Say what you will about Tyler, The Creator – his puerile public persona; his real-life destructive stage antics; his stoic, perennially grumpy-sounding delivery – but the dude’s nothing if not eclectic.
Much like the sophomore records of fellow Odd Future emcee Earl Sweatshirt, and unlikely OF friend and collab Mac Miller, Tyler unleashes a dizzying, psychedelic smash of sounds on his second album, Cherry Bomb, that’s quite incomparable in rap. It’s no secret the OF Head Honcho has been trying to incorporate jazz influences in his music, and free jazz, neo-soul and funk swirl and percolate on the album’s softer, finer moments.
“2 Seater” is a woozy R&B slow burner that could almost bit the bill for a Frank Ocean track, and lead single “Fucking Young” is a lovably campy lovesong backed by a psychedelic soundscape of shimmering strings and ringing synths.
But Tyler’s still Tyler, and he counter-balances these prettier R&B moments with blaring noise-rock. Opener “Deathcamp” is left field noise-pop in the vein of Sleigh Bells, followed up by the screeching, growled tantrum of “Buffalo.” Beware: some of it’s downright unlistenable. The title track is an industrial attempt that’s more Axl Rose’s “My World” (that God-awful ghost track on Use Your Illusion II) than anything in the Death Grips repertoire.
For a mostly self-produced effort, however, the record’s finer moments show a lot of growth and are a welcome evolution over his gritty, stoic beats of past efforts. Even his lyrics show better self-awareness and reflection, if never outright remorse. “I got banned from New Zealand, whitey called me a demon / And a terrorist, Goddamn it, I couldn’t believe it,” he raps over psychedelic soul-funk on “Smuckers” – before regrettably handing the mic off to Yeezy and Weezy for a pair of forgettable, phoned-in verses.
All in all, Cherry Bomb is a promising and extremely unique record. But, still, some of its heavier moments come across a lot like his provocateur instincts – unrefined and gauche. A lot of artists cling desperately to the shock schtick and sonic edginess because it’s what their careers depend on. Tyler is seemingly the exception: he might just be holding himself back trying to outdo everybody.