When Tyler, the Creator wasn't bludgeoning listeners with purposefully blown-out production on 2015 LP Cherry Bomb, he was treating them to his most fleshed-out neo-soul sounds to date, complete with choirs, jubilant strings and vibraphones courtesy of Roy Ayers. Flower Boy finds these particular influences in full bloom, starkly opposing its predecessor's frustratingly splintered nature to stand as Tyler's most musically and lyrically focused effort to date.
Less "kill people, burn shit, fuck school" than ever, the former Odd Future leader's shock-rap has been traded in for introspection, without the help of Dr. T.C. voiceovers or Wolf Haley alter egos. Highlight "Boredom" finds Tyler's "eyeballs…turning to drywall" as he sits in his room waiting for friends to call, admitting later on "911" that he's "the loneliest man alive" and that he's become something of a materialist thanks to the McLaren and Tesla.
Much has been made of Tyler's lyrical references to his own love life, saying he's been "kissing white boys since 2004" on "I Ain't Got Time!" and dreaming of partners that look like River Phoenix or young Leo DiCaprio — a drastic change, considering how long he'd been using his other favourite F-word. "See You Again" finds his romantic hopes dashed in sweetest musical fashion, Kali Uchis playing perfect foil to him gently singing, "I can only see your face when I close my eyes."
Regardless of whether Tyler has fully matured as a person (spoiler: he thankfully hasn't), the growth exhibited with Flower Boy shouldn't go unnoticed. It's high time the naysayers stopped to smell the roses. (Columbia)