Tyler's sixth album contains a multitude of the elements that have made him such a fascinating artist since day one.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about Tyler, The Creator dropping the lead single from his sixth studio album out of the blue last month wasn't so much the surprise album announcement as the fact that Tyler was actually rapping - and not just rapping, but going pretty hard too.
Having spent the past four years evolving his artistry on two of the most extraordinary works of the past decade in hip-hop - from the blisteringly confessional songwriting that defined Flower Boy (2017) to the immaculate soul production mastery of IGOR (2019) - 'LUMBERJACK' felt like a significant shift in tone. Fans from day one might have hailed the return of Wolf Haley (the controversy baiting troublemaker persona Tyler cultivated as leader of prodigious troupe Odd Future as well as hardcore solo works like Goblin in 2011) but the truth is that nothing is quite the same.
Having developed into an entirely different animal through his late twenties while realizing the raw potential that was evident through the shock value of his earliest releases, we get the best of both Tyler's on CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST - an album that simultaneously boasts the production wizardry and profound songcraft of recent records while unleashing the hard bars and raucous energy levels that captivated audiences originally on early highlights Bastard and Wolf.
Hosted by hypeman DJ Drama and once again produced entirely by Okonma (with featured assists from Jamie xx and Jay Versace as well as a host of star guests on the mic including Pharrell, Lil Wayne and an uncredited Frank Ocean), CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST finds Tyler delivering the most complex and varied musical palette of his career, as he switches dexterously between a broad range of musical touchpoints throughout an exhilarating 52 minutes.
There's the OF horrorcore throwback of ferocious cuts 'MANIFESTO' and 'JUGGERNAUT' (the former of which features the most welcome return of Tyler's loyal friend and former OFWGKTA capo Domo Genesis), the luscious jazz rap of 'CORSO', 'HOT WIND BLOWS' and 'SAFARI' that bookends and characterizes much of the record, with a wonderfully playful set of forays into genres as wide ranging as 90s R&B ('WUSSYANAME'), lo-fi ('MASSA', 'RUNITUP') and pop ('RISE') to boot.
None of which is to even mention the extended mix of neo-soul, funk, ska and reggae that Tyler dreams up on charming 9 minute centerpiece 'SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE'. Add them all up and you've got a dizzying mix of genres to contend with, yet each and every one is sumptuously blended into one cohesive whole across this near hour.
Thematically, we are introduced to the latest persona of our ever changing narrator as 'Tyler Baudelaire' takes the lead role across these 16 tracks. It's a persona inspired by 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire, an artist persecuted in his time for being too explicit and one with whom Tyler obviously finds common ground. Baudelaire was also a romantic poet, and CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST continues the narrative stylings of Flower Boy and IGOR as Tyler writes intimately and earnestly about searching for love in vain, composing a number of essays on blooming romances, crushing fixations and ultimately failed relationships. The most effective example is penultimate gem 'WILSHERE', which finds the famously deflective rapper at his most painfully honest, spilling his thoughts on a doomed affair in a stream of consciousness 8 and a half minute movement that marks the peak of the record's emotional dissertations.
The end result is a hybrid in the best sense, containing a multitude of all the elements that have made Tyler such a fascinating artist to behold then and now. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST finds an artist confronting his contentious past by skillfully incorporating and updating his previous work into the present, all the while adding yet another layer of eclecticism to his modern form. Blink and you'll miss it though - you can rest assured that CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is as much the beginning of a new chapter as it is the closing of a classic trilogy for the recently turned 30 year old.
As he enters a new decade in his life, the man who once proclaimed himself a walking paradox sounds more at ease with himself than ever before.
8.5 / A-
Best Tracks: 'WUSYANAME'/'SWEET/'I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE'/'WILSHERE
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