Even as more of the world watches and Diddy lurks at his door, it still would’ve been surprising if Tyler, the Creator had made a run for the mainstream on his second album. And by kicking off Goblin with a defiant seven-minute intro, the Odd Future overlord solidifies his place as America’s favorite young nihilist, dismantling the next-big-thing rep that he’s been building. As he debates a “therapist” (Tyler himself, his voice distorted), the MC/producer claims, “People excited, thinking shit is so tight / Getting cosigns from rappers I don’t even like.”
For a newcomer, Tyler sports one of the most complex profiles in rap. His burgeoning career is founded on walking tightropes that criss-cross intimacy and distance, glee and depression, savvy and sacrilege. Goblin embraces dichotomies, from the grungy “Radicals,” which begins with a “don’t-do-what-I-say” disclaimer and peaks in a frothing scream-along (“Kill people! Burn shit! Fuck school!”) to the giddy single “Yonkers,” a self-portrait of “a walking paradox” with a track that mimics the infamous Psycho theme.
Conceptually, the album follows Tyler’s mental unraveling, and “Tron Cat” represents the height of both his craft and depravity. Over a hulking beat that’d make one helluva horror score (just don’t call it “horrorcore”), he echoes Kanye West’s “Monster” as he becomes one: “Victim, victim, honey you’re my fifth one / Honey on that topping when I stuff you in my system / Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome.” He gives his own ego an equally cruel battering on the slinky, piano-driven “Nightmare,” then genuinely wrestles with lust (“She”) and longing (“Her”).
That one of Goblin‘s best tracks is a lushly produced, bona fide love song (“Analog,” featuring Odd Future/Mellowhype rapper Hodgy Beats) sheds as much light on the Creator’s fractured brilliance as the album’s handful of misfires. Is Frank Ocean’s Antoine Dodson impression necessary on “Fish”? Nah. Is the goofy posse cut “Bitch Suck Dick” more or less unlistenable? Yep. Is the entire thing about 20 minutes too long? Probably. But the obvious lack of outside meddling proves that Tyler’s auteur status remains intact. He is, in the parlance of our times, still swaggin’. Now maybe he can get to work on winning that Grammy.