Entertainment Entertainment Music

Album review: Tyler, the Creator, 'Wolf'

*** (out of four)

When Odd Future first emerged, everything the L.A. hip-hop collective did seemed perfectly engineered to grab attention.

The group's bravado and distorted visual aesthetic excited rap fans looking for change, while its members' shocking lyrics became a lightning rod for controversy. But when the attention came, Odd Future mostly ignored it, doubling down on an underlying conviction in their own talent and unique sensibility. They adopted a punk band and a jazz group as their closest associates, started a sketch comedy TV show and put out a series of inwardly focused albums that, while generally solid, had little effect on the hiphop mainstream.

On ringleader Tyler, the Creator's second proper album, “Wolf,” this insularity is even stronger. There's nothing as immediately arresting as the songs like “Yonkers” and “French” that helped build the rapper's hype to a fever pitch. The guests are limited to a few idols— Erykah Badu, Pharrell, Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier—and frequent Odd Future collaborators. People unfamiliar with the group's lore might need a glossary to understand many of the lyrical references, and even those in the know may have trouble following the album's loose plot and web of characters.

If Tyler's past music reflected confrontational rappers like Eminem, the best analogues here are artists like MF DOOM, Kool Keith and Wu-Tang Clan, who complement dense lyrics with elaborately constructed mythologies. Like those artists, Tyler's tightly written raps reward close attention and total immersion. Highlights like “Answer” and”Lone” are nuanced takes on tough feelings, while tracks like “Rusty” and “Slater” are good, straightforward rap songs. Tyler's jarring, minor-key production has improved too.

Like “Goblin,” Tyler's debut, “Wolf” can drag and feel overly moody. Although the most vulgar elements generally are gone, it probably will do little for fans who aren't already committed to Tyler's schtick. But his well-crafted, self-contained world is something worth celebrating because it delivers on one of Odd Future's central promises that got lost amid that initial flurry of hype: It's committed to its own weirdness—and not just for the attention.

Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor.

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • 'Furious 7': At this point, you know, whatever
    'Furious 7': At this point, you know, whatever

    Muscular, perpetually mumbling bowling pin Dominic Toretto (Human Aggro Crag Vin Diesel) doesn’t just prefer Corona, the beach-branded standard of Mexican beer-flavored water. He won’t even consider trying a Belgian Trappist ale, widely regarded as being among the world’s...

  • '5 to 7' is hot and bothered
    '5 to 7' is hot and bothered

    Not long after hordes of viewers hungry for some good, clean (dirty) spanking action flocked to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a smaller, better movie comes along that actually contains, you know, passion between its characters.

  • 'While We're Young' is hilariously wise
    'While We're Young' is hilariously wise

    That’s so old-fashioned, Cornelia (Naomi Watts) remarks warmly when 20-somethings Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) say that they’re married. Then they add that their wedding took place in a water tower to the sounds of a mariachi band. And there was a slip...

  • Where do Emanuel, Garcia stand on the issues?
    Where do Emanuel, Garcia stand on the issues?

    Chicago's April 7 runoff election is looming, and there are plenty of people undecided about whether they'll hand Mayor Rahm Emanuel another term or go with the new guy—Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. So we've rounded up the top issues and where the candidates stand to...

  • McDonald's raising its minimum wage, but some say it's not enough
    McDonald's raising its minimum wage, but some say it's not enough

    McDonald's plans to raise starting wages by $1 above the local minimum at select restaurants, just one of the changes on tap as the world's largest fast-food chain tries to win back customers and fend off a union-backed effort to raise pay throughout the industry.

  • Teen who got controversial heart transplant dies in crash during police chase
    Teen who got controversial heart transplant dies in crash during police chase

    An Atlanta area teenager who said a heart transplant two years ago gave him a second chance at life died this week when he lost control of the car he was driving while fleeing police, according to police records.

Comments
Loading