"Don't go into this expecting a rap album. Don't go into this expecting an album. Just go, jump into it."
Tyler, The Creator is back, and this time he's shattering every preconceived notion you had about what a hip hop album could be.
On his fifth studio album, Igor, the 28-year-old emcee officially carves out his own sonic space. This album doesn't sound like anything that Tyler Okanma has ever done before. In fact, it doesn't really sound like anything anyone's ever done before. It exists in a liminal space that Tyler has created at the intersection of hip hop, funk, jazz, blues, soul, and something not so easily defined – raw, creative expression.
Igor consists of "All songs written, produced, and arranged by Tyler Okonma," and is a refreshingly daring, musically robust, and strangely beautiful journey through the mind of a conflicted artist in search of freedom. For one, Tyler seems to be in search of the freedom to not be defined or cloistered by his sexuality, which is alluded to on "I THINK," "A BOY IS A GUN," and, perhaps most explicitly, in the Frank Ocean-assisted, "RUNNING OUT OF TIME," on which he depicts the tension felt by the speaker due to being in an open relationship with a man. In a rapped conversation, Tyler spits, "Take your mask off / Stop lyin' for these ____s / Stop lyin' to yourself / I know the real you."
Then again, a case could also be made for interpreting this record as a concept album that tells the story of Igor, a gay man who just wants to be openly loved and accepted for who he is. So, let's not be too hasty to jump to conclusions about Tyler Okonma's personal life as it's not fair to assume that poetry is always confessional.
The album as a whole also appears to assert itself as an attempt at freedom from artistic expectations. Minutes before the album dropped, Tyler fired off a tweet, saying, "Igor. This is not Bastard. This is not Goblin. This is not Wolf. This is not Cherry Bomb. This is not Flower Boy. This is Igor. Pronounced EEE-GORE. Don't go into this expecting a rap album. Don't go into this expecting an album. Just go, jump into it." And by the end of the album, for all of its lushly layered, genre-defying, and unexpected twists and turns, it is evident that Tyler has achieved this freedom.
Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).
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This Saturday at 3PM EST, Popdust will be hosting our first ever livestreamed music festival.
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Check out our excellent lineup:
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Plus, a new Charli XCX track featuring Lizzo.
RELEASE RADAR is here to give you the breakdown of the top singles, albums, and videos of the week so you can head into your weekend with a new list of killer tunes.
Charli XCX - "Blame It On Your Love" (Feat. Lizzo)
Few things are more blessed than a Charli XCX/Lizzo collaboration. The new song is an un-remixed version of Charli XCX'S "track 10" which was featured on her acclaimed album Pop. "Blame It On Your Love" is out now via Atlantic.
The Habits – "Love You"
Alt-pop duo The Habits shared an infectious new single this week called "Love You." This is the first single off of the duo's new EP, out June 14.
Juan Wauters – "Dos"
This week Juan Wauters shared a playful new song called "Dos," sung in his native Spanish via Captured Tracks. Wauters said of the song "On this particular version of 'Dos,' I hear the sound of music that describes Montevideo, the city where I was born. The harmonium solo was done in a way to emulate the sound of a bandoneon in the way Astor Piazzolla would play it. The song talks about the complexities of a love story." Juan Wauters will release his latest, Introducing Juan Pablo, on May 31 via Captured Tracks.
Hatchie – "Obsessed"
Hatchie reveals yet another fuzzy gem of dream pop with her new single, "Obsessed," from her forthcoming debut album, Keepsake, which is shaping up to be one of the most exciting releases. Keepsake is due June 21st via Double Double Whammy.
whenyoung – "The Others"
London's whenyoung are gearing up to release their debut album Reasons to Dream, through Virgin EMI on May 24th. They continued to show off their deft songwriting this week in their evocative new single "The Others," inspired by the Grenfell Tower fire in London.
The Beaches - "The Professional" EP
Toronto alt-rock outfit The Beaches are back with a new EP called The Professional out May 16 on Island Records, their first release since 2017's Late Show. The new collection of jams features fan favorites "Snake Tongue" and "Fascination."
Inner Wave – "wya" EP
The L.A.-based Latinx psych-rock band just dropped a wavey new EP titled wya, the followup from their previous LP Underwater Pipe Dreams.
Carly Rae Jepsen - Dedicated
Pop princess and purveyor of glossy bops, Carly Rae Jepsen returns to navigate love and loss on her fourth studio album, the follow-up to 2015's cult favorite E•MO•TION.
Tyler the Creator - Igor
Igor is Tyler the Creator's fifth album, but it feels like he's been at the forefront of our cultural purviews for much longer, considering his impact on the popular rap landscape. 2017's Flower Boy presented a much more eclectic and well-rounded version of the artist, and now, we see him grow even more on Igor.
Sara is a music and culture writer. Her work has previously appeared in PAPER magazine and Stereogum.
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