In the four years since Tyler, the Creator and the rest of the Odd Future gang shattered the hip-hop mold and broke out onto the scene, many people have wondered, “Is Odd Future the real deal? Or just another music fad?” In 2009, the OF ringleader released his first album, Bastard, which was largely overlooked. Bastard consisted of mostly the struggles of becoming a new artist, and rage towards various music blogs, magazines and other media outlets who refused to play his music. Tyler’s sophomore album, Goblin, which was extremely successful and reached the number 1 spot on Billboard.com, was known for its dark tones that popularized the OF gang. While Goblin sought to prove that Tyler and his crew were worth their sudden fame and hype, Tyler’s new album, Wolf, is an entirely different message; dealing with success.
Since the 2011 release of Goblin, a lot has happened to Tyler and Odd Future. For starters, Tyler’s best friend Earl Sweatshirt has returned to the crew after his mother exiled him to an academy in Samoa after concerns over where his life was headed. Rising R&B star, and frequent contributor to OF, Frank Ocean, opened up about his sexuality, and Tyler and company created the adultswim show “Loiter Squad” in addition to directing other various videos such as a few recent MTN DEW commercials featuring Tyler’s alter ego Felicia the Goat. All of these changes have certainly affected Wolf Haley, but change can be a good thing.
Wolf opens up with the track “Wolf”, and in traditional Odd Future style, the first word out of Tyler, the Creator’s mouth… “F*ck you. F*ck you. F*ck you. F*ck him. F*ck everything else I can see.” At first glance, you might think nothing has changed since 2011, but the rebel anger, murder and punk bravado on Goblin‘s tracks, such as “Radicals”, is largely absent from Wolf. In its stead, there are more tracks that feature Tyler’s confessions and reflections through the years since 2011.
Another major change from Goblin to Wolf, is the album feels more focused on Tyler instead of the Odd Future crew as a whole. The change in focus reveals a more personal side of Tyler that moves away from the dark angry vibe he was most known for, and replaces it with a mellower and happier aesthetic.
The album as a whole has a gorgeous sound, and there is far more variation this time around from track to track. The major influences in Wolf are easy to pick out. Indie-rock, jazz, and a heavy dose of old-school rap appear throughout the album. The only two tracks reminiscent of the wild high-energy songs like “Sandwiches” and “French” are “Trashwang” and the album’s first single “Domo 23”, both of which are outliers of the album.
Wolf is not without its flaws though, a few of the songs don’t really seem to fit anywhere into the album at all and seem jammed into the lineup. “Treehome95” is randomly placed towards the end of the album and features melodic vocals from Coco O, from the Denmark pop-electro duo Quadron. On its own, its a decent track but it doesn’t fit into Wolf. “Tamale” is another example. This track sounds like it belongs on an M.I.A. album rather than a Tyler, the Creator album. Even worse, its surrounded by slow tracks that don’t match. In short, Wolf is an album filled with great songs, but in no real order or consistency.
Aside from that fact, the tracks on Wolf in its entirety are amazing, the beats are beautiful, and the overall change in style for Tyler is impressive. Wolf shows that Tyler can produce a wider array of music than many probably expected after Goblin‘s release.
The best tracks on the album are the 1990’s throwback “Rusty” that features Earl, Domo and Tyler, “48” with its elegant pianos and guitar and interludes from Nas, but neither of these are the best. One of the album’s darker tracks titled, “Answer” takes the cake. “Answer” delves into Tyler’s more personal struggles throughout his career, such as longing for his grandmother who recently passed away, and his father who has been absent from the artist’s life.
Wolf is an entirely different direction for the artist that was most-known for his appalling and shocking lyrics. Since the release of Goblin, Tyler has become a more sophisticated producer, even if as a rapper he is largely still the same.
Though the LA-based rapper publicly despises reviews of his albums claiming that they cloud the judgement of potential listeners, Wolf exceeds expectations. The album has a “feel-good” vibe, which is surprising coming from the mind of Tyler. In the end, Wolf demonstrates that both Odd Future and Tyler, the Creator are original, and should be taken seriously.
To hear the entire album, check out Odd Future’s homepage where you can stream the album in its entirety. For a snippet, check out the YouTube link below.