Anyone remotely familiar with Tyler, The Creator, leader of the rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, would never associate him with emotions other than angst and rage. However, the MC dips his toe in much more eclectic lyrical and musical realms on his third full-length record, “Wolf” released on April 2, 2013.
Much like his first two albums, “Bastard” and “Goblin,” “Wolf” weaves in and out of an overarching plotline, concerning multiple characters and settings that may or may not simply be a bi-product of Tyler’s schizophrenic mind. “Wolf” seemingly takes place at Camp Flog Gnaw (one of many colloquialisms for Wolf Gang) and concerns the characters of Wolf Haley; Sam, a violent fellow camper with a penchant for jazz; Salem, Sam’s girlfriend and Wolf’s love interest throughout the record; and Slater, Wolf’s bike; a move Tyler himself acknowledges the goofiness in, as the entire album has a subtle twang of self-deprecation, campiness and humor inherent to Odd Future’s over-the-top rap style.
The album opens with the title track, full of soft and decidedly-soothing piano melodies, before Tyler F-bombs it into the musical place we have grown to expect from Odd Future. The abrupt ending leads into “Jamba,” a bounce of a track with a feel similar to Odd Future’s “OF Tape Vol. 2.”
Following is “Cowboy,” which appears to be from Sam’s perspective. This is one of the first introductions to Tyler’s lyrical chops, as he clearly means to blur the line between which character he speaks through. Though “Cowboy” has attributes that could only belong to Sam’s dangerous persona, there are hints of Tyler himself coming through, as the track has some of the album’s earliest mentions of fame and its grievances.
The album’s first single, “Domo23,” is easily relatable to “Rella” off of “OF Tape Vol. 2,” with a high-speed bounce as Tyler goes hard lyrically with his staple of smart-aleck celebrity disses, profanity up the wazoo and a hook that is sure to get the crowd rollicking.
“Answer” is one of the best songs on the record. Its solemn backing music meshes beautifully as Tyler lashes out at his absent father. It’s a moment of vulnerability from the rather abrasive rapper. He spends multiple verses spitting hatred, before flowing into the chorus saying that if he ever were to call, Tyler “hopes he would answer.”
From there we move into “Slater,” a song which curiously introduces Wolf Haley’s bicycle as a character, but also a representation of a simpler time when he was a teenager doing little more than hanging out with his friends. There is a very mellow backbeat to it, as if to convey a sense of flashback-esque nostalgia and longing.
“Pigs” is sure to conjure up a decent amount of the controversy Odd Future has gotten pretty comfortable with. It tells Sam’s back-story and how he came to Camp Flog Gnaw to begin with, and Tyler’s lyrics of a disturbed kid taking out violent retribution against those at school he thinks have wronged him are striking and powerful, despite what are sure to be inevitable consequences given the timing of recent current events.
“Rusty” features great guest appearances from Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt. The autobiographical song references the group’s rise to fame after growing up together nearly broke. The latter song kicks the listener in the face towards the end, when a reminder of the overarching plotline shows up in the form of an angry Sam.
This segues brashly into what may be the hardest song on the record: “Trashwang.” It features screamed and rapped guest vocals from hardcore punk band Trash Talk. Its abrasive style and brutal lyrical delivery pound the aggressive ether that is Odd Future into the listener’s skull enough to satisfy fans of songs like “Radicals” and “Sandwitches.”
On the final, somber track, “Lone,” Tyler speaks one continuous verse referencing the contradiction between his current lifestyle and where he was at just a couple years ago. The second half, and thus the entire record, is punctuated with a mention of his late grandmother, who Tyler grew up with. The bitter closer is saved at the very end by Tyler keeping in tradition with not taking anything too seriously and having one final dialogue joke.
In short, it’s awesome. Buy it, or I’ll let you burn it, but you should buy it.
Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons
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