Tyler, “The Creator” Okonma’s first two albums were called Goblin and Wolf but the LA rapper and producer has mainly been a troll over the years, with no line too offensive to be uttered by his low, nihilistic voice. He was banned from entering the UK by the Home Office in 2015, which said that his work “fosters hatred”, and just this week Billie Eilish had to apologise for an old video in which she mouthed a racial slur while listening to one of his songs.
Across his last two albums, Flower Boy and the Grammy-winning Igor, his work has become more complex and even beautiful, with frequent singing and more personal content. But on this sixth one, he still can’t resist sticking a finger in the eye of anyone who might want him to represent anything but himself. Manifesto begins with him impersonating a “Lil’ white bitch” who wants him to say something about Black Lives Matter. “I know I ain’t got the answer/But I ain’t gon’ cheerlead with y’all just to be a dancer,” he raps.
Instead his new alter-ego is Tyler Baudelaire, an international jetsetter who’s too busy fretting about “Cookie crumbs in the Rolls” to think about the state of the nation. The music – soulful flute on Hot Wind Blows and even reggae on Sweet/I Thought You Wanted to Dance – has a global feel, held together by old school breakbeats and the frequent shout-outs of DJ Drama.
However, the inescapable shadow of slavery interrupts the party on Massa, and the reality of his personal life emerges on the 10-minute Wilshire, a sad story about fancying someone else’s girlfriend that’s so detailed it must be true. There are many layers to sift through. Tyler’s music is as fascinating as ever.