By: COURA FALL
For twenty four seconds, the heavy synths that dominate "IGOR'S THEME" play. In the moment, under a spotlight and behind a glittering silver curtain emerges a man donning a blonde wig, glasses and a custom suit; a man whose career has taken the most non-linear approach to critical acclaim in recent memory. Tyler, The Creator has embarked on this trek to stages in arenas across the globe hundreds, if not thousands of times. But the IGOR tour, which revolves around the caricature that frames his sixth album of the same name, exemplifies the drastic yet fascinating evolution that this artist has undergone.
Tyler, The Creator was once an artist that people widely condemned for his vulgar lyrics, which included homophobic and violent themes. However, when he took the opportunity on his fifth release to open up about his identity and reverse course, it came as a shock to many and was the catalyst for the major changes he has undergone sonically, thematically and personally. He went from an angsty teenager discussing murder and the abandonment of his father, to passionately singing about an unrequited lover and celebrity. Normally, consistency is appreciated in music, simply because it is so rare for artists to can sustain both evolution and artistic excellence. However, with the accompaniment of dazzling visuals and a raw performance, we can see how Tyler, The Creator has managed to master both the aspects of growth and artistry while staying true to himself.
Up until two years ago, I was not a Tyler, The Creator fan. His crude personality and off-brand lyrics were unappealing to me. When listening to songs like "Yonkers" and "IFHY" from earlier in his discography, I couldn't understand how such disturbing content created his massive fanbase. But it wasn't until Flower Boy that I completely changed my mind. The decrease in obscenity and increase in introspection, sincerity and vulnerability was fascinating. Accompanied by complementary features, aggressive bars and softer production, I realized that this was a completely new side to this once controversial artist. In opening up about his sexuality, materialism, loneliness and nostalgia, the album reflected this new side of Tyler: refined, composed and more nuanced than ever. Tyler began to embody what all of us as people go through: new versions of ourselves through major experiences.
Upon the release of his latest and most renowned release to date, IGOR, I was excited to see what Tyler was going to do next, especially after the extremely warm reception to his previous release. IGOR truly is my one of my favorite albums of all time. Using heartbreak as fuel, Tyler embraces the role of Igor, a villainous monster incapable of love. He shares his chronicle of being someone who shied away from love to fully embracing it and allowing it to destroy him in the end. From begging his lover not to leave on "EARFQUAKE," to declaring that "I'm never going to fall in love again," on GONE, GONE/THANK YOU, Tyler sheds the hard exterior that defined his come-up and adopts emotional openness instead. At this point he hasn't just changed personally in embracing his queerness in what can be a homophobic medium, but also sonically in experimenting with intricate chords, vocal distortion and complex production. IGOR represents the furthest step in Tyler's evolution, as where he began and where he is today represent virtually two different artists. The complexity of IGOR and its themes of adoration, possession, frustration and apathy show how the journey of falling in love is universal and that no one is immune to it, including one of the biggest names in hip-hop.
Having the appreciation for the latter half of Tyler's discography, seeing him live would translate his growth into reality. His eighteen track setlist was accompanied by a gorgeous piano solo of "EARFQUAKE" with flames surrounding him, a distorted projection of himself in costume on screen singing "Boredom" and wide camera angles capturing his every move to the upbeat "WHAT'S GOOD". The minimal display was opposed by his lively presence and spirited voice, as he fully embodied the caricature that exemplified his feelings . With the audience serving almost as singers surrounding him, people belted the words to his songs with extreme passion, as we all took in Tyler's newest metamorphosis. The connection between the audience and Tyler, The Creator got me thinking about how many of those attendees were just like me, appreciating how far he has come recently? Would half those people have been at a Tyler, The Creator several years prior? His incredible development as an artist has made him more and more loved with every release. With IGOR as his magnum opus, Tyler, The Creator fulfills the goals that many artists hope to achieve, that when they look back on their beginnings, they see the clear progress that they have made and that they still have so far to go. Tyler, through music, truly actualizes the goals of our existence: to grow and get better with time. As I await his next release and as the world anticipates his next self, I'll try to follow that same model, with IGOR playing in the background.