Making the Best out of the Worst

Image by Columbia Records (2019)

Igor by Tyler, The Creator

Opinions belonging to Luke Hobika

Best tracks: “I THINK;” “RUNNING OUT OF TIME;” “NEW MAGIC WAND”

Worst tracks: “PUPPET;” “WHAT’S GOOD”


Investing your entire life into one single person with whom you feel confident is a dangerous undertaking. Only after you are 110% certain that your attempts to gain the trust of the individual will show success should you embark upon the chance. Weeks, months, even years could go to waste if you misinterpret the signals from the desired person. In the end, they could use you for their own convenience. All of the effort you had committed for this person ultimately seems to go to waste. You head into a downward spiral full of sorrow, doubt, and wonders about how you got to this place. You are trapped in this sunken place for what appears like an eternity until an epiphany awakens you.

The phenomenon is bound to happen at least once in someone’s lifetime. So it comes to no surprise that it is the primary theme on west-coast artist Tyler, The Creator’s (Tyler Okonma) recent effort, Igor. For almost a decade now, Okonma has existed within the genre of hip hop. The music that he put out at the start of the decade (Goblin and Wolf) consisted of the most obscene messages of violence, sex, and drugs for the sake of shock value. Additionally, bombastic and haphazard instrumentals layered themselves within his earlier works in order to make the music even more obnoxious than they were with just the lyrics. Quite frankly, it is difficult to understand how such projects appealed to any ear, but they sure did assist Okonma in establishing his own lane.

Tyler, The Creator on September 29th, 2012

In 2017, Tyler tested the popular saying “the bigger the risk, the greater the reward.” He followed through with an attempt that most artists stray away from doing: Experimenting with sound. In July of 2017, Tyler sonically flipped 180 degrees with his fourth studio album, Flower Boy. Instead of boasts about vulgarities over coarse beats, Flower Boy chose to have cloudy, boom-bap, jazzy production compliment its intrinsic subject matter regarding personal matters of Tyler. Its sound walks a fine line between jazz rap and neo-soul, two genres that stimulate soothing tunes. Fans and critics alike accepted the album with open arms. That being said, it comes as no surprise that the music community was ecstatic when Tyler, The Creator announced that Igor, his fifth studio album, would be coming in the near future.

Whereas Flower Boy highlights the intimate issues of Tyler’s life, Igor focuses on narrating the massive influence just one individual could have on one’s life, especially when the feeling of love is involved. Igor sits comfortably at twelve tracks running for a total of 40 minutes, Tyler’s shortest effort to date. Though their appearances are not noted on the tracklisting, notable artists such as Solange, Kanye West, Playboi Carti, and Lil Uzi Vert assist Tyler with the overall tone of the album, which heavily contrasts the hesitant thoughts that brew within one’s mind with them executing that idea in order to attain that special someone. The opening track “IGOR’S THEME” is trivial in subject matter, but is dense in its blaring production consisting of beaming synthesizers, simplistic piano melody, and clear snare taps. Such sonic themes represent those that support the album in its entirety, themes that provoke numbing of the mind. The track abruptly cuts into “EARFQUAKE,” which begins the narrative of the album. The song signifies the internal and external reactions of Tyler realizing his overwhelming dependence on an individual despite them not returning the same behavior. Its instrumental is more capable of doing exactly this in comparison to the vocal contributions, including a lackluster, incomprehensible verse from Playboi Carti. The cherry, bubbly piano chords of the song mirror the personable persona that he is attempting to express to his lover, while the convoluted synths, distorted drums, and pitched vocals that juxtapose the lighthearted piece of the production emphasize the emotional struggles that continue to bog down Tyler’s mindset.

Tyler, the Creator during a 2014 performance

The battle between the devotion of love and devotion of self remains unresolved as Igor progresses. Following “EARFQUAKE” comes tracks similar in thematic composition yet increasing in passion. The doubtful “I THINK” and hesitant “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” display Tyler continuing to delay his efforts of desire in order to devise the possible consequences. The route that Tyler takes only sends him into more paranoia, ultimately leading to insanity. “NEW MAGIC WAND” marks the moment where Tyler opts for an alternative approach when confronting his wanted other, a violent and concerning alternative. The track is dense with scratchy vocals tied with grading electronic synth blares, two sounds that parallel the mindset of Tyler. Luckily, this period of delusions does not grow into a habitual attitude. Further on during “A BOY IS A GUN,” Tyler compares the person with whom he has fallen in love to the possible hazards that apply to a firearm. Repeated lines such as “Don’t shoot me down” of course reference, not the fear of an individual shooting another person with a firearm but the anxiety that worries Tyler when the notion of love comes knocking at his door. Made clear with the title of the track, his lover is indeed a male, further hinting towards Tyler’s bisexuality to which he hinted on “Garden Shed” of Flower Boy.

Tyler, The Creator connecting with his audience at the 2014 Pemberton Music Festival

On the latter half of Igor, Tyler unveils to himself the preoccupation of love for this one person that he has created for himself. “GONE, GONE /FOREVER” strips the artificial vocals that Tyler uses in order to mask his true feelings, thus returning him to a state of mental sanity. The alteration of production styles from into a cloudy atmosphere as well as clear admittances of his feeling through the lyrics of proceeding songs signify the personal freedom that Tyler now takes for granted. Even though Tyler confidently restates “I don’t love you anymore” on “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE,” he is more than willing to remain friends with his past lover by gently questioning them “Can we be friends?” on “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” The humble, airy vibe of the closing track completely juxtaposes the self-distressed nature of the starting tracks, confirming Tyler’s transformation from being helplessly manipulated under the thumb of his lover to being more understanding to the potential destruction upon himself that could precipitate if he was to fall in love to that extent once again.

Igor is an album that represents more than the internal struggles that Tyler, The Creator faces. Igor contains a story with a theme that proves that the most troubling times that we experience will ultimately grant us memories that we can reference during future occasions, provide us with bragging rights for being an individual who conquered such a hardship, and gift us with vital insights that we can enforce during future instances in life.