'Goblin Redux': Touching Up Tyler's New Album

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Tyler, the Creator at SXSW 2011 / Photo by Ian Witlen
Brandon Soderberg WRITTEN BY
Brandon Soderberg

"They don't get it, 'cause it's not made for them," declares Tyler, the Creator on the title track from his long-awaited, real record-label debut Goblin. That defense, only slightly more sophisticated than calling all detractors "haters," suggests a shift from the world takeover that Tyler was preachingjust a month or two ago.

Suddenly, Odd Future are insider shit again, and it conveniently arrives at just the moment when you can find their music in Best Buy. This is Tyler's shtick, of course - an ever-twisting contrarian attitude that gives him the freedom to do anything he wants and bitch about it at the same time. NPR commentator and video blogger Jay Smooth joked on his Tumblr, that the emotional cycle of Goblin goes something like this: "1. Feeling emo makes me want to be provocative. 2. Why are people provoked whenever I say something provocative? This is so unfair and makes me feel emo. 3. Repeat step one."

When that critique-proof game works, as it does on "Yonkers" (nothing else on Goblin is as well-crafted) it really works. Eric Harvey, in the Village Voice, said "I'm a fuckin' paradox, no I'm not" isthe "line of the year." But too often, Tyler's anti-critic invectives show him to be every bit as whiny as Drake or this quarter's sensitive blog-rap superstar: He falls back on the cliches that he's persecuted by the media and too young to be taken so seriously. Excuses, excuses. As Tyler himself might put it, he sounds pretty bitch-made.

Twenty tedious minutes longer than his 2009 solo debut Bastard, Goblin bounces between spoken-word diatribes over minor chords and lumpy approximations of the Neptunes' hardest, hip-hop productions. The latterhints at what Goblin could have been: Something a bit more open to new sounds. There's still a pretty good album in here somewhere, something at least as engaging as the best stuff Odd Future gave away for free. So let's make it that way. Here's Goblin Redux:

TRACKS TO REMOVE: "Goblin," "Transylvania," "Bitch Suck Dick" (featuring Jasper Dolphin & Taco)

Having spoken my piece and then some on hip-hop, misogyny, and homophobia, here's why Odd Future's sexually violent raps don't work, in any context: Faggot and rape jokes are fucking played-out. They're not funny, transgressive, or even all that shocking anymore. As Vulture's Nitsuh Abebe noted, this kind of boilerplate, women-hating stuff would fit right in with the "white middle America" Tyler rails against.

"Transylvania" and "Bitch Suck Dick" are the worst of the worst, and they gotta go. Even if the latter is a straight parody of mindlessly misogynistic rap, it's not very witty. The goal here is to cut the album down to about an hour (closer to Bastard's running time) and the loss of these songs doesn't affect the album very much. The only actual joke sacrificed is that Tyler kills Jasper and Taco at the end of "Bitch Suck Dick," and that's why they don't show up on the intervention song "Window." "Goblin" gets the gate because it's the worst of Tyler's fame complaints (along with essential final cut "Golden"). Plus, it's just a rough way to start the album. As you see below, I've still retained the therapist thread throughout, so there's no need for "Goblin."

FIRST FOUR TRACKS: "Sandwitches" (featuring Hodgy Beats) / "Nightmare" / "Yonkers" / "Radicals"

One of the conceptual problems with Goblin is that it picks up where Bastard left off, even though the album's thesis is that Tyler's life is worse thanks to his fame and all these goddamned chin-scratching critics. Starting with "Sandwitches," the song performed on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to rapturous effect, nods to Tyler's meteoric rise and includes the whole Odd Future crew with its "Golf Wang!" and "Free Earl!" chants. It's a brief, introductory moment of unadulterated energy, which is what these guys are supposed to be all about anyway.

"Nightmare" follows "Sandwitches" as Tyler comes back down from a blog-hype high: He remains an angry young dude complaining to his therapist. It might as well be 2009 again, when Bastard was constructed just for friends and people on message boards. "Nightmare" says everything the now-deleted "Goblin" does, but frames it in more personal terms. More of a Kanye-like wail than a Drake-esque moan. "Yonkers" and "Radicals" are a pretty unimpeachable one-two punch, though, so let's not even try and touch them.

MIDDLE SECTION: "Tron Cat" / "Analog" (featuring Hodgy Beats) / "She" (featuring Frank Ocean) / "Her" / "Fish"

Goblin sounds like Tyler used all of the debates about his lyrics for fuel to make even more irredeemably dark shit. It's a bad decision. But by grouping all the "girl songs" together, each one more disturbing than the last, we can give a mini-narrative arc to Tyler's anti-women screeds and suggest a knowingness beyond just predicting what will get under certain listeners' crawls. The girl-songs concept here is now bolstered by his "Tron Cat" persona, which as Chris Martins in SPIN's review observed, "represents the height of both his craft and depravity." Positioning "Tron Cat" in front of the album's harshest songs, justifying their content to some degree, is much less of a cop-out than the corny "random disclaimer" that kicks off "Radicals."

"Tron Cat" also ends with the therapist referring to "that girl [Tyler's] been talking about," and four increasingly desperate and angry songs follow, aimed at girls that the Creator has been looking to get with. "Analog" is idyllic and sweet, with Hodgy Beats and Tyler playing nice. "She" starts off almost touching, with Tyler doing a Pharrell loverman routine that slowly shifts into Eminem territory: "I usually just stalk you and masturbate / And I finally got the courage to ask you on a date / So, just say yes, let the future fall into place, cunt." "Her" is a wounded stalker song with a heartbroken backstory, while "Fish" closes the girl-songs suite with a "fuck it all" psychopathic rant.

FINAL THREE SONGS: "Window" (featuring Domo Genesis, Frank Ocean, Hodgy Beats & Mike G) / "AU79" / "Golden"

We come out of the pretty horrifying "Fish" with "Window," the soundtrack of Tyler's failed intervention and the murder of all his closest Wolf Gang friends. Goblin should probably just end with "Window" but cutting down the album any more would be cheating, so let's stick with the original track listing. By removing just enough of the loathsome stuff ("Transylvania," "Bitch Suck Dick") and keeping most of the fame-sucks bitch fits for the end, Goblin doesn't lose any of its boldly off-putting insularity. But now it responds to critics instead of just reacting to them, framing Tyler and crew's rage, and turning it into something more coherent and enjoyable, though still distinctly a product of the Odd Future collective.

FINAL GOBLIN REDUX TRACK LIST:
"Sandwitches" (featuring Hodgy Beats)
"Nightmare"
"Yonkers"
"Radicals"
"Tron Cat"
"She" (featuring Frank Ocean)
"Her"
"Fish"
"Analog" (featuring Hodgy Beats)
"Window" (featuring Domo Genesis, Frank Ocean, Hodgy Beats, & Mike G)
"AU79"
"Golden"

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