Allow me to begin with the obvious: I have nothing but love for K. Dot and I cannot think of anyone in mainstream hip-hop who deserves more respect than he does. Overly Dedicated and Section.80 are criminally underrated projects. good kid, M.A.A.D. city is a triumphant work of conceptual art. I do not think it is out of line to declare To Pimp A Butterfly one of the top 20 albums of the last decade. Most recently, DAMN. earned Kendrick Grammy nods for, among other categories, Best Rap Album and Album of the Year. He won the former and, in a sad yet unsurprising turn of events, Bruno Mars took home the latter.
Now, to be clear, I love DAMN. I think it includes some of Kendrick’s most brilliant material to date: “DNA.,” “ELEMENT.,” “FEEL.,” “FEAR.,” “DUCKWORTH.,” and the first two and a half minutes of “XXX.” (I hit skip as soon as I hear Bono’s voice). Unfortunately, I think it also includes some of Kendrick’s weakest material to date, namely “LOYALTY.” featuring Rihanna and “LOVE.” featuring Zacari. Alternatively, the album that I think should have earned the honor of Best Rap Album, Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy, is just about flawless.
The hype for the Odd Future founder’s fifth full-length project began when he dropped arguably his two best singles to date: “Who Dat Boy” featuring A$AP Rocky and “911/Mr. Lonely” featuring Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy. The former is an outlandish banger anchored by a cinematic string section and Tyler’s incredible charisma. The second track rides a funky, soulful instrumental and showcases a vulnerable Tyler as he addresses the extreme loneliness with which he has struggled since achieving superstar fame. From an instrumental perspective, the third Flower Boy single, “Boredom,” is Tyler’s masterpiece. The chugging drums, melancholy keys, and blissful violins that conclude the track put Tyler’s genius on full display. The fourth and final hype track, “I Ain’t Got Time,” is a hand-clapped, throttling solo effort which reminds the listener that Tyler truly operates in his own lane.
As much as I love these four singles, the remainder of Flower Boy is far from filler. The opening track, “Foreword,” sets the tone for the album with some of the strongest bars Tyler has dropped in his career: “How many cars can I buy until I run out of drive? / How much drive can I have until I run out of road? / How much road can they pave until I run out of land? / How much land can it be until I run in the ocean?” With guest vocals from Kali Uchis, “See You Again” is a masterfully layered track which features gorgeous harmonies and one of the best rap flows in Tyler’s catalogue. Perhaps the most discussed song in the tracklist, “Garden Shed” is a delicate, confessional ballad on which Tyler solemnly addresses his deepest insecurities.
I could go on and on about all fourteen tracks on Flower Boy, but I think you get the point. It is a revealing and sonically diverse exploration of fame, depression, and identity that demonstrates Tyler, the Creator’s immense talents as a rapper, songwriter, and producer. It is a landmark in both a career and a life, and it is better than DAMN.