Despite being nominated for Best Rap Album, Tyler the Creator’s Scum F*ck Flower Boy did not take home any hardware during last month’s Grammy Awards. Nonetheless, Tyler’s heartfelt display of his own duality is deserving of a second look.
From the perspective of an avid hip-hop fan, the summer of ’17 was one to remember. From highly-anticipated names like 2 Chainz, DJ Khaled, and Jay-Z– to unexpected names such as Brockhampton or Public Enemy, there was plenty of new music for everyone. Amid the chaos of the summer, Tyler the Creator released his highly anticipated second album under a major record label, Scum F*ck Flower Boy, offering a new perspective into the creative personality that is Tyler Okonma. Embracing his unique duality, Tyler the Creator displayed how he is split down the middle. The more palpable, “Scum F*ck” side of him is evident in his past. For example, Tyler’s insensitive and vulgar lyrics have had consequences, as he is banned from visiting the UK for supposedly “encouraging violence and intolerance of homosexuality.” On full display throughout the album is Tyler’s “Flower Boy” side, where sexuality and identity are less clear-cut. Tyler explores depths of himself and produces the lovely, but vulnerable Scum F*ck Flower Boy, an album deserving of a second look.
Throughout the album, we are introduced to a side of Tyler Okonma that was previously absent in his earlier works. “See You Again (feat. Kali Uchis)” and “911 / Mr. Lonely” (feat. Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy) are the strongest songs off the album, encapsulating the theme of self-exposure evident in its entirety. The first of which is Tyler’s account of love, or lack thereof. Whether the “you” Tyler is lusting after in this song is male or female is not made clear throughout the album, adding ambiguity to Tyler’s proclaimed sexuality. “911 / Mr. Lonely” is Tyler’s depressed and lonely yearning for meaningful social interaction. Frank Ocean’s memorable “Chirp Chirp” is followed by a short verse echoing Tyler’s desire to break the boredom present in his life.
The intended direction of this album is made clear by observing who Tyler chose to feature on his fourth installment. Beautiful voices such as Frank Ocean, Rex Orange County, Estelle, and Steve Lacy are oftentimes the focal point of songs, forcing Tyler to take a backseat on his own track. This should not be looked at lightly, as in the end, Tyler sacrifices his strong, deep voice, for perhaps more graceful, delicate sounds to contribute to the overall mood of the album. This is evident in the song “Garden Shed.” Tyler does not appear on the song until the last minute of this near four-minute song. Instead, Estelle and a booming, uncut electric guitar harmonize, producing a stunning melody that is both strong but delicate. To conclude this song, Tyler delivers a punching 30-line verse about his sexuality, sensitivity, and vulnerability.
The more familiar, hardened side of Tyler the Creator is revived in songs “Who Dat Boy (feat. A$AP Rocky) and “I Ain’t Got Time!”. While these songs offer hard-hitting verses to those who do not enjoy the depth explored by Tyler throughout the majority of the album, they could perhaps be interpreted as relapses on Tyler’s attempt to put his sensitivity on full display.
Scum F*ck Flower Boy acts as a lens through which listeners are able to explore the depths of Tyler Okonma. This masterpiece of unique instrumental patterns, melancholy melodies, and punching guitar chords puts Tyler’s creative ability as a musician, rather than a rapper, on full display. Scum F*ck Flower Boy is Tyler’s best album to date and is an ideal example of the maturity and “growing up” of an artist. Tyler is no longer the vulgar oddball that created Goblin in 2011, but rather an extremely talented musician, producer, and rapper—deserving of all the praise he receives for his fourth studio album. Although Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. won best rap album of 2017, Tyler the Creator reified the concept of maturing as an artist, cementing his place among the “elites” of today’s hip-hop musicians.