Album number six for Tyler is perhaps his most focused and conceptual piece yet, transcending his previous work and taking the next bold leap in his artistic career as well as his personal life. IGOR is a thoroughly laden project that proves once and for all that Tyler Okonma is one of the true pioneering minds of our time; taking all creative possibilities and multiplying them by a million.
Tyler, The Creator has been an artist I have held close to my heart for almost a decade now. My first memories of hearing his Odd Future work as well as the Goblin album as a wide-eyed 13 year old are breakthrough moments for me in my musical indulgence. I feel like I’ve been on this journey alongside Tyler; from Bastard all the way to today so needless to say I was so excited for this latest album to be released.
2017’s Flower Boy album took Tyler to new heights, it ditched his rough exterior and embraced more warmth and beauty to his music. We all saw it coming, he’s always been a visionary in terms of his influences and how he crafts the music he creates; you could hear on Cherry Bomb that a leap of faith was on the horizon, with Flower Boy being exactly that. Grammy nominated, platinum selling and generally far more cohesive; it became his best album in an instant and one which may be difficult to follow.
Well, if you thought his chess move from Cherry Bomb to Flower Boy was as big as taking the Queen, then his step to IGOR should be considered checkmate. It feels like an almost entire separation from his previous work and movement to a clean slate, a lane that he has singlehandedly crafted for himself.
IGOR is as creatively diverse as it gets, aiming for the “less is more” approach lyrically; while being so bold and challenging in the production that it becomes near impossible to avoid.
The ferocity of the drums and distortion on introductory track IGOR’S THEME are in-your-face and make you feel like something huge is about to happen on this album. The fuzzy, bass-boosted sound is a common theme on the production of IGOR and one which has been the by-product of some of Tyler’s best ever beats.
The punchy and rapid fire NEW MAGIC WAND beat is reminiscent of Tyler’s old production works but is instead met with far more subtle delivery in the vocals. Perhaps the one true rap song on this album is WHAT’S GOOD, the utterly infectious anthem with such abrasive production in the verses before transitioning into smooth synthesisers in the bridge.
The main bulk of Tyler’s production on IGOR is tactical sampling, piano keys and angelic pedals. The anthemic sounds of the likes of A BOY IS A GUN and I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE make the album have a 70s feel while also maintaining it’s undeniable modernity and forward thinking.
Lyrically, Tyler tells us a story on this album. It’s a love story of IGOR, someone I assume to be Tyler’s alter-ego, and his journey through romance with another man who has a girlfriend. The album’s cohesion gives it such a cinematic feel that you often forget you’re listening to an album and not a very abstract audiobook.
He is as lyrically daring as he’s ever been on here, looking at the emotional ups and downs of a fledging love; whether it be obsession, anger, disappointment or forgiveness. Early tracks like EARFQUAKE (my favourite song of the year for sure) and I THINK show Tyler in a desperate state as he is confessing his love for this person in the hope they’ll choose him. The middle act of the album with songs like A BOY IS A GUN and PUPPET shows Tyler’s realisation that he’s fallen too far and is starting to see how damaging it can be. “I’m your puppet, you control me” sings Tyler as he whimsically accepts his fate. GONE GONE / THANK YOU sees the end of this romance while the last two songs take on a different atmosphere entirely as Tyler tries to maintain friendship with this person. He cannot accept them not being in his life at all.
Feature wise IGOR is a rich display of artistic difference but they aren’t obvious straight away. The obvious ones came in the form of Playboi Carti on EARFQUAKE with his unique style, Kanye on PUPPET as he delivered an 808’s & Heartbreak style performance, and Pharrell Williams on ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?
The other features keep themselves very secretive and require plenty of attention. Lil Uzi Vert is on IGOR’S THEME, Solange is on I THINK, slowthai is on WHAT’S GOOD, Santigold is on NEW MAGIC WAND, La Roux is on GONE GONE / THANK YOU and there’s more still including Jack White, Ceelo Green and Charlie Wilson.
This feels like the album he has wanted to make his whole career. An entire culmination of an artist growing up both sonically and personally. While Flower Boy was probably the superior album in terms of obvious hits, IGOR feels like Tyler’s magnum opus; an album so deeply rooted in personality that you can’t help but fall in love with it’s glow.