On Twitter, Tyler the Creator asked about his own record “what genre is this considered?”. That’s the question that I was left asking myself after listening to the 6th album from the Californian artist. IGOR is a record that tries to avoid categories as much as possible. Despite a lot of Twitter criticism, this isn’t a surprise – Tyler has often distanced himself from rap as a genre in the past in an effort to avoid expectations.
IGOR starts off very strong. Opener ‘Igor’s Theme’ opens with an oppressive drone, going into a stuttering beat. It sounds like Killing Joke brought into the digital age, wrapped in Parliament’s P-Funk. Then the space-age synths and what sounds like a violin sweeps in, just to make sure you’re not comfortable.
‘Earfquake’ is a mix of hip-hop and easy listening, complete with soppy, lovestruck lyrics. ‘I Think’ is a lot less openly wholesome – the refrain of “I think I’m falling in love” is sung over a minimalistic, snapping beat, “this time I think it’s for real” delivered in the same tone one could use to sing about the death of a relative.
‘Running Out of Time’ is one of the highlights of the album, again going back to the mix of easy listening and electronic, modern sounds. ‘New Magic Wand’ is a return to the first track. It’s oppressive and claustrophobic, the refrain of ‘don’t leave’ a cry of desperation. The underlying paranoia of relationships is perfectly captured by the line “I ain’t got no fear // ‘cept for that one day you won’t be here”. ‘A Boy is A Gun’ is the most normal rap song on the album, and even then that’s punctuated by Gospel style backing vocals.
Unfortunately, the album is front-loaded. I mean that the back end doesn’t match up to the front in terms of quality. There are flashes of quality – ‘What’s Good’ (with a cameo from slowthai) especially – but the remaining tracks fall short of what came before. While boldly continuing to bend genre, it’s just less seamless on the later tracks. ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ is especially jarring. If it wasn’t for this, IGOR would be a perfect album. It’s still excellent – but not quite perfect.
[Gabriel Rutherford – he/him – @GabeRuth_]
[Photo credit: Sam Rock]