Tyler, the Creator‘s Wolf is shaping up to be one of the most divisive hip-hop albums of the year. This is no surprise, considering the Odd Future frontman is one of the most overanalyzed MCs in the game — both on blogs and in his own lyrics. But the divisions this time aren’t for the usual reasons (the “his lyrics are repugnant” camp vs. the “his creative energy is astounding” camp). This time, it’s less about Tyler’s incendiary words — most reviewers seem to agree that he has, in fact, matured as a lyricist on this album — and it’s simply about the quality of the music. Which is a rare thing for a debate about OFWGKTA.
Tyler still resorts to the easy homophobic and misogynist tropes, yes, but throughout most of Wolf he aims to unpack the complexes that lead him to lash out in those ways. The production is impressively cohesive, too, but the sonics are a bit monotonous over the 18 tracks. These conflicting forces led our reviewer to conclude, “The songs may not stick in your brain the way his most outrageous lyrics do, but ultimately, Wolf is a success because Tyler has sharpened his musical aesthetic without dampening the visceral bite of his independent roots.”
But that’s just our take. Here’s your chance to overthink Tyler, the Creator for a few more minutes using our handy roundup of reviews below. Then go and listen to the damn thing and draw your own conclusion.
:: Billboard notes “there’s a definite progression up to this point. ‘Bastard’ acknowledged the issues, ‘Goblin’ celebrated them, and ‘Wolf’ is left to fix them.” The reviewer added, “There is a wonky albeit brilliant balance, one that shows Tyler, the Creator’s forced maturity yet highlights his desire to still be a kid.”
:: The ever-stingy Pitchfork handed out a very respectable 7.8, saying, “Wolf pulls back the curtain and reveal [sic] the talented introvert behind the music. The first thing to go is the bratty punk fury of earlier material[...] The songs about women are earnest where they used to carry murder ballads’ air of ill intent.” The reviewer also noted the album “displays a radical growth as a producer, composer and arranger, even if, as a rapper, he’s still up to some of the same antics.”
:: Stereogum was rougher on the album, finding it too monolithic and suffocating: “Wolf finds a brilliant young artist thrashing around, looking for ways out, wishing everyone would turn away. As a public act, it’s mesmerizing and scary, and I hope he finds a way out of the honest-to-god depression that seems to have produced the album. But as a piece of music, it’s mostly a painful trudge.”
:: Consequence of Sound, like us, handed out a 3.5/5, arguing that “spending time with him can be an exhausting, frustrating, singular, and impressive experience[...] inside his house, there’s plenty of room for him to succeed and fail. It’s still compelling to watch him do both.”
:: Tiny Mix Tapes also graded it a 3.5/5, positing that “Wolf is going to be remembered as the record that sees Tyler deploying his tact as an astute beat-maker and a producer more than allowing his reputation as a Satan-worshiping neo-fascist to swell any further.”
:: All Music is also in the 3.5 camp, calling the album “a frustrating jumble[...] from one reinvigorated provocateur as his vocal delivery is sharp and his punch lines punchier.” The review concluded thusly: “It’s a fun album for fanatics, but the willingness to shock feels too comfortable at this point, so those who found it tiresome before will likely find it devastating here.”
:: HipHopDX raved that the record found Tyler “putting his craft first and foremost” and that “Using Wolf as a platform to let his imagination run wild while remaining accessible, Tyler, the Creator displays maturation on his own twisted terms.”
:: But Slant Magazine was harder on the album, saying “The production is routinely strong, but things are weighed down by Tyler himself, who forcefully refuses to provide a palatable anchor to over an hour’s worth of material[...] it’s also a resolutely conservative effort, marred by a neurotic sense of self-involvement that recalls Eminem at his worst.”