[Music] Thank You, Tyler: How Flower Boy became the soundtrack to my life [Written by Shae McCoy]

This isn’t solely for the hip-hop heads. This definitely isn’t for the occasional fans. This here is for the people who use music as a mental escape from the harsh world that we live in.

You know that pair of jeans that you buy because you think they’re cool, but you don’t wear them for months, even years, and then boom, the perfect moment comes and you wear them. You can compare my rediscovery of Tyler, The Creator to that scenario. I finally wore my Tyler jeans.

One day I was chilling at my friend’s house, more like my brother, and he usually plays music that I’m not fond of. This consists of “baby momma” music ( usually Keyshia Cole, K. Michelle, you get the point), or some modern-day rap that I just can’t get down with. In the back of my mind I’m screaming, “Play some Michael Jackson, some Black Sheep, some B2k, hell anything other than this shit at this point!”

“I’m the type who listens to Boadicea just to hear the chick humming her harmonious tones through my headphones.”

So this particular day I came over and he had some music playing that instantly made love to my ears. I have a thing for instrumental sequences, it’s weird. I asked my bro what the name of the song was and he told me. It was Glitter by Tyler, The Creator. I hurried to write that shit down even though I remember melodies and instruments pretty well. Glitter is the 13th track on Tyler‘s fourth and most recent studio album, Flower Boy Or Scum Fuck Flower Boy. Whatever you see fit.

We listened to the whole album probably twice that day, but since I was at his house I couldn’t really analyze the album like I wanted to. No lie, I was anticipating going home because I knew I had some digging to do with this. I didn’t expect to be so captured by work from Tyler, The Creator. When he first surfaced back in 2007, I was in high school. All of the “cool kids” spoke of him as if they had stumbled upon gold.

“Last weekend, I was that cool kid that stumbled upon gold.”

I was never one to ride the wave, so I let this one pass me by. Back then, the teens I was around were hopping on anything that made them appear cool, but that was never my steelo. I like to take interest in artists long after the fans who are not authentic fall off. Gives me more room to play.

Who is Tyler, The Creator?

Who really knows? If you listen to what the media says about him, you will assume that he’s just this lost being who’s gay and likes to say controversial things. Nah, I believe it’s deeper than that. Flower Boy proves it. I made it my business to listen to his previous albums to measure his growth. Compared to Goblin, Wolf, and Cherry Bomb, Flower Boy is the best. Cherry Bomb is my runner-up. I believe Flower Boy shows how he has not only matured musically but how he may have grown in his personal life. The albums before, to me, seem like the mental build-up.

So, the weekend after hearing Flower Boy at my brother’s, I gave it another listen. This time I was able to pay close attention to instruments, wordplay, and more. It would be cliche to say that I loved the whole album, but I am very close to making that statement. Flower Boy is a 14 track album that starts off pretty melancholy with Foreword and ends with a jubilant instrumental, Enjoy Right Now, Today. The ingredients to this audio sandwich all seem to find their way to be harmonious, although each track has their unique messages and instrumental compositions.

Photo taken by Durimel

Flower Boy definitely did a great job of calming my anxiety. It’s the end of summer, school has started back up, my clientele for photography has increased, and I am very involved on campus. The first week of class was very heavy on me, and on top of that, I had an event to do photography for and articles to write. I was stressing! I felt like I wanted to shut down, but I know that nothing moves unless I do.

The attitude Tyler gives off throughout this album explains my daily ups and downs. Most times I feel alone, especially since I started to take charge of my career. I often get the feeling that people only associate themselves with me because of what I can do for them.

Then there are those moments when I feel like “I‘m the shit bitch.Tyler reassures me in I Ain’t Got Time that I should feel good about being the shit and that I should shake off the people who aren’t rooting for me. Overall, the message that Tyler gives through music and off the record is to be yourself and go for those dreams and goals that you think are not attainable.

Listening to interviews made me understand that Tyler says certain things because of the gullibility of the public. One quote in I Ain’t Got Time, may prove the gullibility theory’

Next line will have ’em like “Woah”
I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004- Tyler, The Creator

First of all, when I first listened to this song I thought he said “Dissing.” I got a hold of this album a little later than everyone else which gave me the advantage to look at all of the blogs and media sites who took that quote and ran with it. The articles that I did read all focused on that particular quote, questioned his sexuality (which has been challenged in many instances) and took away from the actual song. No one talked about the instrumental composition which, from listening to Tyler‘s previous albums, has only gotten better. No one discussed the actual lyrical weight of the track. Just horrible. I’m not a fan of rumors either so all of the controversy surrounding one quote didn’t tickle my fancy.

Photo taken by Durimel

I was looking for the songs that I can relate to and the ones with hidden gems. I love them. Where This Flower Blooms, Boredom, Pothole, Garden Shed, and 911/Mr. Lonely are my top picks from this album for various reasons.

Where This Flower Blooms, which features Frank Ocean, had to grow on me. The tempo wasn’t that appealing to me, but the use of instruments was. The words are what caught me.

Tell these black kids they could be who they are
Dye your hair blue, shit, I’ll do it too
Look, I smell like Chanel
I never mall grip with my manicured nails
I coconut oil the skin
I keep the top low ’cause the follicles thinnin’
But other than that, man, it feels like I’m winning
Went from statistic to millionaire
CNN doubted ’cause my skin is dark
But they forget when I get in my car –Tyler, The Creator

This whole chunk brought tears to my eyes. I felt this. Too often we are told to be ourselves, but “not like that.” Especially in the black community. He makes it clear to us that we can do anything that others are doing, there’s no limit. Tyler defies society by talking about his self-care methods, particularly the ones straight men might not admit to doing.

What I really admired is how much the title resonates with the story of this track. He starts the song speaking on humble beginnings and as the song progress, so did his life as he went from “Statistic to Millionaire.” I also loved how the song concluded with that beautiful piano number. This song made me loosen up a bit. As a journalist, we are supposed to carry ourselves a certain way, but as a journalist from the hood, I needed Tyler to get me together like this. The stanza above can be interpreted in many ways.

Boredom, which features Corinne Bailey Rae, Anna of the North and Rex Orange County, is my anthem when I have leisure time. All of the features have distinct voices so it is hard to forget. I thought Rex was a black man until I actually looked him up. I love his voice and his ability to carry a tune and harmonize correctly.

Bored and getting desperate as hell
(Desperate, using, texting, amusing)
Cellular not amusing and I hope someone will
Message me with some plans that are amusing as well- Tyler, The Creator

This stanza is me anytime that I have some time away from work. How ironic is it that when I am working, everyone wants to hit my phone, but when I am free, my phone is as dry as a popped blackhead. Since hearing the album, Rex and Anna have been singing in the back of my mind.

Find some time
Find some time to do something – Anna & Rex

is what they sing to me. Whenever I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something, but can’t think of what it is, this song finds its way to the front of my thoughts. I suddenly figure out what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s crazy, but Boredom is an alarm to my conscience.

Pothole, which features Jaden Smith, is another track I had to listen to a few times before I grew an attachment to it. I never thought I would like Jaden Smith on a song, but he was perfect for the chorus. His monotone voice set the tone. I can relate to this track on a personal level because we all have run into potholes as we venture through our lives. Tyler describes how potholes were a brief distraction in his, but how he was able to avoid being fully consumed by them. He talked about helping others, even those who didn’t want to help themselves. I’ve been there before, too many times.

Everyone is a sheep, me, a lone wolf
Nobody gon’ make a peep ’cause everyone wants some wool
Since everyone is a sheep, not everyone here is cool
Man I’d rather drown in a pool by myself than fuck with their fleece-Tyler, The Creator

This stanza is basically my whole stance on society right now. I feel so separated from my peers in so many ways. I feel like as a generation we have a long way to go. One of the many reasons I started writing was to keep my thoughts separate and unique. As far as media goes, everyone believes everything as long as it’s on a platform. Even deeper than that, there’s a lot of things that are glorified in our society that is just questionable. I like to lead and not follow, so I tend to always end up by myself. Tyler is ahead of this generation and it shows in these lyrics, even though it may have taken a while for him to achieve this maturity in his music.

Garden Shed, which features the beautiful voice of Estelle, is my escape from the world. I think it’s kind of cute how Tyler tries to exercise his singing voice. He plays with his voice a lot, which I appreciate because that shows his versatility as a creative. One musical term I want to scream at the top of my lungs, CADENCE! The guitar chord progression after the second run of the chorus is perfect. The song goes from light weighted to heavy in the span of a minute or two. The content tends to follow suit. The metaphor of the butterfly leaving the cocoon can be pawned on any coming out situation, not necessarily just sexuality. In Tyler‘s situation, one can make the inference that he is referring to being afraid to come out and how he had fears of being disowned by loved ones.

Don’t kill a rose
Before it could bloom
Fly, baby, fly
Out the cocoon- Estelle

I took Estelle‘s beautiful words and related that to my life and how I was always made fun of for liking certain things, acting a certain way, and typically being different from the rest of my friends who were “cool.” As I grew up I did come out of my cocoon and went for what I wanted. I remember having a conversation with my brother about evolving from a caterpillar into a butterfly, he used it as a career metaphor and it has been in the back of my mind ever since.

911/Mr. Lonely, which features Steve Lacy and Frank Ocean, is my jam! I like the vibe that Tyler chose to go with for this one. When I hear this song I just imagine myself in a soul train line waiting for my turn to turn up. I think about me singing this to my crush, but instead, I’d be Ms. Lonely. My dating life is awkward and is some shit. I love Steve Lacy‘s brief sample of The Gap Band‘s Outstanding, I sing the hell out of that part, but my favorite verse has to be Frank‘s.

Chirp, chirp
Chirp, chirp
Woke up in the ‘burbs, ‘burbs, with the birds, birds
Where you used to come and get me with the swerve, swerve
These days you gotta find time
Even the night line
Work line
Dial nine-Frank Ocean

This verse just sounds cool to say. Plus, if you don’t know all of the words no one will notice because of the alliteration and vowel exaggeration at the end. Major key. Now there are two parts to this song. Part two features A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q.

I can’t even lie, I’ve been lonely as fuck- A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q & Tyler, The Creator

At this point, I want to turn the song off for being so accurate about my life, but I listened and Tyler goes off.

They say the loudest in the room is weak
That’s what they assume, but I disagree
I say the loudest in the room
Is prolly the loneliest one in the room (that’s me)
Attention seeker, public speaker
Oh my God, that boy there is so fuckin’ lonely
Writin’ songs about these people
Who do not exist, he’s such a fuckin’ phony- Tyler, The Creator

At this point of the song, I felt like Tyler was telling me to sit my ass down and listen to what he had to say. This is Tyler subliminally dissecting himself while speaking on issues that may plague others.

Overall, Flower Boy was the perfect name for this album. It serves as a metaphor for his growth. The only thing that was bothersome to me was the length of some of the songs, most of them have a bridge that contrasts from what you were listening to in the beginning, but I grew to love it. Like, Glitter, the beat was so beautiful that I wish it lived until the end of the track. I call this the soundtrack of my life because I can listen to it in all parts of my day. Each song caters to different emotions and situations that I experience during the day and throughout the week. It’s my escape from the society that likes to tell me that I have to sugarcoat who I am. Tyler encouraged me to let my guard down and to be who I am around anybody, they can either accept it or not accept it. For that, I thank you.

You can purchase Flower Boy here.