Tales of a Lone Wolf: A review of Tyler, The Creator’s “WOLF”

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By: Victor Anderson

Once again we’re back in the mind of Tyler, The Creator and he is taking us on a journey through his schizoid-reality. We’re at Camp Flog Gnaw and we are introduced to Samuel, a troubled and defiant adolescent teen who is dating a girl named Salem. Wolf is new to camp and is instantly exiled from Samuel’s friend circle. As the album progresses Wolf develops a crush on Salem and they begin to spend time together, hence making Samuel jealous and becoming Wolf’s arch-rival.

Tyler channels himself through both of the alter-egos, so depending on the song you could be hearing from, Wolf or Samuel and Tyler sometimes manages to leak out. But the vocal interludes sprinkled throughout the album kind of help you pinpoint who’s who.

Tyler provides some interesting flow on this album and isn’t afraid to try different things when mixing up his production formula. Now and in the past, his lyrics have always seemed to be self-therapeutic–kind of like a diary or a journal and for some reason he’s choosing to expose himself to us—-the listener. So, you hear a lot about his excursions in Europe, his struggle with fame and that darn roach that launched him to the top—-a place he’s not sure he wants to be. But at the same time he can’t stop what he’s doing because now he’s the breadwinner for his family and friends and has a role to fill; the role of supporter. Ironically, over two years ago he was the dependent one. He also mentions the dichotomy of being damn-near straight edge and being surrounded by his friends who are anything but that. But that’s where his best pal, Slater comes in and they are granted with some bonding time.

Oh, but a Tyler, The Creator project can’t be complete without some references to his favorite things. He has to rep his set, GOLF WANG, Loiter Squad and of course, the box logo Supreme.

Other lyrical content is subject matter that dates all the way back to his first album, BASTARD. The song “ANSWER” deals with Tyler’s lack of a father and it’s filled with sincere angst but at the same time it’s a feeling of him still longing for his dad to be there.

Overall, the album is a wrapped up in warm colors and summer vibes. The production follows a general theme of graceful and elegant chord progressions but with a blend of blissful off minor sounds that are somehow aesthetically pleasing. With the help of people like Frank Ocean, Erykah Badu, Syd tha Kyd and others, there happens to be this ‘90s thread of R&B and neo-soul that is woven in and out of the album.

Tyler always managed to double up on the 10th track of all of his past projects but this time (with it being his third solo project) he decided to throw a third song on the end. The mellow production and the simple reverbed lyrics on, “PARTY ISN’T OVER” is easily infectious and it makes one want to ride tandem bicycles on the boardwalk at night with a breezy dame. “CAMPFIRE” has a similar vibe leaving you with the warm feeling only a log fire could bring and the craving of s’mores and a beautifully lit night sky. “BIMMER” could easily serve as the morning after when you and your main broad get into some beach shenanigans.

“IFHY” follows track 10 and is the heart of the record and really represents the sound of the album.

“I fucking hate you, but I love you.”

The instrumentation is haunting but gorgeous and represents the love that he feels. The lyrics are the epitome of genuine jealousy and hatred and are expressed through Tyler’s raspy, baritone voice. And just when the influence of this song starts to make sense, Pharrell appears and makes the song complete.

This song is the turning point of the album and you can say that it’s Samuel’s turn to shine. The production gets a little grittier and eerier. With the help of Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler delivers a verse referencing everything you would want him to draw attention to on a track called, “RUSTY.”

The album also wouldn’t be complete without a fun-hype track starring all of his non-rap friends. It was Tyler’s attempt at trap and you can just imagine them all hanging out at a skate park and rapping their verses for fun. Suddenly, WOLF transitions from reckless chaos to the calm and soothing jazz inspired track that is, “TREEHOME95.”

After a rambunctious, sporadic song called, “TAMALE,” Tyler decides to come to a conclusion with his final track, “Lone.”

The dreamy, elevator music that one would hear in a ‘70s Blaxploitation film really hits home when Tyler lets down all barriers and explains his current life in a reminiscent way. In the last verse he talks about his sick grandmother and delivers an enticing narrative.

After freshly listening to the album, the feeling you get when leaving a movie theater might come to mind. You have highlights that kind of blur together but overall you just have a weird feeling and you know you just experienced something but you can’t seem to put your finger on it. It’s like a rollercoaster ride, but of brain stimulation and emotion. Like a rollercoaster, you’ll want to experience this album over and over during the summer.

One last thing.

There is an interesting fact about the naming of the intro and outro tracks. Every intro track is named after the album and the last track on, “BASTARD” was titled, “INGLORIOUS.” So, if Tyler sees himself as an inglorious bastard, ultimately he must also see himself as a Lone Wolf…

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