Tyler, The Creator Channels ‘Goblin,’ Gangsta Grillz & Wes Anderson for Wide-Ranging New Project
Evan Dale // June 25, 2021
‘The sun beaming…’
…opens Tyler, The Creator at the onset of his new album, Call Me If You Get Lost. It’s a fitting first line, perhaps signaling more than Tyler’s own state of mind in the studio or his literal environmental surroundings in sunny Southern California, but also the state of hip-hop and really music at large as he returns with prolific consistency and a continued taste for defying the idea of stylistic definition on rap’s main stage. It’s been ten years since Goblin’s 2011 arrival itself signaled a new era for the lyrically provocative, wildly experimental slice of the internet’s then emerging hip-hop era. And a decade later, the influence of Tyler’s own work transcends more than his own music, bleeding into the careers and paths of so many others; into the path of music’s meandering modernity at a macro scale.
Now, a new chapter. And yet, reminiscent of its – of Tyler’s – roots. Call Me If You Get Lost feels as though it exists in title as a calling card to modern hip-hop at large, shining a light on the bass-thumping, oft-spoon-fed banger circuit of the late 2000’s and early 2010’s rap foundation where horn intros signaled an incoming party anthem, and the noise of the resident mixtape DJ’s sound-off was stamped on every Datpiff download. Just to really reinforce the album’s roots here, he’s got DJ Drama on board to produce its entirety like it’s a Gangsta Grillz mixtape. And really, from the album’s own rollout foundations in leading single, Lumberjack, Call Me If You Get Lost’s direction seemed destined for circularity in Tyler, The Creator’s decade long exploration of his own creative range; in his exploration of hip-hop composition’s ever-widening breadth.
Musically, the project is a firm adherence to Tyler’s most rap-heavy roots. There’s little sense of sensitive NPR tiny desk vocal sentiment here. Even the more mellow, melodic Wasyaname rings with his established rapped prowess. But beyond Wasyaname, the synth-driven and Faiyaz-tinged marathon that is Sweet / I Thought You Wanted To Dance, and the Daisy World hook on Rise, blaring horns on tracks like Lemonhead make it a not-so-distant reminiscent rap anthem; booming DJ Drama interjections timestamp the whole project at an earlier decade; and beaming Tyler genius brings it into the future, while his visual aesthetic brings it even further into a cultural past. It’s a patchwork exhibition of his influence and influences.
That much has been obvious in his video rollouts en route to the Call Me If You Get Lost release. There’s a throwback essence à la Wes Anderson that frames each and every visual in their warm-white-balance 20th Century feels, conjuring images of a sometimes-fantastical past. Towering on a stack of suitcases in some front-pleated pants, Lumberjack Tyler looks like the rap Leon Bridges. In a leopard vest for the Wasyaname video, afro picks stream by on vintage bikes. And in a train cabin for the skit, Brown Sugar Salmon, Tyler again channels Wes Anderson through the warm tint, the suitcases, the travel, and the timestamp of film. It’s an established vibe that entrenches the viewer in a very purposeful direction.
It’s a vibe that also plays at juxtaposing the music itself, without interfering with the audio, visual, and audiovisual stories Tyler, The Creator is ultimately telling. There is fluidity to his ideas, as broadly sourced as they may seem. And the strong central foundation of the communication between those ideas always come back to the music. And the music, again, circles back to Tyler’s own roots.
He’s been on a long and windy creative trail over the past decade, delivering unexpected project after unexpected project gleaming with audacious provocation, experimental musicality, and steadfast humor. And though Call Me If You Get Lost is no different in the formula, it’s starkly distinctive from his most recent projects: 2019’s Igor and 2017’s Flower Boy, in that it’s most reminiscent, instead, to 2011’s Goblin. Hell, he sourced DJ Drama for that air of epochal redolence, and he and Drama’s collaboration delivers exactly that.
There’s something hip-hop has been necessarily missing from its most prominent names in the most recent years. It’s an intersection of a grungy imperfection in its production, some lighthearted poeticism in its penmanship, and a timeless relatability to any fan of the scene through almost any era. Call Me If You Get Lost – channeling the fast-paced, rap-heavy, antic-laced audacity of Goblin – quenches the drought of a wider hip-hop try-hard main stage by reintroducing a tried-and-true formula with a new twist: loud producer, louder bass, anthemic club bangers, and some well-balanced reprieve from it all with moments of introspection, calm, and of course, humor. Tyler, The Creator, in his fifth try in ten years, has seemingly delivered his fifth masterpiece.
‘The sun beaming…’