On Saturday, May 18th, one day after the release of IGOR, the streets of Peckham were flooded within minutes of Tyler, The Creator tweeting a venue location. He didn’t even say what was happening, just a place and a time – “Copeland Park, 3PM”. By half 2, the event was cancelled due to fans being “too rowdy”. Fences were climbed, shoes were thrown, and IGOR was blasted from every speaker available, Tyler had no idea how many Brits were willing to barrel towards Peckham Rye station at the drop of a hat for even a chance to see him. I was one of them. Standing amongst the chaos, hearing IGOR’S THEME from three different directions, and watching the sea of GOLF le FLEUR* trainers, and Off-White belts, I knew this album was more than just pretty noises.
Tyler, The Creator’s IGOR is making serious waves.
A brief glimpse into Tyler’s discography reveals two distinct eras. His early albums were densely packed with hard-hitting verses, minimalist hooks, discordant synthesisers, and frankly grotesque beats (see: Goblin, Cherry Bomb). However, his recent album, Flower Boy, marked a transition in Tyler’s style, embracing a more soulful tone with tentative melodic arrangements and vocal lines, as well as unexpected features such as Rex Orange County and Anna of the North. Coming into IGOR, I expected similarly smooth and bright production, but Tyler Okonma delivered so much more.
The album kicks off with 23 seconds of abrasive, distorted droning before slamming into an energetic riff on the classic ‘amen’ breakbeat. The drums are acoustic, messy, and – to be honest – get me fucking jazzed. The tone is immediately set as we hear Philadelphia’s Lil Uzi Vert’s vocals striking a highly impressive balance between muffled and overly-foregrounded, rising over the drone but never obscuring it. This kind of mixing shines throughout the entire album. With equal weight being given to the voice and the production, IGOR branches away from rap’s vocal-centric nature, sounding more like a 12-piece band. A hip-hop orchestra.
But where the hell is Tyler? I think he might’ve been shouting in the background of IGOR’S THEME, but I want my Tyler in the spotlight! His first proper vocal performance is in the chorus of track 2, EARFQUAKE. Surprisingly his voice is pitched up and muddled into the instruments like ice in a Mojito. This track reminds me of BROCKHAMPTON’s iridescence with both its vocal manipulation and its light, plinky, piano-driven beat. Just as I’m starting to suspect that IGOR has completely left Tyler’s rapping behind, I THINK reassures me that his sample-heavy beats and choppy flows are still very much present, but tentatively placed. Tyler sprinkles his verses over the album sparingly, like gold leaf on a fancy pudding. But unlike gold leaf, his rapping is really good and I actually want it there.
The album’s funkiest hook is definitely on A BOY IS A GUN, an infectious head-nodding track with an utterly gorgeous sample from American soul vocal group, Ponderosa Twins Plus One. If you don’t nod along to this track, well, I’m not saying you’re a sociopath, but I’m also definitely not saying you’re not. Following A BOY IS A GUN is a stampede of pure bangers. Tyler’s vulnerability on PUPPET is quickly undercut by his bodacious, punky delivery on WHAT’S GOOD, a track so overdriven it’s a bit intimidating. This cut is the most rough-around-the-edges, but the wild distortion is clearly intentional and definitely works, if you put this song through a powerful speaker, it’ll probably blow your hair about.
Y’know what won’t blow your hair about? GONE, GONE / THANK YOU. My absolute favourite track on IGOR. This song blew me away when I first heard it, in the shower. The beat effortlessly evokes shoulder-shaking, and the crunchy acoustic guitar perfectly complements the quirky, year 9 music class sounding percussion. The switch in tone at 2:55 is possibly the greatest moment on the album, it feels like Tyler is waking from his slumber and slowly approaching the microphone, waiting another 30 seconds before he begins a phenomenal verse. His flow is funky, his voice is low and smooth, and his lyrics are clever, poetic, and tongue in cheek. I was so intrigued by the verse that I had to turn the shower off and just sort of stand there naked and listen.
The album concludes with ARE WE STILL FRIENDS – the record’s most delightful surprise of all. Tyler delivers captivating and powerful vocal performance and displays a range and style he’s never shown before. His voice is clean, raw, and full. It spills over the instrumental like melted butter over a car bonnet and crescendos into a joyful and optimistic finale, ending his lamenting breakup album on a high note.
Overall, this album feels like freedom for Tyler, The Creator. I’m overjoyed at his willingness to depart from the style which so many love him for, and his creative liberty has resulted in a nuanced, radical, excellent album which feels like an ultimate culmination of his past work, a marriage between Cherry Bomb and Flower Boy with a little hint of something new.
Editor’s Rating: 8.8/10
would’ve been 8.7 but it was released on Minecraft’s 10th anniversary. Can’t go wrong there.