Brian Posehn has this joke that he tells about comedians having kids. He mentions that he hates his favorite comics had kids, because they lost their edge and stopped being funny. Now, Posehn’s joke is easy to transpose to other artistic mediums, especially music. Metallica changed their style when they cut their hair. Eminem softened up when he stopped doing drugs. It’s notable that both artists newfound maturity showed detrimental to their music. Tyler, the Creator’s fourth full-length Flower Boy is his most mature work to date, and unlike Slim Shady and Metallica, it’s his best album to date.
It’s almost impossible to discuss Flower Boy without addressing the sensational discussion that has surrounded this album: Tyler’s sexuality. There have been a number of thinkpieces about this very subject, and a number of times that people have now reexamined Tyler’s old work. The only point to really bring up is that if Flower Boy is Tyler’s coming out-album, then great. “Garden Shed” and “I Ain’t Got Time” are also both great jams; the lyric “I been kissing white boys since 2004” is delivered with some of the most conviction on the whole album. If he’s not actually gay, is it really that unbelievable for him to want to make people question whether he is or not? Shock has always been Tyler’s shtick, and the only reason that people are viewing Flower Boy different from Goblin is the serious posture.
The only real controversy on Flower Boy is how similar so many of the beats sound. Tyler explores the softer sounds that he had fleshed out on Cherry Bomb, and it’s impossible to not find that some tend to blend together. This really does work to the album’s advantage though, because Tyler’s lyrics are often at the forefront, and none of the beats are bad. The most memorable beats are those on “Who Dat Boy?” and “I Ain’t Got Time,” but Flower Boys doesn’t have a “Yonkers” or “Tamale.”
From a lyrical perspective, the main reason that Tyler seems more serious here is because he’s not lashing out. Every album prior seemed gratuitously shocking or violent as a means to cover up some of Tyler’s private fears and insecurities. The only attempt to cover up his feelings is Tyler’s “unofficial” title for the album: Scum Fuck Flower Boy. “November” is the perfect track to sum up the album, because it has Tyler longing for a simpler time, while airing out his fears: financial, his career, and whether his love interest will like his song. “Mr. Lonely” sees Tyler exploring his past self, while showing vulnerability:
They say the loudest in the room is weak
That’s what they assume, but I disagree
I say the loudest in the room
Is prolly the loneliest one in the room (that’s me)
Attention seeker, public speaker
Oh my God, that boy there is so fuckin’ lonely
Writin’ songs about these people
Who do not exist, he’s such a fuckin’ phony
One thing I know, is that I wanna
Win so bad.
“See You Again” shows a romantic longing, relatable to anyone with a crush on someone that seems completely out of their league. There are the aforementioned songs that bring up Tyler’s sexuality, and “I Ain’t Got Time” is delivered with the high level of energy of his previous tracks like “Deathcamp.” Still, if sensitive Tyler doesn’t do it for you, there’s still “Who Dat Boy?”, with a horror-score instrumental and a great guest spot from A$AP Rocky. Tyler still sounds violent on “Who Dat Boy?” especially during his first verse, which references coffins and guys “with his fuckin’ face blown off.” Even if Tyler has grown up, it seems we’ll always get at least a little horrorcore from him.
Having been a Tyler, the Creator fan hasn’t been easy over the past few years, from homophobic slurs to half-baked albums, but Flower Boy really is Tyler’s masterpiece. It’s easy to just get lost in listening. He hasn’t lost his edge as he’s grown up. If anything, Tyler works harder to keep you on your toes now. Who knew that soulful, soft songs would be the best thing out of the guy who wrote “Yonkers?”