Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All head honcho Tyler, the Creator has reason to celebrate: Today is May 10, better known to him and the increasingly rabid OF fanbase (e.g. Sonar had to move next Thursday's OF show to its main room) as the release date of Goblin, Tyler's XL Recordings follow-up to his first, self-released album, Bastard. On the Internet, Goblin's release is a big deal — expect thousands and thousands of words on "What It Means" in the coming weeks — and it remains to be seen if that will translate to mainstream success. I'm on my eighth spin of Goblin straight through, and here are the thoughts I keep coming back to:
•••• Tyler needs an editor. One-hundred percent creative control is a double-edged sword: No producers or label-heads interject with tweaks to a chorus or opinions on a crappy beat, but sometimes those same producers/label-heads have good ideas. The album's opening combination of the narrative-setting "Goblin," still-excellent single "Yonkers" and the seriously obnoxious, OF-mantra-spewing "Radicals" sinks the disc from the start. It plays out like a first-day of class, where the professor's syllabus takes all period to get through when all you want to say is "I get it."
•••• Goblin could use more Left Brain beats. "Transylvania" has a demonic Tyler rapping from the point-of-view of Dracula, which seems clever on first-listen and then not clever at all any time after. The only redeeming quality is Left Brain's manic, slap-happy production. The song's problem falls on Tyler, who, like many 20-year-old males before and after him, is obsessed with women and their rejection of him ("Her"). His response (in the case of "Transylvania" and else where) is violent fantasies played out as aggressive expression. So Tyler raps as Dracula and tries to get away with a chorus like, "I'm Dracula, bitch / Don't got a problem with smacking a bitch / Kidnap and attack with an axe and s--- / until she decides to take Dracula's d---." I'm not into it at all.
•••• Seriously, what's the worst song on here? "Fish," the 6-minute-plus track with three equally stupid parts (the "boppin' bitch" section is seriously so long and dumb) or "Bitch Suck D---," Tyler's half-baked attempt at a Waka Flocka-meets-Lil B's "Pretty Bitch" song. Jasper Dolphin and Taco, two non-rapping OF members, get verses and the track ends with Tyler shooting his two friends.
•••• It's somewhat telling that one of the best songs on Goblin is the instrumental "AU79," a busy-but-beautiful composition of stabbing synthesizers and soft, padded drums.
•••• My favorite song is "Analog." (You can watch Tyler, Hodgy Beats and Syd perform it for the first time in the video above.) If I could only listen to one verse on Goblin, it'd be Hodgy's tale of young love and lust, with his wonderfully drawn-out syllables ("Her phone ringin' in her puuurrrrrrse"). The beat is woozy like a very-hot summertime dip, and the beat ebbs and flows in sync with the vocals. This is also a very #BASED song (for those familiar with Lil B's somewhat exisential, transcendental movement) with Tyler capping off his verse like this: "We should take a dip in that lake quick and then split / and then do something that's beyond what we both can imagine." Most rappers would imply mind-blowing sex (which Tyler could also be doing) but the song ends with the repeated lines of "Watch the sunset, watch the sunset / there goes a rainbow." That appreciation of nature aligns with Lil B's charming wonderment and the goodwill rubs off on Tyler on "Analog."
•••• Goblin is an ambitious project and Tyler should be recognized for putting together another concept album. There's no denying this is a smart guy. The problem — isn't it always? — is in the execution, and how overstuffed the album is with ideas both thoughtful and undercooked. Goblin owes obvious debts to Eminem's first two albums, and maybe if I were younger this album would hit me in a different, more meaningful way (kind of like the way Slim Shady LP and Marshall Mathers LP did). Eminem's rapping ability is also exponentially more refined than Tyler's, and that plays a role, too. I was also an OF fan who grabbed for Earl Sweatshirt's succinct but dazzling LP, MellowHype's eccentric Blackenedwhite and Domo Genesis's lonely stoner Rolling Papers before Bastard, so take that for what you will.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun