By Gage Miskimen
Tyler Okonma, better known as Tyler, The Creator, released his fourth LP, Flower Boy, on July 21. The album is packed with talent featuring Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis, A$AP Rocky, Jaden Smith, Lil Wayne, and up-and-coming UK artist Rex Orange County
Everything about the album is interesting, to say the least. The rollout of the album includes the announcement of Okonma teaming up with Converse and releasing his own shoe based on the cover art of Flower Boy.
The cover art itself is the most riveting of his albums so far. Designed by artist Eric White, it features Okonma standing in a field of sunflowers underneath an orange sky while oversized bumblebees fly around. In the distant background, one can see Okonma’s white McLaren, which he raps about frequently.
Musically, the production sounds like what one would expect from a Tyler album. Horns, chimes, and piano dominate the soundscape alongside droning beats. Like his previous projects, the music feels cinematic; Okonma has created an imaginary world in which summer never ends, featuring alter egos and characters he has created. But people won’t find Wolf Haley on this album, as they did on previous albums Goblin and Wolf.
With Flower Boy, it seems that Okonma has matured even more than his self-aware 2015 album, Cherry Bomb. With maturity has come his admittance of loneliness in his fame, and that is a central theme on the album. The lyrics also include more stream-of-consciousness formatting in which he seems to delve deeper into his feelings. Speculation has occurred about Okonma’s sexuality as well with lyrics on numerous tracks such as “Garden Shed”: “Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase/Thought it’d be like Frank; poof, gone/But it’s still going on.” This is in reference to Frank Ocean, a close friend and member of Okonma’s old hip-hop collective, Odd Future. Ocean came out as bisexual with the release of his 2012 Grammy-award winning album, Channel Orange, and he was famous for disappearing from the public eye until he released his most recent album, Blonde, last year.
Highlights of the album include the aforementioned “Garden Shed,” which features Estelle, “Who Dat Boy,” featuring A$AP Rocky, and “November,” but the track that stands out most is “911/Mr. Lonely.” The song follows a tradition with Okonma’s albums of the 10th song having two parts, hence the “/” in the title. The song is the epitome of the loneliness theme that surrounds Flower Boy and is probably the most well-crafted song Okonma has written and produced. The song features Ocean and Steve Lacy, and the two beautifully assist the track with their vocals.
Though an impressive and interesting project, Flower Boy isn’t Okonma’s best album. He shows his maturity, and the lyrics are well thought out and introspective, but the production seems one step down from the innovative and shocking Cherry Bomb, and the themes, though layered and complex, don’t quite reach the levels of Wolf’s storytelling.
Okonma is one of the greater curators of musicians and sounds, and Flower Boy proves he is still blossoming into one of hip-hop’s greatest arts and doesn’t intend to slow down soon.