Tyler, the Creator - Goblin

2011; XL Recordings; Los Angeles, CA

Held up to his peers in the hip-hop world Tyler is a wimp. He talks extensively about his feelings, his unrequited love interest, jacking off, how he cuts himself, contemplates suicide, how he hates school, his missing dad. He appears on every single other indie music website, favorably or otherwise. White people may hate him, but white kids love him. He's skinny, wears skinny jeans, high socks, listens to Arial Pink, supports an off kilter fashion sense and green hats, talks about his asthma, plays piano, and hands out cupcakes to anti-violence organizations at Pitchfork Fest. He apologizes, acknowledges critics, adds disclaimers, talks to therapists. He breaks character as much as he has character in the first place. He has a tendency to swear on his life that he's a fucking unicorn.

Held up to his indie music peers (Goblin dropped on the same label as The XX, Vampire Weekend, Radiohead, M.I.A., Dizzee Rascal, and more), he's immature. He sports punk passion, minus the punk ethics, that went out of style with Nirvana, and shock tactics unseen and unwanted since the Butthole Surfers. His calling card, along with the rest of Odd Future, is the childish "Kill People, Burn Shit, Fuck School" and screams of "Swag". He his emotional self indulgence places him, in many's minds, alongside Insane Clown Posse. He has wild violent fantasies, and a heavy irresponsible streak, "I want to see a fucking mosh pit tonight. Fuck security. I don't give a fuck!"

Held up to normal human being standards, he's disgusting. He focuses his lyrics mostly on misogyny, date rape, ultraviolence, murderous rape, casual homophobia, and rape. He speculates about killing, in order, women of all sorts, his mother, any other authority figure, 2dopeboyz, Jesus, B.o.B., Bruno Mars, his friends, himself, and you. He pops Xanax like it's Tylenol and drops the term "faggot" more often than he drops the word "the".

He's also the only complete person in music today. And one of the only complete people in music ever, period. It always baffles me how we beg for multi-faceted characters in movies and one dimensional characters in real life. Pusha T is never gonna show the kind of internal conflict that Tyler does, and for good reason, he'd be laughed off stage. We want him to be one thing, one mood, a commodity that we can put on and always know what we're gonna get. But Tyler is a real person, and he doesn't censer himself. There's no real act. He's a fucked up kid so he writes lyrics about destroying everything, about rape and murder, but it also crosses his mind about how fucked up that is, and so that goes in the lyrics as well. And more often than not, especially on the title track "Goblin" you find yourself wandering around in Tyler's head, even more so than on "Bastard" before it, seeing everything that's going on. He snaps with incredible ease between his violent fantasy world, and the real world of girls that don't want him and critics coming down on his head and deep seeded depression. The man's fighting all the time.

And of course there's always a flip side with him, he is, famously, "A FUCKING WALKING PARADOX." And the flip side is that, despite all his emotional problems that bring this about, he is really fucking angry. Really fucking angry. At everything. And I can legitimize this through the rock cannon, site the Sex Pistols and Minor Threat and Fight Club and No Children and Doin' The Cockroach, but that would be backwards. Tyler is young and wants to burn down the fucking world, and no matter how immature that is, there is something vitally important in it being expressed. And he does it here in such an honestly fiercely angry way, the likes of which have been unseen in over a decade.

Now of the particulars of the album? Tyler consistently shows himself to be an incredible producer, creating thick ambient atmosphere to circle his off kilter beats over. And truly there are some incredible tracks. Surly you've already listened to the immaculate Yonkers, and if you haven't I urge you to run out and watch the video immediately. But there are downs to the album, you've probably heard already. It drops in the middle, with useless cuts like "Boppin Bitch" and "Fish" and sometimes it feels like the album as a whole has a hard time staying together. Bastard remains the better album. This is shit I would surly get on any rock band's case for, but here it hardly matters.

I often argue with people about the difference between skill and value, and truly a quick scan through every major genre of music will give you scores of people talented enough to do anything well, who just set out to the wrong goal. And doing crap with a high level of craft and skill is still crap. With Tyler the opposite persists, what he's trying to do is so novel and worthwhile that the fact that the album is poorly put together is almost a small technicality.

Goblin ain't an easy listen. It's not beautiful or quietly powerful or strained and moving. It's not a party album, and while it is fun, it's fun in a horrible, detestable way. It's not mature or melodically interesting. It's certainly not badass. But it's the most real and important thing out there right now.


  1. Eh, I'm still not sold on Tyler. But perhaps I'll check him out.

    Anyway, I've seen a few of you guys say that there isn't much to review this year, or anything good anyway. But what about Cut/Copy's "Zonoscope"?

    One of you should review it.

  2. I guess you hit my problem with the guy when I read the word "novel." I just can't see the guy as anything more than a gimmick-I think if he WAS more than that he would be able to take his lyrics a lot further, but the whole rape and murder things sits in sort of a lazy middle ground that's violent enough for you to notice but tame enough to come off as desperate. For me at least, if you're going to do gore and rape you need to be as intense as the book version of "American Psycho" or else just not do it at all.

    I did like this review a lot though, I can respect his stuff a little more even though I still think it sucks. And weirdly enough I think "Goblin" is actually better than "Bastard."