Favorite Track: "JUGGERNAUT" Least Favorite Track: "RUNITUP"
Anyone who listens to music critically in any way would be hard-pressed to find an artist who has made more artistic progress over the last 5 years than Tyler, The Creator. Tyler’s rocky and controversial beginnings in the early 2010s made him a divisive figure, to say the least. His abrasive personality, offensive lyricism, and grimy production style on albums like BASTARD and Goblin was quite off-putting to many, and he was long a topic of debate within the hip-hop community despite the success of his 2011 single “Yonkers”.
With his second studio album Wolf, he kept a lot of the abrasive personality, but also penned some of his most emotionally revealing songs atop of his most mature instrumentals yet. The loose concept of the album also showed Tyler to be an apt storyteller, stringing together seemingly random songs through the lens of a kid finding himself at a summer camp. After the release of Cherry Bomb in 2015, the work that many consider to be Tyler’s worst, Tyler took to the studio again before returning with a complete left hook of a record, the aptly titled Flower Boy. True to its name, Flower Boy bloomed with an expansive musical palette, revealing lyrics, and a fantastic host of guests ranging from Kali Uchis to Lil Wayne. On the album, Tyler explored themes of sadness, loneliness, and most importantly, his flowering sexuality. After the community debated the meaning of Tyler’s emotional revelations found on the record, he returned with his magnum opus in the form of the ultimate breakup album; IGOR. The album expanded on the neo-soul ideas that Flower Boy had seeded, while also bringing in major influences from R&B and funk, making it so much more than just a rap album. At the time, it was easily the most critically acclaimed, fan-lauded, and universally appreciated album of Tyler’s yet, going on to win a Grammy and land high on many publication’s “Best of the Decade” lists. However, after radically changing his sound and creating a whole new ethos and character, where was Tyler supposed to go after this? How was he possibly going to top IGOR?
In short, he wasn’t going to. Instead, what Tyler does on his 2021 release Call Me If You Get Lost is often more admirable than the previous artistic progress made on his last two efforts. Call Me If You Get Lost is an amalgamation of all Tyler’s past selves: the brash and brazen characters on Goblin, the emotionally frustrated yet lyrically talented Tyler from Wolf, the lush instrumentals on Flower Boy and the emotional hardships of IGOR, he takes his past music and expands upon it with his newfound sounds and talents. You can hear a lot of the hardcore hip-hop influences of his first few records in spades on tracks like “MANIFESTO” and lead single “LUMBERJACK”, whereas “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE” is much more danceable and smooth by comparison, akin to a track like “Boredom” or “911 / Mr. Lonely” from Flower Boy.
Call Me If You Get Lost often feels like a victory lap for Tyler. The frequent DJ Drama interruptions are nothing if not victorious and righteous. Tyler is in top lyrical form, he is fresh off making one of the best records of the last decade, and many of the pieces in his past that may have been off are finally falling into place. On the opening track “SIR BAUDELAIRE”, Tyler boldly introduces himself with his new adopted moniker, Tyler Baudelaire, most likely a reference to the greatly revered French poet Charles Baudelaire. His unbridled braggadocio on the record often feels earned, although occasionally the DJ Drama interruptions often feel rather out of place, and eventually become tiring to listen to.
Many of the tracks on the record that hit the hardest are also the simplest. Tyler having fun amongst peers like Lil Uzi Vert, Pharrell Williams, and Lil Wayne on “JUGGERNAUT” and “HOT WIND BLOWS” is incredibly lovable and infectious, the humor that shines through on “WUSYANAME” where he attempts a questionable pickup line by telling a love interest that “You look malnourished/Let’s get some bread…”, or the incredibly detailed yet musically one-dimensional “WILSHIRE” show off every side of Tyler imaginable. This essentially creates a record that runs less like an album and more like a playlist, a collage of Tyler’s musical influences and styles, showcasing each and every nook and cranny of his talents.
The flaws on the record are more randomly assembled than anything, and almost never a product of actual lack of talent or effort on Tyler’s part. As mentioned before, DJ Drama’s presence on much of the record can tend to run a bit stale, as the constant shouts and braggadocios interruptions feel a bit disjointed from Tyler himself and more like a pointless addition that just takes up too much sonic space. With the record’s overall lack of theme, it often feels disjointed, almost more like a playlist than a coherently compiled album. The slower tracks are often sandwiched in weird spots that cut the pacing of the album pretty intensely, and both “WILSHIRE” and “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE” definitely overstay their welcome, with each track running over eight minutes in length respectively. Tracks like “MASSA” and “RISE!” boast some uninteresting production and less than impressive performances from Tyler as well. They are relatively forgettable in the grand scheme of the track list, and ultimately feel as though they could have been cut from the final product to trim the LP down a bit.
More than anything, Call Me If You Get Lost feels like Tyler writing a musical message to himself. It’s a culmination of all the hardships he has gone through, and a reminder that despite the hardships he has endured, he has artistically progressed to be a confident, adept creator who is finally emotionally in touch with himself and his sexuality. On the interlude-style track “BLESSED”, Tyler runs through all the great things going on in his life, and looking into some of his past, it seems that all of his previous aspirations and hopes have come to fruition for him. “Golf Wang's doing amazing, might open up another store/Le FLEUR* is goin' insane, smell good, nail polish/Converse, Gucci, Camp Flog Gnaw one of the best festivals/I'm healthy, my skin glowin', my friends healthy, I'm fuckin' who, what, when, where, haha/Karen and Alex Moss 'bout to drop off some new pieces/I'm out here scorin' commercials, movies soon/We writin' shows, man, life is fuckin' beautiful” he says, all with a glow and happiness in his voice, and as the simple track comes to a close, one thing becomes clear: Tyler is happy. Tyler is fulfilled and seems to be having wholehearted fun with this record, making for a listening experience that fosters a lot of fun beats, infectious energy, and great bars from one of the most unique and unpredictable rappers in the game.