Tyler, the Creator Provides a Deep Dive Into His Psyche With ‘Flower Boy’

There’s a lot to unpack with Tyler, the Creator’s new album. With a pre-release date leak and a ton of subsequent speculation about the California rapper’s sexual orientation, “Flower Boy” was primed for a huge reception. As the fourth studio album from the guy who puts the “odd” in Odd Future, this may just be the young emcee’s magnum opus.

“Flower Boy” was originally marketed as “Scum Fuck Flower Boy,” until he announced via Instagram that the actual title would be the former. On the surface, it’s easy to imagine record executives saying ‘nah’ for obvious reasons. This record is all Tyler, with production and composition coming entirely from himself, with no outside help (other than “Forward”) – he even designed the alternative album cover himself. Tyler’s inherent creativity is no secret. He is, after all, a successful rapper, but he’s also a superbly talented designer, director and showrunner. These creative outlets have combined for “Flower Boy.”

The story of this album is one of growth, as Tyler has traded in what some have perceived as his bratty persona featuring offensive and foul-mouthed lyrics for genuine introspection, unveiling his more calculated approach to music. Good friend and fellow Odd Future member Frank Ocean joins Tyler on “Where the Flower Blooms” — a track where the production itself blooms with color amidst his signature theramin-esque synths and industrial snares – and “911/Mr. Lonely,” the first half playing like a summer-tinged tune with Ocean and the second half very briefly featuring A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q. The collaborations continue as Lil Wayne drops in on “Droppin’ Seeds,” a short bar-centric track. While these names lend some extra fun to “Flower Boy,” their mainly inconsequential next to Tyler’s overall presence.

Each song flows seamlessly to the next, leaving little room for listener introspection, which is a shame because there’s much to think about. “Garden Shed” leaves the most to ponder. This single created viral waves upon its pre-album release as many thought Tyler was coming out of the closet. There’s been plenty in the past to suggest Tyler’s struggle with his sexual orientation, be it his tweets (From 2015: “I tried to come out the damn closet like four days ago and no one cared haha…”,” his art or his lyrics. British singer Estelle, a staunch LGBTQ supporter, joins Tyler on “Garden Shed” where the rapper thinks aloud “Garden shed for the garçons/Them feelings I was hidin’” and “Truth is, since a youth kid, thought it was a phase/Thought it’d be like the phrase “poof”: gone.”

Speculation aside, the album is a journey through the stunningly warped mind of a true artist. The single “Who Dat Boy” features A$AP Rocky as a back-alley surgeon who implants a white face atop Tyler’s after he unexpectedly blows up his in-house mad science lab. The video is both hilarious and attention-grabbing, capped off with a “911” teaser.

“Boredom,” another single, features Rex Orange County, Corinne Bailey Rae and Anna of the North singing on the topic of loneliness and boredom, yet somehow, as Tyler eluded via Twitter “its summer as hell.” This, followed directly by “I Ain’t Got Time!” where, during a break in the recording of Kanye’s “Life of Pablo,” he began making a track of his own. “I just started smacking, started clapping, making weird noises, added a boom boom boom, and I was gonna add a hook,” Tyler said of the process. “I was like, ‘Damn, Kanye should take this song,’” he continued. But in the humorous, self-deprecating, cosmic art project that is Tyler’s life, “(Kanye) didn’t like it.”

Flower Boy” is available July 21 on Apple Music.