One of the first promotional tweets for IGOR worried me. Despite my love for Tyler’s last record, the words “double album” are usually a bad sign. Especially since Flower Boy dropped less than two years ago a double album would likely have been too grand a feat. Alas, thankfully, this album is 12 wonderfully cohesive tracks. Many fans were curious to hear where Tyler would go from his most commercially successful album to date. To me, IGOR sounds like the organic, logical next-step transition for his career. For those of you who didn’t like Flower Boy: this album may not win you over entirely. However, there are a handful of quirky bangers on here to pick out. During my initial play-through I wasn’t feeling the opening track “IGOR’S THEME.” I must have been zoning out while listening because upon further inspection, it is the perfect introductory track.
It sets the tone right with dark synths, robust drums, and a straightforward melody. Here Tyler proves himself to be one of the greatest producer-rappers of all time. That isn’t a knock, though. He masters both fields with ease. Not since Kanye West have we seen an all-in-one craftsman hip-hopper like Tyler, the Creator. Although that is an easy comparison at this point, I find IGOR to be a benchmark album in his discography. It reminds me of a combination one part 808s & Heartbreak, one part Cherry Bomb, one part Pharrell’s In My Mind and two parts Flower Boy. When you think you have the album figured out, Tyler throws a curveball that finds its way over the plate at a high rate. Musically speaking, this may be his most ambitious work yet. Conversely, lyrically speaking, this may be his least compelling as well. Themes of heartache and regret multiply.
In spite of a plethora of infectious tunes, IGOR suffers from generic love-sickness. Of course an artist of Tyler’s skill level supersedes 90% of lyricists out there. Nevertheless, about half the time, these songs feel like the same two feelings expressed six times over. Tyler is not unfamiliar to opening up his heart and speaking his truth. I am all for that, honestly. That was my favorite aspect of his previous album. He is a pure artist unafraid to embrace his individuality. Yet a few of these tracks don’t seem to carry a life of their own. Instead they mirror sentiments detailed previously without adding a new layer of perspective. “PUPPET,” which features Kanye, and “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” unfortunately bore me. The soundscapes Tyler paints are thoroughly entertaining. But when forced to focus intently I left those songs needing more.
Shaky effects and vocal performances limit IGOR‘s shelf life, in my opinion. While I do believe this album deserves the praise it is getting, I’m wary of its long-term sustainability. It seems as though this album will get slightly overrated based on in-the-moment comparisons. 2019 still has over six months to go. So, without a signature pop track — on an experimental pop album — IGOR is memorable as a whole but punches under its weight track for track. Gripes aside, songs like “A BOY IS A GUN,” “WHAT’S GOOD,” and “EARFQUAKE” are shining examples of what separates Tyler, the Creator from the majority of rappers. He strives to push hip-hop forward via fine-tuned instrumental palettes and transparent vulnerability. There is so much to like here: artistic progression; unique musicality; genre-bending appeal. But with a more precise lyrical approach, this could have been the year’s best overall album.
Following more listens, this album has grown on me considerably. While I do mostly listen to the eight-track EP version I made for myself, IGOR is indeed an artistic feat. It displays a full spectrum of emotion, capturing his bittersweet heart. 2019 would be so much less interesting without this record. I’ve been meaning to update this review for quite some time. Earlier I said that there is no signature pop track here. “EARFQUAKE” is easily one of Tyler’s best overall songs and is undoubtedly worthy of that title and more. In the coming months I will be crossing my fingers in hopes of hearing new music from the Creator sooner rather than later.