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If you’ve missed the rise of L.A. rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All and the head to their Voltron, Tyler, the Creator, then you probably don’t care much about what music blogs are talking about, and if that’s the case, first of all, good for you. If you do care about that kind of thing, given their more recent notoriety on said blogs, it may surprise you to know that Tyler’s new record Goblin is the first thing anyone in Odd Future’s done that’s actually been sold in stores.
The scarily precocious 17-to-24-year-olds spent the last three or so years posting their entirely homemade mixtapes as free downloads on their Tumblr, and so have existed in a weird bubble that’s already made them inescapable for a certain age group with a certain degree of Web savvy, and still almost completely unknown to most outside of that bubble—for now, anyway. The reason music bloggers have been piling onto OFWGKTA, and 20-year-old Tyler in particular, is because they have “next big thing” written all over them, and everyone with a Twitter account wants to put their two or three or four cents in on the music before they jump ship and say they were more into OF’s early stuff. This isn’t a criticism—it’s just how things work now—but Goblin is Tyler’s first major move to step outside of his self-made hype bubble and into the open air of being screamed at in primetime by Bill O’Reilly.
If you were expecting a breakout crossover album, though, or even any kind of compromise out of Tyler’s excessively dark brand of rap, Goblin slaps you in the face for having so little faith in it and then kicks your dog in the balls just for fun. Tyler’s follow-up to the Internet-legendary Bastard is just as unrelentingly evil-sounding, hurt and angry, so admittedly, listening to the whole thing in one sitting can get overwhelming. And, really, if you’re at a party that’s blasting Goblin, and nobody is smashing anything, you need to find a new party—this is an album that should be brought out when you’re ready to follow Tyler down the rabbit hole of the darkest parts of your dark side. But, as Tyler proves here: going down this rabbit hole can be a hell of a lot of fun.
“Yonkers” was Tyler’s first song dropped off Goblin, and still stands as its unstoppable standout single, though if I were to suggest a song to give someone a basic feel for the OFWGKTA style, I’d go for “Sandwitches” or the wild seven-minute banger “Radicals,” which is just begging moms across America to freak out over it. Tyler tends to sound like a rasping, growling Eminem over menacing Hell Hath No Fury-era Neptunes production, and while he may not necessarily be OF’s best rapper on his own (although “Transylvania” and “Nightmare” may prove that he is), his production and beat-making instincts are all pitch-perfect, and have never been better than on Goblin.
Meaning: I like Odd Future and Goblin, and think they deserve whatever attention, critical or otherwise, they receive. Yet I can’t help but feel confused by Tyler’s rise to prominence amongst Pavement-T-shirt-wearing bloggers and teenage girls who retweet their horoscope every day. I would probably like Goblin for its devilish, Clipse sound and references to Adventure Time, Flapjack and stabbing Bruno Mars alone, but it’s odd to me that a group trying this hard to offend literally everyone would be so embraced. The only explanation I can come up with: Odd Future is doing something genuinely new—and, whatever your reaction to Tyler, the Creator chanting “Kill people, burn s***, f*** school,” that’s really exciting.
J(ames) Michael, Editor-in-Chief