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Album Review: Tyler the Creator's Goblin

Tyler the Creator has been getting a lot of hype lately, along with the whole Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All crew. In case you don't know, OFWGKTA is a hip-hop collective based in L.A., in which the average age is probably like 19. Tyler himself is only 19 or 20.

But if these guys are short on years, they're long on talent and originality. Between Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, and Earl Sweatshirt, I think its safe to say we're looking at the future of hip-hop...a certain type of hip-hop, that is. What type? Well, let's just say--at least in Tyler's case--this is not dance club hip-hop. The emphasis--at least for now--seems to be on the darkness and psychological twistedness of the lyrics. The beats are hard, rough, and basic, and as a result, few of the tracks have those kind of stick-in-your-head hooks that Top of the Charts hip-hop and R&B is known for. You will NOT be hearing any of these songs on the Top 40. However, if you listen closely, you'll find time after time your mind bent and twisted by his lyrics.

However--and this is a big however--Goblin ends up being a bit too dark and twisted, and a bit too long. The album is a good hour and 15 minutes long, where it should be more like 45 minutes, and by the end of the album I found my ears worn out and felt like I needed to watch Bambi or the Little Mermaid just to clear my head and stop quaking with fear.

In Goblin, Tyler just sounds really, really pissed off. Granted, he's 19 years old and a lot of 19 year olds are pissed off. But in this album it really seems like he's just milking the whole "angry rapper" thing a bit too much, so much that it just seems overwrought and unnecessary. Case in point, song number three, "Radicals" with the grating refrain, "kill people, burn sh-t, f-ck school." Frankly, when I heard those lyrics, he lost me for this album. Not for good, cause I think he's intelligent and can be really hilarious.

There are some high points on this album, however. In fact, toward the end of that same track "Radicals" the beat morphs into this really smooth, futuristic beat that makes me wish he'd done a whole song (or the whole album??) in that kind of a vein.

The song "She," features my personal favorite OFWGKTA member, Frank Ocean. Ocean's voice adds a mid-90s kind of smooth soul to this contemplative ode to one particular girl. Once again, the song mainly serves as a refresher during the long slog of grinding beats and angry, antagonistic lyrics. In keeping with the pronoun theme, the song "Her" serves as kind of a continuation of "She," and is also one of the highlights of this album. In this song, we see a more sensitive side of these chaps, singing about secretly wanting to do all the cheesy things people do in relationships. And again, Tyler's use of a more smooth, spacey, synth beat is like a palate cleanser.

The song "Fish/Bobbin B-tch" is also kind of a more fun departure from the rest of the album and, to me, one of the highlights. The second part of the son "BB" gets into this fun, kind of throwback song almost reminiscent of the mid-late-80s hip-hop sound of L.L. Cool-J. For that reason, it's kind of fun. Lyrically, it's more of the same: somewhat funny, but dealing with a lot of the same tired material as Tyler deals with on the whole album: bitches, fellatio, STDs, misogyny, etc.

Given all the hype, I'd say this album is a disappointment. I've listened to it about 3.5 times through now, and I don't find myself going back to it for any other reason that to try and find something else to grab on to, something I may have missed. The songs don't ring in my ears for any other reason than because of their abrasiveness...kind of like the way the "Friday the 13th" music lingers in your ear.

And maybe that's the handle. If this is "Horror Rap," then well, Tyler's closer to the mark than I give him credit for. However, I still think he's got to do more to show us his range and use his un-tapped potential to make people laugh. Essentially, these are bunch of really smart kids and they're going to be around for a lot longer. I'll be very interested to see where Tyler goes with his next album, but I think Goblin is going to go down as a somewhat unremarkable sophomore effort.


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