'By Jon Furson
Tyler the Creator is back with his sixth album, IGOR. IGOR is Tyler’s latest development of his ever evolving sound. Through his career, he has gone from dark, aggressive albums with amateur production to bright, lyrical love songs with professional production. With this latest album, he has found the perfect balance between the two. His last album Flower Boy was the greatest success of his career up to this point. IGOR continues the themes Tyler began on Flower Boy about love and heartbrokenness. Similarly it also revolves around Tyler being gay. Tyler knew that any project following Flower Boy would have to be strong to avoid living in the shadow of it. It is clear he did all he could to escape Flower Boy’s shadow, and he’s done so triumphantly.
While many of the same themes of Flower Boy can still be found in IGOR, they are found in a different setting with different characters. On Flower Boy, Tyler was in search of finding himself and someone to love. However, with IGOR, it is clear that he has come to realize who he is and is now in a relationship with someone else. This relationship is strained, however, because the other person is feeling the same things Tyler felt on Flower Boy. Many allusions to Tyler’s sexuality can be found in this album; primarily because the relationship this album focuses on is with a man. The main problem is a girl that Tyler’s love can’t seem to keep his mind off. The use of this girl is most likely a symbol for him being able to leave behind relationships with women and struggling to come out of the closet. Eventually, Tyler and this person end up breaking things off. The album ends with Tyler being thankful for the relationship he had and hoping he can still maintain some sort of connection with this person. This bisexual love triangle narrative makes this one of the most creative breakup albums of the decade.
Tyler The Creator albums are always famous for the creative selection of features. Flower Boy featured hip-hop icons like ASAP Rocky, Lil Wayne, and Frank Ocean, while propelling the careers of indie artists like Rex Orange County, Kali Uchis, and Anna of The North. Tyler has again delivered a star-studded list of features for IGOR. Across this album, Solange provides choir harmonies to the choruses and background vocals, similar to the way Frank Ocean used Beyoncé’s vocals on his Blonde track “Pink and White.” Using one of the most popular modern hip-hop artists in a unique and perfectly executed fashion, Tyler has Lil Uzi Vert sing for “IGOR’S THEME.” The first actual rap verse of the album is delivered by Playboi Carti on “EARFQUAKE.” The final rap feature on IGOR is Kanye West’s verse on “PUPPET.” West’s vocals are heard throughout the song as backing vocals, adding to the soul flavor of the song. CeeLo Green gives his vocals for the chorus on “GONE, GONE,” giving a sad song his signature uplifting feel. The final song features two of the most famous artists in music of the past twenty years. Pharrell provides the final verse to the album with Jack White providing electric guitar throughout the song.
Flower Boy was applauded for its fusion of genres. With IGOR, Tyler has perfectly fused disco and soul into modern hip-hop, layered with his signature production style. His influences can clearly be heard on this project. He has stated many times before how much he loves Stevie Wonder. For years, he has chased making an album that lives in the grandeur of an album like “Songs in the Key of Life.” Tyler has finally achieved this feat with IGOR. While this project features the soul of something like a Wonder project, it also possesses the power of a masterpiece hip-hop album like Kanye West. West’s influence is heard all across this album in its production of songs like the disco hip-hop anthem “I THINK” and soulful hip-hop tracks like “A BOY IS A GUN.”
The production on IGOR is what makes this album a masterpiece. Since the beginning, Tyler has been his own producer for all his albums. His early projects were surely amateurish, but he developed a signature sound. As each new project came, his production has become more refined and professional. This album serves as the collection of all the great production techniques he has come to use before as well as other new experimental elements. One of these elements is his voice being heavily pitch shifted to emulate various emotions throughout the album, allowing him to sing instead of rap. This allows him to sing lyrics instead of rapping. In fact, this album features a perfect split between Tyler rapping and singing. However, this isn’t the first time he has pitched his vocals like this. In the Odd Future’s early days, pitch shifted vocals can be heard on many of the tracks. Tyler has finally perfected this technique with IGOR.
One of the greatest elements of the songs on IGOR is the drums. This is the greatest showcase of drums on any of Tyler’s work so far. The drum sample selections are aggressive, and the drum machines are beautifully placed. Right from the first song, “IGOR’S THEME,” the drums are powerful and funky. The snare is sharp and rarely hits on the downbeat. With “I THINK,” the sample of toms is perfectly paired with four on the floor drum machine making the track a modern disco masterpiece. The drums to “WHAT’S GOOD” are similar to this as the backbone of the song is a disco beat. While this beat stays consistent throughout the song, its feel effortlessly flows between a dancefloor anthem to a fiercely aggressive rap banger. “THANK YOU” brings back the drumline-esque beats that were a signature part of Tyler’s sound on early albums like Wolf. For these reasons, this is the greatest drum production on any one of Tyler’s albums.
The next most distinguished part of the production on this album is the keyboards. The keyboards on this album effortlessly flow between rigid synth basses and lo-fi pianos. The saw bass sound on “IGOR’S THEME” can be heard in some way on every track on the album. The song also features classic high pitched, slightly out of tune synth sounds that Tyler is known for. The songs graceful exits from the bass synth into piano chords and sequencer, perfectly transitioning into “I THINK.” For this song, Playboi Carti raps over only a lo-fi, slightly out of tune, piano, one of Tyler’s signature production elements not heard anywhere else in hip-hop. The outros on this project are fitted perfectly with differing keyboards. “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” closes out with a Fender Rhoades with sequencer creating a sci-fi soundscape. “WHAT’S GOOD” ends with a soft piano contrasting the heavy bass lines and drums and aggressive vocals throughout the song.
IGOR is not an album that comes to you at first listen. This album demands to be listened to front to back several times. The more times it is listened to, the desire to hear it grows and it eventually shows its beauty and perfection. This is by far Tyler’s greatest success as a writer and producer. The writing and production of IGOR clearly makes it the best album of 2019 up to this point. Time will tell what will be defined as Tyler’s greatest album; however, this album is a clear contender for the number one spot as of now.
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