Every once in a while, an artist will experience a moment. It usually coincides with a life-defining, reputation-elevating release that bequeaths upon them and their attendant body of work a rarefied sense of importance and power. Tyler, The Creator is in the midst of this phase now. His recent fifth album IGOR is both a critically and commercially all-time personal best. It’s his first no.1 record and a history-making phenomenon: He's the first solo rapper in history to have a No. 1 album he produced and arranged by himself, with no co-production or co-producer credits at all .
As Tyler enjoys his victory lap, we thought it best to commemorate his earlier work by revisiting his top five features. Because even when he’s a visiting guest, he brings his idiosyncratic best.
Check them out below.
5. 'Martians Vs Goblins'
This is the chest-thumping, generations-bridging West Coast manifesto in which The Game, a Compton OG, and Tyler, a next-gen California lightning rod, touch fingertips up in the clouds. As far as gangsta rap goes, this is a no-one’s-safe kill fest (Rihanna, Lebron, Lil B and Bruno Mars all take the abuse hurled at them here) with some jaw-dropping flexes that approach the Technicolour OTT-ness of horrocore. The one-two punch of "I suck? Where the fuckin Ring Pops? / You got a better chance of getting a copy of Detox" and "Wolf Gang, we rock, crack rock and that shit was expected / Like Jayceon whenever he name-drop", is hilarious, even now.
4. 'Trouble on My Mind'
"This is for the critics, who doubted the chemistry / Two different worlds, same symmetry" – Pusha T is right to talk about worlds coming together here. On one hand, two of gangsta and hipster rap's best mouthpieces show up in their tough-talking, fiery, undiluted best. Over one of the hardest beats by The Neptunes to ever batter your eardurms, Pusha goes as hard as he's wont to do, mingling drug-dealer flexes with threats promising grievous bodily harm. Tyler more-than-keenly joins in the fray, too, but his proclamations of violence are way more bizarre and unpredictable. His two-verse contribution is reflexive, prurient and hilarious and is a magnificently R rated showcase of his wordplay and imagination. And with the benefit of hindsight, the line, "I'm a fucking walking paradox", seems remarkably prophetic.
‘Biking’ is significant in the Tyler canon for two main reasons. For one, it’s the first and only time he has featured with Jay Z on a song. By the time it was in released in 2017, Tyler had already been an upper-echelon proposition for a number of years but sharing a credit with one of rap’s most esteemed and formidable figures is an honour unto itself.
There is no headroom in this serpentine take-no-prisoners track. Earl and Tyler are two different types of rappers – the former favours dense prose that is overwhelmingly detailed and harrowingly confessional while the former traditionally opts for a streamlined, punchline-heavy style. Both are absolutely brutal on this song, both ably and amply live to their early-period shock rap propensities (the song was released in 2013 by Tyler shouts out 2008 and 2010). But it's Earl who does a better job of it here – Tyler's ad-lib-heavy verse is almost an acknowledgement of that.
Where Tyler makes a powerful mark is in the production. Reflecting its brutal lyrical convoy, he bequeaths it with a hard-slapping boom bap foundation, accented with churning synths, compressed to draw out their tinny, ringing thrust, pounding low-end and eerily plinking keys.
1. 'After The Storm'
’Tis a quiet storm, indeed.
Kali Uchis’ compositionally dazzling honey-drenched empowerment anthem, besides shooting liquid lightning through your veins, features Tyler at his most collected and love-ready.
His verse has talk of flowers and sex. “I'm the hottest flower boy / That popped up on the scene”, is far removed from the brags of his younger days. But it’s not box-ticking “mature” fare, either. Besides knowingly referencing his excellent forth album Flower Boy, it’s got the tongue-in-cheek verve that he’s come to exhibit in appearances and talk show interviews.
“Sun is beaming on me like headlights beaming on Bambi / Now let's pretend the street is the room / And you are a Camry, 'cause you drive me candy /The Tito to my Randy, now let's produce some thrillers /My chocolate wit' yo' vanilla, uh”, he almost coos, invoking the bestselling album of all time, one of the most beloved characters in the Disney canon and a freaking Toyota Camry. It's is so simmering and soulful, you won’t catch him winking the whole time.