Tyler, The Creator – as you may have guessed from his name – has always had a passion for creating. This is the reason why he’s always handled his production as well as his video direction and a myriad of other things. Over the time of his career he’s gradually become a creative force to be reckoned with, he’s always made his influences clear but carved his own sound and his own niche market. ‘Cherry Bomb’ doesn’t see him depart from this whatsoever, if anything he enhances this. This desire to create has driven him to challenge himself on his new album in a big way sonically.
‘I don’t really play by the rules’ Tyler says on the first track to the album ‘Death Camp’ and when you look at his music career it’s clear to see that he never has. He’s always out to defy expectations right down to the fact he refuses to do a serious freestyle on a radio show (and they’re much more entertaining because of that). Tyler has always taken influence from jazz and made extremely colourful and wacky beats with them. He’s amped it up completely on this album. Where Tyler’s previous albums have had some interesting production, the main focus was always on Tyler’s actual lyrics as he managed to become the poster boy for so many confused and disenchanted teenagers (mostly boys). Whereas this time he’s focused a whole lot more on the production of the album, going for a lot more of a dark sound. Tyler channels his passion for creating beats that feature live instrumentation and often show off Tyler’s talent as a pianist.
The problem is that without the witty humour that – although was patchy on his last albums – were entertaining at times, this album barely stands on its own two feet. Tyler has little-to-no presence on this album in terms of lyrical ability or even flow. Half the time it’s hard to actually tell if he is even rapping at any standard that we’re used to due to the fact that his voice has been pushed right to the back in the mixing and all the instruments are mixed so much further forward. (You will here this complaint a lot and you can be sure that his fans shall defend it, even though it doesn’t matter if Tyler intentionally did it).
The beat on the title track like many of the others on here, is actually extremely interesting. It’s extremely dark and distorted and feels like a barrage of noise hitting you in a similar way to how Death Grips do. The elephant in the room is that it’s not engaging in any way, shape or form. Tyler could be grunting about anything but you wouldn’t know because you can’t hear his vocals and the vocals themselves genuinely serve no purpose. There are moments where Tyler actually succeeds in making tracks like this with harsher noises like on the opening track, ‘Deathcamp’ which has Tyler channelling his love for Pharrell into a track that has extremely similar production values to N.E.R.D’s but a lot darker.
Tyler channels quite a lot of his other influences this album too with the lead single ‘Fucking Young’ sounding like he’s taken influence from some of the more pop orientated songs that Outkast have made. On the track ‘Buffalo’ he mixes breakbeats, synths and guitars superbly and topically he sounds reminiscent of Eminem on the MMLP where he talks about the influence he has over teens in a sadistic manner.
Some of the actual instrumentation itself on ‘Cherry Bomb’ is decent like on tracks like ‘Find Your Wings’ which is Tyler’s self-confessed favourite from the album. Sonically it doesn’t sound too far off what Thundercat and Flying Lotus did on Kendrick Lamar’s latest album. It’s not nearly as engaging as anything on there but does have a lot of interesting spots on it. But Tyler makes a lot of strange choices in his production that at times ruins a piece of genuinely brilliant music, he’ll have everything playing so loud all at once that it just sounds like a hodge podge of sounds instead of a coherent piece like on the song ‘Pilot’, where the mixing is so horrible that any creative process Tyler must have gone through is completely lost.
Some of the best moments from the LP come from when we hear a bit of the charismatic Tyler that he built his fanbase upon. ‘The Brown Stains Of Darkseese Latifah Part 6-12 (Remix)’ has him channelling his Eminem influence in the introduction before the song turns into one of the harder ones off of the album with an extremely textured thumping bass. Whereas the track with features from Kanye West and Lil Wayne, ‘Smuckers’ has some of the most interesting bars from Tyler from the whole album with him delivering some of his most crazed and frantic rhymes.
When actually digging into this album past an aesthetic level (which is already extremely hit or miss) you’ll find that topically Tyler isn’t really trying anything new. The songs generally aren’t as funny as what most of his fans will be used to, and he doesn’t seem to be playing any memorable characters. But that doesn’t mean that he is in any way maturing – you’ll find mountains more maturity on ‘Wolf’. Throughout this album Tyler talks frequently of rebelling, but then it’s to do with things like wearing your hat when you’re not supposed to. ‘Blow My Load’ is an example of a complete throwaway out of the many on this album, as he talks about wanting to sleep with a girl in ways that aren’t inventive, funny or entertaining.
It’s clear that Tyler put a lot of effort into making this album and in many ways you have to praise his ambition on ‘Cherry Bomb’. He has the potential to do something quite spectacular and constantly wants to push boundaries even though he wants to sound so much like his influences. Tyler jumps about so much in quality on this album finding both some of his best moments and his worst. One day we may see Tyler’s masterpiece and his full vision, I just don’t think even he knows what his vision is yet.
Best Tracks: Smuckers, The Brown Stains Of Darkseese Latifah Part 6-12 (Remix), Find Your Wings