The 28-year-old has spent the past decade building up to his sixth full-length, a glossily-produced album that finds Tyler leaning deeper into earnest emotional expression than ever before.
IGOR sounds as if it was finished in a giant rented house on synthesizers and cocaine, past its deadline and way over budget. It’s big and glossy and follows a branded EP for the latest Grinch movie; it’s dotted with stars who go uncredited, but whose very uncredited-ness is part of a brief but elaborate PR blitz. It’s about a breakup, obviously
IGOR is Tyler, the Creator’s sixth album if you include Bastard, which you should. That record was dumped onto MySpace and Tumblr on Christmas Day in 2009 and, by the end of the following year, had become a crude sort of rallying cry for fans who were largely young, male, and full of angst. Today it serves as a time capsule for the kind of abrasive DIY rap indebted to horrorcore and early Eminem that was made right as every facet of our lives was moving onto the internet
IGOR sounds nothing like Bastard, but it sounds very much like the music Tyler had always mused about making in the future. It’s strange to consider a record so unlike its predecessors to be the natural progression of an artist’s career, but it’s impossible to shake the feeling that Tyler spent this decade accumulating the musical chops and cultural capital necessary to make a record like this –– one that’s poppy without irony and aims to express earnest love and hurt where there was once sarcasm.
Not only do the guests on IGOR go unlisted, but Tyler’s voice is frequently manipulated to the point of anonymity. (Lil Uzi Vert, who seems perpetually poised to become rap’s biggest star, is merely added as texture on the album’s intro.) The voices are also, usually, slotted low in the mix. Like a careful bit of film editing, this nudges the audience’s focus toward the songs’ production and arrangements, which are, on the whole, smart and unindulgent. It also avoids the impulse to sell the experiments on the basis that it’s Tyler who’s making them: IGOR works on its own merits and in a vacuum, without relying on the audience’s goodwill or trying to score points simply for being diversionary. It’s as if he finally got the latitude to take a sizable creative risk and then decided, at some point during the sessions, to work without a net.