Tyler, The Creator recently dropped a double sided single, Who Dat Boy / 911, from his upcoming fourth studio album due to be released in the next few weeks. And although I’ve been a bit shaky about the rapper in the past, I have to say, if the rest of Scum Fuck Flower Boy is going to expand upon the themes explored in “Who Dat Boy” or “911 / Mr. Lonely,” I am very excited to hear a fully realized project.
The first song, “Who Dat Boy” featuring A$AP Rocky, is playful and ironic; heavy, rough, and dirty but lyrically a brash ode to chilling out, letting others live their fullest life, letting bygones be bygones if you will–all while proclaiming the superiority of the two rappers. Musically, the track teeters on the line of being too much and in your face, but the anxiety around that keeps the listener on their toes. It begins with a sparse sample–like some sort of modern “Flight of the Bumblebee”–as strings swirl together to create a sound that both builds and unsettles, all without the use of any other instrumentation or vocals. When the drop does come, it’s all thick bass and lazy clap that floats on both sides of the listener. Tyler, The Creator is able to get these sounds incredibly well-balanced and placed perfectly in terms of volume and frequency as nothing is ever overbearing. His voice is gruff, threatening but playful, matching the overall tone of the track as well. As if he’s yelling at me but at any moment may burst into laughter. A$AP Rocky’s verse is a great compliment as he seems like the chill hype man of the duo. He grounds the song in a sense of reality where Tyler, The Creator is all meta-emotional. Also that change of flow half way through A$AP Rocky’s verse? So satisfying.
Although I liked “Who Dat Boy,” my favorite song on the single has to be “911 / Mr. Lonely,” which features two different tracks in one, an effortless evolution on the topic of loneliness. It’s a big shift lyrically, foregoing showboating and strong headed one liners for more vulnerable bars: “911” is sweeter, describing Tyler, The Creator’s softer side: a friendly and warm wish for love and companionship. A healthy dose of featured artists–Steve Lacy and Frank Ocean to name only two–keep the music funky and warm, the low synth grounding the listener but the higher synths and drum machine adding a skipping lightness to the track, giving it a touch of innocence. But then it becomes darker, even more vulnerable as he jumps head first into the second part, “Mr. Lonely.” No more are the groovy and well-grounded features but instead a long, gruff, and concise monologue by Tyler, The Creator, outlining his inability to interact with other people, let alone find love, before tying “Mr. Lonely” into “911” with the final line: “Ask me how I’m really doin’ / So I never have to press that 911”. The music itself doesn’t carry the same heaviness as the lyrics, but “911”’s instrumentals do shift slightly in their sound, the bass more like a low-lying rumbling, the drum machine sharper, the synth more hypnotic than melodic, like you’re caught in a spiral, dizzying.
Overall, this single seems to me like Tyler’s version of SZA’s CTRL: a take on being an artist and being a 20-something and trying to get by and all the emotions and words that come with that. Although “Who Dat Boy” and “911 / Mr. Lonely” are different musically and tonally, I can imagine them as two extremes on the same album, one which explores the complexity of emotion that Tyler, The Creator seems to have inside of him. Looking forward to the release of Scum Fuck Flower Boy towards the end of this month!
Sidenote: I feel like I ask this all the time but…Tyler, are you ok???