People criticized Tyler the Creator’s brand of alternative hip-hop to be eccentric, immature, and offensive; but, with Flower Boy, Tyler delivers his most consistent, mature, and personal work.
After a failed 3rd album, Tyler the Creator finally captures the vision he pursued in his second album, Wolf: His personal youthful struggle with unrequited love and loneliness. These themes are further amplified by his struggle with concealing his sexuality from friends, fans, and loved ones.
Tyler sets the stage for the album with the song “Foreword”. In this opening track, Tyler seems to be questioning his mortality with lines such as “nothing lasts forever, nothing sticks together”. By the outro, this theme slowly turns into borderline suicidal thoughts with lyrics like “And if I drown and don’t com back, who’s gonna know?” and “I’m wondering if I don’t come back, maybe then I’ll know.” In between the thoughts of mortality, Tyler first mentions his struggle with his sexuality and the resulting loneliness. He then quickly turns away from that subject towards political consciousness with lyrics like, “How many riots can it be ’til them Black lives matter?”
Tracks 2 through 4 begin the album’s narrative.
“Where This Flower Blooms” throws the audience back to when Tyler was young. The very laid back, sunny instrumental paired with lyrics about blooming and growing paint a picture of an idyllic time. This mood continues through the interlude, “Sometimes”, and into “See You Again”. “See You Again” is about this idealized lover that seems to only exist “behind [Tyler’s] eyelids”. The first verse of the track builds this idealization of the person. Trouble begins in the second verse, where Tyler begins to grow tired of chasing a dream that isn’t there.
Tracks 5 and 6 serve as an interlude that shift the mood of the album.
“Who Dat Boy” is the weakest track on the album, because it seems to not belong in the album other than to serve as a throwback to Tyler’s older sound. The beat and lyrics didn’t seem to be about or relate to the primary themes of the album; therefore, this track produced a bit of a disconnect from the rest of the album. All this being said, the song is still a solid banger with a sinister instrumental that will make older fans happy.
“Potholes” is a commentary for the themes of this album. Tyler metaphorically drives down a street to avoid problems that are preventing him from getting to where he wants to be in life. This is supported by a very ominous instrumental, reminiscent of the music of night driving montages. Tyler also seems to admit that a lot of the problems he currently experiences are results from not noticing the clues.
Tracks 7 through 10 fully flesh out Tyler’s struggles with his sexuality and loneliness.
“Garden Shed” is Tyler’s most personal song on the album. Paired up with a very minimalistic and laid back jazz track, Tyler digs deep into his soul and talks about his struggles with hiding his sexuality in a metaphorical garden shed. He felt that all his friends “couldn’t read the signs” and that he thought “it was a phase” that would eventually disappear. He then confesses that he only pretended to be attracted to women to fit in with his friends.
This results in the song “Boredom”; which, continuing the minimalistic jazzy backing track, explores the loneliness Tyler experiences from hiding his sexuality. This track is juxtaposed with the upbeat, synth-heavy track, “I Ain’t Got Time!”; which is about the lack of time for people who are only interested in his fame. This shift in tempo and message indicates either a shift in Tyler’s attitude due to his increasing fame or his mind compensating for his loneliness by keeping him busy.
“I Ain’t Got Time!” is followed up by the minimalistic jazzy track, “911/Mr. Lonely”. In this track, Tyler returns to the theme of loneliness. He starts off the track by listing all the things he has done and bought, but it doesn’t matter because he is lonely. He ends the first part of the track with “If you know any DJs, tell ’em to call me at 911”; which implies that Tyler is feeling a bit suicidal due to his loneliness. The beat picks up in Part 2, reflecting the panic Tyler’s mind experiences from being lonely. He then ends the verse with “treat me like direct deposit, check in on me sometime, ask me how I’m really doin’, so I never have to press that 911”.
After a short interlude in track 11, Tyler expresses his darkest fears in tracks 12 and 13.
Tyler expresses all the worries that plague him in the very minimalistic track, “November”. He worries about misplacing trust, his music’s accessibility, and losing everything he earned in the first part of the track. After a short interlude of scattered voices revealing what their Novembers were, Tyler comes back in and addresses his lover to set up the next track.
“Glitter” is the song that Tyler leaves in his lover’s voice-mailbox. The first part of the track is Tyler confessing his love, with lines like “You light my firework, I feel like glitter”. This changes by the second verse, where Tyler admits that “this is one sided” and “we ain’t gon’ work out”. Tyler ends the verse with “please don’t save me”. At the end, the voice-mailbox tells Tyler that the message was not received.
Tyler ends the album with an up-tempo, sunny instrumental track that returns the album back to the happier tracks at the beginning. It seems to indicate that Tyler has returned to his “November” after finally confronting his fears with his confession in “Glitter”. This could also indicate the happiness created by finishing this album; which probably served as a way to reveal his true self.
Overall, Flower Boy is Tyler’s best work so far.
When Tyler the Creator dropped his first commercial album, Goblin, listeners were surprised to find a very vulnerable and relatable artist in the Hip-Hop community. This message was further pursued in his follow-up project, Wolf, but was lost in Cherry Bomb. Tyler now comes back in full force in Flower Boy, ignoring the disappointment of Cherry Bomb. He makes a return to the concepts he explored in his first two projects and fully fleshes them out. In conclusion, this is by far his most personal, consistent, and mature work so far. In “November” Tyler worries about his music’s accessibility and doubts if he ever made a classic. With the release of this album, Tyler can finally put that doubt to rest.
Best Tracks: “See You Again”, “Garden Shed”, “Boredom”, and “November”.
Worst Track: “Who Dat Boy”.