Tyler, the Creator blossoms in new album “Flower Boy”

Laced with lush, Steve Lacy-produced beats, clever wordplay, references to closet homosexuality and his signature eccentricity, Tyler, the Creator’s new album “Flower Boy” is a pleasant surprise.

The opening track of the album, “Foreword,” asks the listener many questions that the rest of the album seeks to answer. He ponders, “How many cars can I buy ‘til I run out of drive? / How much drive can I have ‘til I run out of road?” At first, the question may seem superficial, but the follow-up question digs deeper and presents the concept in a more metaphorical light. He wonders how much he can produce before he runs out of motivation and how much motivation he can possess before he runs out of inspiration. Both of these concepts can be seen in many artists’ works, and Tyler too seeks to confront this internal turmoil.

Transitioning to a more lighthearted track, Tyler works with Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis on the love-inspired song “See You Again,” which focuses on his search for a soulmate. His raw expressions of longing and fantasy romance are underscored by Uchis’s smooth background tones. Over the years, his singing has developed from deeper low-pitches to a more angelic, softer tone. His growth as a lyricist also becomes prominently clear as he quotes American singer George Clinton in the clever line, “Look both ways before you cross my mind.” Similarly to centerpiece “Garden Shed,” Tyler’s use of gender-neutral, vague references to his lover result in even more ambiguity in regards to his sexuality, which may be surprising given his history of using homophobic lyrics.

“Who Dat Boy” represents a stark contrast from the rest of the album. While the other tracks appear to be inspired by the lo-fi music genre, this braggadocio track diverges. The first few moments of the song send shivers down listeners’ spines, with sharp and crisp chords that are almost like a warning.

He spits, “N****a fresh to death like he got dressed in a coffin / Cons, overalls, and a striped shirt / The boy drips swag like a broken faucet.” This exemplifies both how he perceives his style and his image in the realm of hip-hop. A$AP Rocky adds a few gems of his own, rapping, “Was it Summertime ‘06, had the Number (N)ine / Ni**a, never mind, was another time before Vince.” With a clever bit of wordplay, Rocky indicates his prowess with women by referencing the ninth track on the Vince Staples album “Summertime ‘06”, “Senorita.” At the same time, he projects a stylish image of himself wearing the now defunct brand “Number (N)ine.” Overall, the track adds punchy rap and fresh perspective to the album.

The album’s bluesy R&B centerpiece, “Garden Shed,” is an extended metaphor alluding to his homosexuality. Throughout the track, featured singer Estelle lends smooth, harmonizing vocals to Tyler’s emotionally raw rhymes and minimal background synths. His wistful melody is pieced together with relatable references to a past romance: “Truth is, since a youth, kid, thought it was a phase / Thought it’d be like the phrase ‘Poof! Gone’ / But it’s still going on.” His words dig deep, referencing the confusion and isolation that comes with pretending to be someone you’re not. The entire album is punctuated by the use of almost crude gay slang, including “poof.” At the same time, Tyler uses simile to describe the sensitivity of the LGBTQ+ community by comparing it to cooking batter, masterfully incorporating metaphorical language.

Standout track “911/Mr. Lonely” makes poetry of his boredom and depression. Tyler confesses to feeling like the “loneliest man alive” in this reflective song. Featured artist Frank Ocean’s velvety voice smooths over angsty lyrics, like: “Check in on me sometime / Ask me how I’m really doin’ / So I never have to press that 911.” The pop-oriented track weaves together a summertime glaze with artfully diverse drum patterns and mood shifts, ultimately creating Tyler’s unique sound. He also peppers in clever word-play and car references, demonstrating his growth as an artist overall.

“Flower Boy”, his strongest work yet, cements itself as an album of the year contender and redeems his previous album, “Cherry Boy.” The rapper furnishes a gorgeous piece of hip-hop that stands out by being intimate, emotional, and affecting.

Tyler, the Creator recently announced his fall tour for this spectacular album, which kicks off on Oct. 31 in San Francisco. From there, he’ll hit key regions, including Seattle, New York City and New Orleans before ending in Dallas on Nov. 22.