On ‘Call Me If You Get Lost,’ Tyler, the Creator Taps Into Hip-Hop’s Past to Chart a Path to Its Future
In the age of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), sampling is a lost art form, but you wouldn’t know it from “Call Me If You Get Lost.” Not only does Tyler, the Creator utilize a wide variety of samples on his latest album, at one point he even stands on the shoulders of producing giant Prince Paul, whose eclectic collages on De La Soul’s first three albums revolutionized the hip-hop genre (while simultaneously hastening the arrival of the kind of litigation that would discourage their use). A sprawling, vibrant work of art waiting to become the soundtrack for a NSFW summertime pool party, “Call Me If You Get Lost” puts Tyler at odds with his trap-focused contemporaries but offers an element of unpredictability that’s consistently listenable while maintaining the industry outlier’s relevance in a genre increasingly defined by homogeneity.
Starting with the opener “Sir Baudelaire,” DJ Drama serves as hype man multiple times on the record, a poolside DJ calling out celebrities to sunbathers, while Tyler establishes baller status belying his natural eccentricities. “Cookie crumbs in the rolls, jet fuel scented vest / Swim trunks in the trunk, Geneva water the best,” he raps. “The passport lookin’ thick, the afro need a pick / My skin soak up the sun, ain’t shakin’ hands with you bums.” Over booming drum beats, “Corso” uses haunting pianos that evoke N.W.A.’s “Appetite For Destruction” as Tyler continues cataloguing his success: “I might buy a boat,” he says. By the time he gets to “Lemonhead,” the record feels (and sounds) like an earnest version of Hunter the Hungry, Chris Redd’s winking parody of him from “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping;” but as the track comes to an end, Frank Ocean sings a glorious, kind little melody while Tyler discusses his love for the color green, a reminder not just of the deep bench of talent he can draw on from Odd Future, but the multitudes of influence and inspiration from which he regularly draws.
Featuring Ty Dolla $ign and a verse from YoungBoy Never Broke Again, “Wusyaname” feels positively anachronistic thanks to a sample of H-Town’s “Back Seat (Wit No Sheets)” as the trio pitches woo in a familiar but decidedly unconventional fashion: “Stop playin’ and let me pay your momma debt off,” offers Tyler. “Lumberjack,” meanwhile, uses Prince Paul’s instrumental for the Gravediggaz’ menacing “2 Cups Of Blood” while he shouts out “my mother and my father [who] didn’t pull out” before offering the sage advice to always keep picnic blankets in the back seat of the whip since “You never know where the fuck you gon’ end up at.” Paying homage to “Slow Wind Blows,” the Penny Goodwin song it samples, the title of “Hot Wind Blows” announces a new era of luxury amplified by a guest verse from Lil Wayne, who sounds invigorated in a way he rarely does, double-timing his lyrics as Tyler follows his lead with the production and drops out the beat.
Tyler samples more flutes on “Massa” before dropping into a slurry, subdued beat that sounds like a great lost Madlib production, then teams up with Teezo Touchdown on the majestic “Runitup,” where the two of them celebrate-slash-rationalize spending money like there’s no tomorrow, and encourage listeners to ignore limits, be they on credit cards or otherwise: “When you in your room and you starin’ at the ceilin’ / Dreamin’, I want you to know it’s no ceilings / I want you to notice that feelin’ / I want you to leave and go for it.” He then makes his biggest political statement on “Manifesto,” trading verses with Domo Genesis as the two of them wrangle institutionalized racism, religion passed down from slave owners, cancel culture and the challenges of growing up as an artist and individual achieving a level of success, access and visibility. He immediately contradicts that introspection on “Sweet / I Thought You Wanted To Dance,” a two-part romantic treatise that employs almost every cliché in slow-jam history (“God gotta know he might have peaked when he made you,” “Darling, you’re the wind under my wings,” “They should call you sugar, you’re so sweet”), but the harmonies between Tyler and Brent Fiayaz are so pretty that it almost doesn’t matter.
After an interlude featuring his mother describing her dedication to fighting — quite literally — for her children, Tyler taunts his critics on “Rise!,” starting with a proclamation from DJ Drama: “Dedicated to the haters, the non-believers, and the disgruntled / Oh, no, I don’t want you to leave / I want you to stay right here and watch Tyler rise to the top.” Tyler’s hard work and good fortune extends to his skincare on “Blessed,” before he partners with Pharrell and Lil Uzi Vert for “Juggernaut,” a blistering track that gives the Neptune license to play at being hard over oppressive, blown-out drums. He wraps the album on a more romantic but no less complex note with “Wilshire” and “Safari;” on the first, he chronicles a growing attraction with a friend’s girlfriend while assessing whether it’s worth it to betray the former for the latter, and on the second, he takes off to destinations unknown in a final celebration of wealth and good taste. Heavy with flute samples and the jazzy smoothness that formed a cornerstone of the Native Tongues’ heyday, Tyler’s sophistication as a producer has matched his growth as a lyricist while maintaining an appealing, febrile spontaneity.
Ultimately, “Call Me If You Get Lost” honors a musical tradition that goes back decades while pushing the art form of hip-hop into new, adventuresome territory. The album title may literally quote lyrics from more than one of its tracks, but it feels more like an offer he’s extending to the genre as a whole. Few artists encapsulate hip-hop’s past and future at the same time, but not only does he do it effortlessly, he serves as a guide for the rest of us, from listeners to colleagues, who may be uneasy about following in his footsteps.
“Call Me If You Get Lost” releases June 25 on Apple Music.