IGOR by Tyler, the Creator Review and Analysis

Miguel Rodriguez, (Very Slow) Editor

Tyler, the Creator is, without a doubt, one of the most influential rappers of the decade. His use of characters and experimental sounds,  rhyming and niche delivery has earned him a cult following, but the lo-fi and garage rock feeling of his music, a trait that often distinguishes him from others in the same genre, is also often lobbed at him as criticism, and the sign of an artist still green around the gills.

This is why the success of IGOR is so ironic, the music’s low fidelity and amateur aesthetic here is something that makes the record excellent. Unlike his previous work, where listeners are under the impression the noisy vocals and instrumentals are a side effect of circumstance, IGOR embraces the look and sound to make a point and better portray the main character.

Tyler tells the story of a young man who’s fallen in love, and must now deal with all the emotions and heartbreak that follow a disastrous, yet passionate, relationship. Opening the tracklist is the mood setting IGOR’S THEME, an edgy, mostly instrumental song giving the listener a sense of the narrator’s bravado through the grungy drum beats and vocal repetition. The sound is violent and threatening, the perfectly matching Lil Uzi Vert’s voice.  Following this is the most emotionally resonant song on the album, EARFQUAKE. If there’s any single song you must listen to, it’s this. Gentle synthesizers gloss over bouncing rhythm of electronic bumps and form the setting for a song about the regret of chasing away a significant other. Playboi Carti’s feature matches perfectly with the feeling the song gives off, even mumbling off lyrical characterization for Igor. Charlie Wilson sings the chorus alongside Tyler, who seems mostly uninvolved until the end of the song, where he has a short verse.

Subsequent tracks spend time explaining how Igor has gotten to this point, and the aftermath of their split. The chronological order of events is mixed up, and listeners are made to stay at attention and piece together the narrative of Igor. I THINK shoots the audience back to Igor’s initial feelings and fear of his adoration. RUNNING OUT OF TIME brings us to the present, where Igor has lost all hope of recovering the relationship he once had. Both tracks continue to embrace the low fidelity and bass heavy style of the initial two tracks, with I THINK having our first major Tyler verse, backed up by a snappy and idiosyncratic beat only Tyler could produce. The two also feature a mild interlude where the instrumental and musings of the background vocalists are allowed to flourish and set the mood for the final few lines of each piece.

NEW MAGIC WAND, blasting off after the mellow final synths of RUNNING OUT OF AT TIME and a brief interjection by Jerrod Carmichael, creates a mood of urgency. Here Igor shows off those dangerous shades of violence suggested by IGOR’S THEME, with threats against a mysterious third party, whose identity is left mostly up to interpretation.  His final goal of living his life with whoever his current obsession is also shows signs of a controlling nature.

A BOY IS A GUN* shows more red flags as Igor compares his new interest to the danger, and need, of a firearm. In the following PUPPET, he expresses a need to change everything about himself to hold onto the relationship, a compulsion that makes him a slave to the will of his partner. At the tailend of PUPPET is a brief clip that sets up the idea of the next track WHAT’S GOOD, where Igor runs wild, with the densest verses on the album flexing his clothes, street cred and new attitude. Lyrically and sonically, this resembles older Tyler the most, with lines expressing his malicious and abrasive behavior.

GONE GONE / THANK YOU once again switches attitude completely, replacing the loud bass with the uptempo rhythm of Tatsuro Yamashita’s Fragile. Igor celebrates the departure of his love, a stark contrast to his cry for forgiveness in EARFQUAKE, but one that makes sense having listened to all the problems he and his partner have caused one another. On the latter half of the song, Tyler builds metaphors around construction to explain the failure of his relationship, then thanks his ex for all the memories they had together, leaving them with a quiet and hopeful resolution, except for Igor’s pessimistic notion that he never wants to love again.

But, the album does not end there, in I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE, Igor sings and raps quietly over a slow and downtrodden synthesizer beat about the wish for his heart back, seemingly caught on where to go from here now that it is all over. In the final track, ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?, Igor asks his former partner to continue to interact with him, now as friends. Igor’s soft voice along with the caroling of a guitar go far in painting a soulful image of this hopeful division. The final notes of the album are the croaking roar of Igor’s final bid for a relationship with someone he seems to have had so much friction with, leaving their future in an ambiguous light.

The narrative of IGOR does not seem to be told in order, so it is really up to the listener to determine when everything occurs. This, along with the details and catchiness of each song make IGOR an incredibly replayable romp, one that makes you wish to listen and reinterpret Igor’s character, motives, actions, and relationships. Even Igor’s name, often associated with tales of Frankenstein horror, is insightful, highlighting how monstrous and damned he feels after falling in love and becoming everything he feared.The sheer character and professionalism dripping off this album marks it as one of the best break up albums of the decade, right next to Melodrama and 808s and Heartbreaks. This dedication to the artform has paid off greatly, with IGOR being Tyler’s first album to reach number one of the Billboard Top 100 and receiving wide critical acclaim.