Proclaiming himself as Flower Boy T with that gravelly voice and irascible disposition befitting a proprietor of a rust-belt collision shop, Tyler, The Creator thrives on his paradoxical character and daily life throughout his self-produced fourth solo album. Despite the coarseness of its alternate title, Scum Fuck Flower Boy, this is easily the least vulgar Tyler release. It's also the most radiant one, akin to a modern-day N.E.R.D. album -- marching-band drums, curlicue strings and synthesizers, candy-coated melodies galore -- filled with purpose, lacking in aimless frivolity. This is a major creative advancement, no slapdash repository of provocations and whims. Going by the preceding lead double A-side, the album's essence was impossible to forecast. There was little indication from the pairing of the bare-knuckled blast "Who Dat Boy" with "911/Mr. Lonely," where a longing Tyler, over a supreme dazed groove, sees adoring fans and fast cars -- the latter self-effacingly acknowledged elsewhere as a recurring album theme -- as inadequate fill-ins for one-on-one time. The album contains another hard-hitting track in the form of "I Ain't Got Time!," with the rhymes ranging from routine threats to singular declarations ("Next line will have 'em like 'Whoa'/I been kissing white boys since 2004"), but its makeup is typified more by "911" and the similarly lively "Find Your Wings," off the preceding Cherry Bomb. Even with combination bleacher-stomping/trunk-rattling drums and an F-bomb, "See You Again" is a positively kaleidoscopic love song, tricked out with laser zaps, xylophones, strings, horns, and sugary lines like "I'd give up my bakery to have a piece of your pie." On "Pothole," a low-profile standout, Tyler approaches driving as a metaphor for life, laments his solitude and vehicular escapism, but then proudly asserts his lone-wolf status over the sheep: "I'd rather drown in a pool by myself than fuck with they fleece." While most of these songs are rife with anxiety and isolation, the open-hearted lyricism and wide-scoped productions, put together by an artist in peak form, make them immensely engrossing. Frank Ocean, Pharrell Williams, Kali Uchis, Syd, and Estelle are among 11 supporting cast members, not one of whom is inessential to the whole.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman