While hip-hop media has been fixated on the line about “kissing white boys since 2004,” the truth is that Tyler, The Creator’s 2017 album Flower Boy is much more than a revelation about his sexuality.
In fact, the reference is only in passing, buried mid-verse on “I Ain’t Got Time!” and again on “Garden Shed” when he says he “thought it was a phase.” Stylistically and lyrically, Flower Boy shows us a softer, more thoughtful Tyler who seems to have moved past the vulgar, sometimes violent rhymes that made Odd Future and his early solo work famous.
On Flower Boy, Tyler ditches his shock jock persona and dark, aggressive sound, instead opting for mellow, sun-soaked beats and lyrics that probe emotional complexities.
Flower Boy introduces us to a new Tyler that seems interested in cultivating lyrical and sonic beauty instead of testing his listeners’ tolerance for profanity. “See You Again” featuring soul singer Kali Uchis, for instance, is an adorable ode to a crush, with gorgeous, swelling strings and trumpet riffs that are probably the influence of Odd Future-affiliated jazz group The Internet. “911/Mr. Lonely,” featuring Frank Ocean, whose velvety voice is all over the album, makes poetry out of boredom and depression: “Check in on me sometime/Ask me how I’m really doin’/So I never have to press that 911.”.
Siren-like synths (that will sound familiar to old-school Odd Future fans) and frantic, uneasy drum beats are offset by dreamy strings and jazzy improv, melding Flower Boy’s 14 tracks into a cohesive listening experience that accurately illustrates the rapper’s ups and downs.