This is our track of the day. Be sure to subscribe to The Best Songs of 2018 (So Far) for regular updates.
What It Is
In 2017, at the ripe age of 26, Tyler, The Creator seemed a bit artistically exhausted. His teen-savant Southpark-lite provocateur pose was becoming a drag, and his last album — 2015’s Cherry Bomb — was a pretty-much unlistenable hodgepodge of N.E.R.D. retreads. For a second, it seemed like he was best suited as a fashion magnette — his clothing line Golf Wang was pretty fresh — with a side career as a sub-Hannibal Buress sketch comedian. The 2017 Flower Boy changed that awfully fast. Full of uncluttered, delicate melodies and surprisingly mature emotional themes, the album was ambitious without being pretentious. If his earlier work was intentionally distancing, Flower Boy felt subtle and embracing. Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN may have been the most important hip-hop album of 2017, but Flower Boy was the most enjoyable, and surprising. “Okra” is his first song released since that album dropped.
So, which version of Tyler shows up on Okra?
This isn’t exactly the adolescent Tyler of old — nothing here seems intentionally provocative, per se — but this also feels like a bit of a retreat from his more emotionally nuanced persona of 2017. He talks a lot of shit. He tells critics to fuck off. He brags about his cars. There aren’t a lot of pretty melodies here.
Is that a bad thing?
Not really. The track bangs. Beneath a bed of churning, speaker-busting sub-bass, Tyler simply raps his ass off. It features some of the most dexterous flows of his careers, and it also pushes forward a couple of Tyler’s personal uber-narratives. He’s sexually fluid (he calls out Tim Chalamet from last year’s LGBT-friendly indie movie Call Me By Your Name). Odd Future is over (“Golf Be the Set/No More OF”). It feels more like a low-stakes victory lap than a big next step, and there’s nothing wrong with that.