Tyler, The Creator's CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is a blast to his aggressive rap past
Over the last four years, Tyler The Creator has seemingly distanced himself from the aggressive hip-hop of his past. Now, he's back.
Following the release of 2017's Flower Boy and 2019's IGOR, Tyler The Creator really could've gone anywhere with his sound. After an explosive and somewhat aggressive rise through Odd Future and his early solo records, the two albums saw Tyler, The Creator commence a gradual pivot to more intimate and dynamic hip-hop, laden with the energy of some of his past work - look at Who Dat Boy and I Ain't Got Time! on Flower Boy, for example - but twisted with a heavier influence in R&B and gospel that seemingly brought his sound down to a softer level.
It was a jarring change too, considering that for the decade prior, the Californian rapper had built a somewhat of an infamous profile as rap's most controversial figure. He was banned in Australia and the UK due to his explicit lyricism; a constant target of the media whenever he'd drop an album, with newspapers plucking apart every word of his shock factor lyricism and exposing it for exactly what it is: a shock. His albums were in your face and confrontational, seen as the pinnacle of a next-generation who had simply had enough, and weren't afraid to communicate that anger and frustration through their music.
That isn't to say that Tyler The Creator's music nowadays doesn't have the same sense of expression. In fact, you could argue it's even more prevalent, just talking about themes that have grown up alongside its creator. But, with Flower Boy and particularly IGOR, the way that he conveyed that expression - the sound itself - was beginning to change, and it seemed that one of hip-hop's most disruptive and unruly musicians was beginning to simmer down.
In the lead up to his new album CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, many thought Tyler The Creator would continue travelling down this more timid lane. IGOR was in many ways an extension of Flower Boy, and CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST was expected to follow suit, and build upon the sounds explored on IGOR.
The gradual unveiling of the album over the last few weeks brought some hints. LUMBERJACK - the album's first taste - felt like the slickness of IGOR introduced to the heavier sounds of his earlier work; the experimentalism captured within Cherry Bomb particularly but also Wolf and Goblin. There were voice memos with jazzier backdrops, however, leading many to believe that LUMBERJACK could've been a red herring of kinds, and the full album would see Tyler descend into the more soulful and jazz-inspired rap sound that's become prevalent within the last few years.
CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, however, couldn't be anything further from that.
Arriving today, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST seems like a 180-degree spin into Tyler The Creator's past, reviving his personas of a decade ago and introducing them to the polished and multi-faceted Tyler The Creator we've gotten accustomed to over the last few years. It's an album that captures the mania and chaos of Odd Future's mixtapes and Tyler's earlier albums - particularly the somewhat transitional Cherry Bomb - but combined it with the intimacy and lyricism of the more developed and evolved Tyler, the one that made itself known on IGOR.
It's something that you'll pick up on quickly, too. The album-opening SIR BAUDELAIRE could hype up a crowd in a cemetery if it were played just on its own, full of energising adlibs and calls to action that ready you for the album's following 53-minutes. Much of the album then follows suit from that, CORSO being Tyler at his most explosive in years, and songs like HOT WIND BLOWS and LEMONHEAD follow suit. There's even a nod to the Odd Future sound specifically, enlisting Domo Genesis for MANIFESTO.
In saying that, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST isn't a complete backflip into early-2010s Tyler The Creator. While the album's sound is more synonymous with his earlier work genre-wise, there's a certain polish and class throughout CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST that feels like a nod to present-day Tyler, almost as if he's taken his earlier sounds and brought them forward into 2021, with the development and evolution he's showcased over that decade-long timespan.
The album is wild - don't get us wrong - but everything feels meticulously placed and crafted so it all comes together to bring that energy, rather than it coming from the rough-around-the-edges, DIY nature of his earlier work. Then, there are songs like the near 10-minute epic SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE, which twists and turns on a journey through hip-hop, soul and R&B, before a jazzier intermission - MOMMA TALK, initially teased through his pre-album hotline - gives a second of reprieve. They're songs that would it perfectly into the multi-dimensional puzzle of an album like IGOR.
Even the album's tracklisting, in a way, points to CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST being an album reminiscent of Tyler's heavier hey-day. IGOR was absent from listed guest collaborators, and Flower Boy's tracklist was populated with stewards of R&B and indie, like Kali Uchis, Rex Orange County, Frank Ocean, Anna of the North and Steve Lacy. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST's guest features, however, point to a darker album without even pressing play: Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne, YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Domo Genesis being some of the 'heavier' rap names littered amongst the album's tracklist.
In all, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is an album sure to excite classic Tyler fans, especially those that may have felt a little alienated by his IGOR transition. In saying that, it's clear how he continues to showcase his sense of evolution and self-furtherment in CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, meaning that it's not an album that just feels like a collection of dated, early Tyler re-released with a 2021 sticker. You can see it in the way the album flows and builds into one another, right down to the polish within his sprawling productions - something IGOR did brilliantly to build upon.
CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is another experimental and unexpected notch in Tyler The Creator's belt. If nothing else, it just proves that you can never predict what he's going to do next.
Listen to the album below: