Tyler, the Creator is the undisputed king of album hype at this point. Nobody in hip-hop quite puts the level of care and attention into roll-out material like him, and this extra work serves a few purposes. Aside from sparking conversation, crafting a (mostly – spoilers) consistent aesthetic across all promotional formats as a sturdy representative of what’s to come when the album lands, is unbelievably inviting.
I imagine if you’re not a fan, merely a trawler of internet music circles, you’d be pretty excited by what’s going on. The sheer spectacle of the extra mile doesn’t go unnoticed. The 30-year-old Californian’s new record, Call Me if You Get Lost, also had a carpet laid before it. This time, however, the carpet was an amiable, shag-pile dustcloud of a time gone by.
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‘SIR BAUDELAIRE’ saunters along with quiet confidence, juxtaposed only by DJ Drama’s relentless onslaught of ad-libs. If that’s not your thing, check out now. That Gangsta Grillz nostalgia is here for the duration. Either way, it’s a decent intro for both Tyler’s new, poet-inspired pseudonym and Drama as a “narrator”.
Saying the above, ‘CORSO’ is almost your “real” first taste of CMIYGL – the pacemaker. It establishes a few things that aren’t just who’s on the track. The tale of this album is a catalogue of parts – of constant sonic versatility that props up the theme of forever travelling along. The second thing of note is the gender-swapped IGOR concept – Tyler is once again in a messy love triangle.
‘LEMONHEAD’ is downright confrontational. The vocal pocket sits atop an offensive of siren-like synth wailing and commencing horns. In the first verse you’ll find a reference to ODB’s Brooklyn Zoo, which would explain the cover art, if not for our now-Mr. Baudelaire insisting on Twitter that it’s not a direct homage. I’ll take a fun nod. It’s great to hear Frank Ocean at the end of this, even if he’s just rambling about expensive bowls (please come back Frank). ‘WUSYANAME’ is a bizarre way to flirt, I’ll be honest. Early noughties R&B is the flavour of the minute, and damn does it get it right. Expect these smooth tones to get some summer play.
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Lead single ‘LUMBERJACK’ is the 2021 ‘Who Dat Boy’. It’s the crowd-pleasing, hyper-commercial brag rap track to lure you into a false sense of security, and the last essential of the Tyler hype-machine handbook. The track is just different enough to create initial polarising expectations, and by then you have to check it out. Unlike ‘Who Dat Boy’ however, this one actually appreciates in value with added context.
‘HOT WIND BLOWS’ contains the best ad-lib of all time for my money. Drama sets the scene with “A young lady just fed me French vanilla ice cream / We all got our toes out, too”. Further commitment to a holistic experience is demonstrated, as the line about luggage piling up harkens back to the ‘LUMBERJACK’ video nicely. I swear we’re one album away from getting a full-blown ARG.
Next up, ‘MASSA’ is a wormhole into the Wolf era. Comparatively naked production gives some room to lay the bars thick. “Eyes open when I pray because I can’t trust God either” is just a sample. Instant standout. The unconventional format of ‘RUN IT UP’ helps display the phases of the runtime better. On first listen, I thought ‘MASSA’ was to function as an island, and was wrong. The chaotic sprint of the first 6 tracks (in 13 minutes!) seems to have, at least temporarily, become a jog. The track sways ethereally, with brass riffs and sizzling electric drums.
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‘MANIFESTO’ gets to the point, about doing anything but that. Tyler refutes the idea that those in the public eye need to use their platform for societal good; he’s unwilling to performatively involve himself in trending topics, purely for good optics. I’ve heard a million songs regarding this sort of thing, and there are not a lot of new ideas about it here. Points awarded for the use of Nas’ Nazareth Savage instrumental though.
‘SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE’ is a hazy neo-soul epic, at nearly ten minutes and a fifth of the whole project long. We’re back to the plotline of falling in love with a taken woman. That leaves a lot of emotion to unpack. Half the track is spent symbiotically elated and carefree, the other half down-in-the-dumps about not being choice number one. It’s a beautiful piece of work with lots of layered, conversational vocals from both sides of the equation. Fana Hues plays paramour.
Following the interlude ‘MOMMA TALK’, which we’ll just say is named well, comes ‘RISE!’ This was the song you heard first if you called the promotional hotline. I was unfamiliar with feature Daisy World, and after some research, it seems the reason is they’re relatively unknown generally. I have no idea where Tyler plucks some of these artists from, but I’m glad he does. Really lovely runs and harmonies on the chorus here to contrast the aggressive nature of the verses. Second interlude ‘BLESSED’ is a train-of-thought, a list of everything worth being grateful for. The Creator once again flaunts his superpower of bringing the best out of people on ‘JUGGERNAUT’, as Lil Uzi Vert and Pharrell Williams both sound incredible on a beat you’d probably never catch them on ordinarily.
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‘WILSHIRE’ is a good song that could’ve been incredible, if the mix wasn’t letting the side down. I understand that Tyler likes to play with lo-fi aesthetics, but even on high-end headphones this sounds significantly worse than when played aloud. Call me crazy but that doesn’t seem like the intention to me. Another 8+ minute adventure finds our protagonist pained, on the far side of the relationship that could not be. “I feel guilty, but not as much as I should / I tried to have that self-control, but not as much as I could.” ‘SAFARI’ is a victory lap befitting an LP with this much flexing on it. The contorted horns could be straight from a cut by the late great MF DOOM. There was no room to go big here, not after ‘WILSHIRE’, but that’s okay.
On Call Me If You Get Lost, Tyler has gift-wrapped many of the ideas and stylistics of previous efforts into one release, without compromising his clear linear growth as an artist. For newer fans, this might actually be a pretty good jumping off point. For those that bought a ticket when GOBLIN skyrocketed into the pop-culture stratosphere – or even if your involvement dates all the way back to The OF Tape or BASTARD – you’ll experience some Pavlovian response along these 52 minutes, one you maybe weren’t expecting in 2021. There’s a bit of something for everyone on this. The update to the old formula is merely the polish and pomp of the new one. A fascinating project and career-defining spectacle.
Call Me If You Get Lost is out now from Columbia.