed in a tweet to bringing “IGOR” to life, though none are mentioned on the track listing.

In contrast with Tyler’s previous feature-filled albums, “IGOR” marks a clean slate with Tyler taking the credit for writing, producing and arranging the album. The evidence of his solo venture shines in his increasingly personal topics.

“IGOR” takes on the beauty of love in “I THINK” as the chorus rings out, “I think I’m falling in love / This time I think it’s for real / How can I tell you?”

“BOY IS A GUN” tells the story of pursuing a new romantic venture as Tyler raps, “Boy, you sweet as sugar, diabetic to the first degree.” The reality of a failed attempt at romance sets in when “don’t shoot me down” turns into “stay the fuck away from me.”

A slower, simpler melody in “PUPPET” continues the theme and expands on the “I THINK” lyric “I’m your puppet, you are Jim Henson.” The overall cute track closes out with some eerie dissonant vocals.

The intensity fans know from previous albums such as “Cherry Bomb” and “Wolf” isn’t lost in the midst Tyler’s emotional vulnerability.

Tyler says it himself — “Sometimes you gotta close a door to open a window.” This spoken-word line opens up bass-heavy “NEW MAGIC WAND” which proves he still has the fire that pulled him into the spotlight.

“WHAT’S GOOD” continues Tyler’s intense streak with an abrasive synth bass. Midway through the track, the built-up instrumentals stop in favor of a punctuating synth that buzzes over vocals filled with the intensity of military orders. The layers then return to match the passion that had already been established.

Tyler didn’t drop a lead single, merely minute-long teasers on social media, making the album promotionally unconventional. The album’s release date wasn’t announced until it was just less than two weeks out.

It may not follow the societal rules of rap or promoting an album, but “IGOR” isn’t meant to fit in.

“IGOR” is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.

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