ALBUM REVIEW: Tyler, The Creator’s Bonkers New Persona Baudelaire Harks Back To The Days Of ‘Yonkers’

© Pitchfork, 2021

Tyler, The Creator is back – and he is on top form, with hip-hop harking back to the GOBLIN days of yore…

By Emily Read

Upon my first listen of Call Me If You Get Lost, on the long drive home from Manchester to Kent, on what was the final home journey of my entire university experience, the sheer musical diversity of Tyler, the Creator’s new musical project filled me not with dread as to how to face real life after four years of the student bubble, but left me excited for the future. I took the opening lyrics of ‘LUMBERJACK’ seriously, and decided to follow Sir Tyler Baudelaire’s vision for this album and use it in my own life: “Always keep the picnic blankets in the back… cos you never know where the fuck you gon’ end up at”. 

Tyler Baudelaire, Tyler’s new persona who we are introduced to from the very first track, reflects the newfound sense of culture and worldliness he has gained since moving on from the previous persona, the heartbroken antihero IGOR. Baudelaire, no doubt inspired by the Swiss-French cultural awakening he experienced during the Geneva trip he mentions on several occasions, is however still not perfect. Whilst remaining a complex character, filled with contradictions and remaining just as vulnerable as he was on his previous album, IGOR, Tyler uses the persona of Sir Baudelaire to show us how unlimited he is as an artist in terms of theme and musical genre. In doing this, Tyler Baudelaire excites the listener and highlights his growth as an artist and as an individual, marking a sharp turn from the running theme of heartbreak in IGOR. 

Whilst still staying true to his roots in hip-hop, with tracks such as ‘LEMONHEAD’ and ‘JUGGERNAUT’ providing the goods for lovers of hard-hitting rap bangers, it is tracks such as ‘WUSYANAME’ and ‘SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE’ that show his evolution into an artist capable of incorporating many musical influences into an album. Accompanying Tyler on this musical odyssey is producer DJ Drama, who some on the internet were quick to label as ‘annoying’ for his ad libs, yet whose energy throughout the album is nothing short of infectious, heightening the sense of excitement engendered by the variations in genre. ‘WUSYANAME’ evokes a feeling of nostalgia for early noughties summers through its sampling of R&B jams and lyrics detailing falling in love with someone you just met, whereas ‘SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE’ is a 10 minute journey from synth-pop to reggae, again taking the listener to new and exciting places never before heard from Tyler the Creator. 

CMIYGL is also just as thematically diverse as it is musically. Whilst IGOR chose to focus on the breakdown of a relationship, love is just one of the themes he tackles in this album. Tracks such as ‘WILSHIRE’ and ‘CORSO’ detail his experiences in a love triangle, which ultimately ends with Tyler discarded, giving us an insight into Tyler’s introspection as to his own sexuality and thoughts of morality surrounding the illicit relationship. 

Meanwhile, ‘MANIFESTO’ is a response to his white audience’s expectations of him, in particular regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. Lyrics such as “Lil’ white bitch gon’ say “You need to say something about that” “You need to say somethin’ ’bout black—” Bitch, suck my—” remind the listener that black artists don’t owe social commentary to white people simply because they are black and in the public eye, and also reminds us that Tyler himself has never been one to stray from controversy. However, ‘MANIFESTO’ still offers a nuanced approach to the situation, wondering “Am I doin’ enough or not doin’ enough?…I feel like anything I say, dawg, I’m screwin’ shit up”, highlighting not only the complexity of the matter at hand, but also the personal growth Tyler has made since his ‘Bastard’ era. 

Now, after multiple listens to CMIYGL, I am still able to find snippets of tracks that are sonically different to the rest of the album, and to greater appreciate moments I had previously overlooked, underlining how this multifarious album continues to provide new listening experiences upon each visit. As Tyler, the Creator pushes the boundaries of genre and style, I can’t help but wait with impatience for his next step in the music world. 

Call Me If You Get Lost is available on all good streaming platforms as of 25 June 2021.

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