Image Credit: Columbia Records
I am an unapologetic Odd Future fanboy. Rising to fame with their ridiculous videos, anarchic live shows and gritty, violent lyricism, recent projects have shown the collective leaning into a more mature style with personal and refined albums such as Frank Ocean’s pop odyssey Blonde and Earl Sweatshirt’s stunning and personal Some Rap Songs. The perfect example of this maturation was Tyler The Creator’s last project Flower Boy, a tightly produced and soulfully performed hip hop album that packed the rapper’s distinct personality alongside glitzy instrumentals without abandoning the swagger and charisma that made him a star.
Where Flower Boy left off, *Igor *picks up. Tackling production, singing and rapping, Tyler swaggers through 12 unique tracks with ease, effortlessly blending textures and styles. It’s as colourful and crazy as one would expect but somehow still carries the refined polish that made Flower Boy such a commercial success. Abandoning most of the raw grit and sparse beats of his early work, the instrumentals and production on Igor are gorgeous, dense and layered. There are moments of pure synth porn, inventive sampling and colourful de-tuned piano chords that are a far cry from the boom-bap influence of Bastard. This being said, some of the most compelling moments on Igor are the overwhelming walls of grimy and fuzzy synth that perfectly sit under Tyler’s deep and guttural bars. Vocals are often tastefully drenched in reverb or swamped with auto-tune, taking on a melodic quality of their own and forming part of a gorgeous soundscape that fills the bulk of the album. His style is his most refined yet however he still manages to embrace the quirky lo-fi elements that made him such a unique character in the modern rap scene.
Instrumental highlights include the soulful pop sensibilities and quirky refrains of ‘Earfquake’ as well as the roaring barrage of distorted synth and offbeat drums that drive the anthemic ‘What’s Good’. Igor flits between the two contrasting styles with relative ease, something that many rappers would struggle with.
Lyrically the album doesn’t have the same playful wordplay and tongue-in-cheek violent aesthetic of Bastard or more personal and emotive heft of Flower Boy but it’s still a noticeable cut above your usual club-night hip hop. Covering the rapper’s usual topics of ego, friendship and relationships, there's a definite motif of love and loss that interplay throughout the album, culminating in the soulful yet melancholy ‘Are We Still Friends?’. These topics are tackled with wry humour, surreal imagery and chaotic paradoxes that are something of a trademark for the California rapper.
Features and cameos are peppered across the project, from Santigold’s soaring backing vocals on ‘New Magic Wand’ to Kanye’s subtle backing vocals popping up on ‘Puppet’ and Playboi Carti’s brilliantly slurred verse on ‘Earfquake’. Other features include King Krule, Mile High Club, Slowthai, Kali Uchis and Pharrell Williams. It’s a brilliantly diverse mix of collaborators that adds to the mismatched and loose style that makes the album such a joy to listen to. I can't count the amount of times I've had Igor on repeat over the past few days and each time I find something new to love about it.
This idea of synthesis ties the whole album together, bringing together a disparate collection of styles, tones and artists into a cohesive and captivating Frankenstein’s monster of a album. No wonder it’s called Igor.
A well earned 5/5.