Tyler, The Creator’s 7th album muses the power of mixtapes, embodying his provocative bars of the past and revamping them under an entirely new aesthetic.
Sir Baudelaire: the immaculate skin possessing, lavish lifestyle living hotel concierge played by Tyler on CMIYGL, is not the perfect man his complexion makes him out to be. As the most bourgeoisie of the LA native’s fictional characters, he revels in inconspicuousness, drawing one into his fortune with the temptations of yachts, indie film festivals and chauffeur visits to France. As the beat breaks down on CORSO, creating an intentional eeriness, we start to see his true colours:
“Look, tried to take somebody bitch ‘cause I’m a bad person,
I don’t regret shit because that •••• worth it
In the end she picked him, I hope when they fuckin’
She still thinkin’ of me ‘cause I’m that perfect”.
Baudelaire’s nihilistic nature is not to be taken lightly, but by the end of the record, as with many of Tyler’s characters, you can’t help but feel empathetic towards him. His mother’s monologue on MOMMA TALK addresses how she dealt with him being bullied in school, whilst in a MASSA verse, we find out that she was living in a shelter before breakout single Yonkers. The Grammy winner has channeled his own life experiences through alter-egos across his career, but Baudelaire might be the most complex of them all.
The antagonist’s conflicting persona allows his creator to glory in the mixtape format. Bar two sporadic 8-10 minute length cuts, the tracks marvel in sharp bursts of kinetic, genre-defying energy. It’s a way for Tyler to amalgamate the elements lauded in his previous work and experiment with them in a new, more mature context. Despite this, the multifaceted artist cannot help but remain provocative. Whether he’s confessing to trying to fuck Justin Bieber, dismissing cancel culture or glorifying the record’s adultery focused narrative, reverting back to rapping has allowed Tyler to become the filterless, mindspeaking artist many love him for.
In the 2000s, mixtapes optimised the growth of rap music in America. They did, however, break every single law in the copyright rule book. DJ Drama’s Gangsta Grillz series was one of the most celebrated of them all, and something Tyler the Creator has been showing appreciation for since 2010 - where he tweeted “I WANT A GANGSTA GRILLZ TAPE SO FUCKING BAD GOT DAMN.” 11 years on, he revisited the post, simply writing “DONE. ALBUM*”. On CMIYGL, Drama’s added vocal inflections not only arouse hype on visceral tunes like JUGGERNAUT and LEMONHEAD, they bind the story Tyler drives throughout the album. Adlibs like “Catch up niggas” accentuates the braggadocios nature of Baudelaire whilst “It’s different, It’s really different” explicitly reminds us of just how much of an evolution this record is amidst the rapper’s discography. If Manhattan’s Canal Street was still the bootlegging, mixtape epicentre of the world, people would have scrambled from far and near for this Gangsta Grillz.
Sonically illustrating Tyler Baudelaire’s bipolar demeanour, the album’s production switches between fuzzy, cherry-bomb-esque beats and eloquent, floral melodies, accommodating the various features’ nuances. This not only personifies Tyler’s eclectic music taste, but presents his willingness to shock and unnerve listeners. The 42 Dugg featuring LEMONHEAD transitions from abrasive horns to a twinkly, Roy Ayers inspired melody seamlessly. Dugg’s robotic verse rides the track’s various beat switches, contributing one of many unexpected voices on this beautifully chaotic album. Youngboy NBA will have surprised a few fans with his dulcet delivery, Lil Wayne brings his best bars yet on a Tyler record, whilst Domo Genesis proves he is one of the most lyrically gifted of Odd Future’s stalwarts.
CMIYGL ratifies that Tyler, The Creator is an artist unwilling to be bound by the conventions of his past. He continues to reinvent himself and his music, cooking musical trends with garnishes of matured genres, and manufacturing a kaleidoscopic take on the album format. At this point, no one but Tyler himself could have possibly imagined that he would be the artist he has blossomed into today. His music is of a vintage that always seems to be ripening.