Photo Credit: Tyler, The Creator via YouTube
Tyler Gregory Okonma, better known as Tyler, the Creator, is leagues ahead of the competition on the trap-influenced West Coast hip-hop scene of today. When he released Flower Boy back in 2017, it was the first sign that something big was in the making – a huge leap away from his chaotic past represented in the alienating mess on albums such as 2015’s Cherry Bomb and 2011’s Goblin that even saw him banned in 2015 from visiting the United Kingdom from three to five years due to some controversial lyrics, not at all appreciated by Theresa May’s Conservative party. With 2019’s IGOR, he turned inwards to explore sexuality and relations, while musically moving away from hip-hop to approach neo-soul, reflected in songs such as “A Boy Is A Gun.” With CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, Tyler returns with his third great album in a row, making for a rare three-great-albums streak that truly earns him a spot among the greatest rappers of the 21st century.
You can immediately tell that Tyler has been thinking about this one. With his UK ban revoked, Tyler and his side-kicking narrator DJ Drama introduce him as Tyler Baudelaire, a literate reference to the French poet Charles Baudelaire whose most famous work, 1857’s Les Fleurs du Mal (translated as The Flowers of Evil) was banned for being too explicit. Yep, he listened during his linguist classes after all. But don’t be fooled by his romanticism here: much of CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST features some of the most hard-hitting and word-spitting rapping we’ve heard from him since Cherry Bomb. After a gazing introduction, the record violently kicks off with the menacing “CORSO”, where Tyler, despite his presumed perfectness ends up failing to impress his love interest (“In the end she picked him, I hope when they f*ckin’ // She still thinkin’ of me ‘cause I’m that perfect”), concluding in some brilliant, old-school Tyler, the Creator-humor (“Remember I was rich, so I brought me some new emotions // And a new boat, ‘cause I rather cry on the ocean”).
The following “LEMONHEAD”, featuring a relatively unknown 42 Dugg, hits even harder before that jazz lounge-like interlude interferes and introduces the soulful “WUSYANAME”, where Tyler again has fallen in love with a “malnourished”-looking, lady. This ever-changing pacing continues throughout the record, from the hardcore hip-hop of “JUGGERNAUT” and “LUMBERJACK” through the reggae rhythms of “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE”, the contemporary R&B of “RISE!”, and the seductive flute on the album-ending “SAFARI.” There might not be any obvious standouts such as “EARFQUAKE” or “See You Again” here and many songs are linked together in a way that encourages you to listen to the album as a whole but you can say that this album is a prime example of being more than just the sum of its parts.
Tyler, the Creator’s transformation from a raw and unpolished young talent to a cultivated and intelligent artist has been one of the most impressive artistic developments in history, and that’s not even mentioning the incredible complexity of the wonderful production. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST captures an artist who might see himself as a modern equivalent to Charles Baudelaire but has his boyish playfulness intact, resulting in a record with layer upon layer of emotions, humor, and creativity. Nothing can describe it better than the lyric at the end of “CORSO” does: “I don’t even like using the word ‘b*tch’ // It just sounded cool.”