Tyler, The Creator’s Scum Fuck Flower Boy is a good album — and that’s coming from someone who has criticized Tyler quite a bit over the years (and still feel the same, thanks). But it’s frustrating to see critics try to comprehend the sexual complexity Tyler reveals on the album in light of his earlier lyrical outrages. Being “queer” is not shorthand for progressivism. Roy Cohn was gay. Peter Thiel is gay. Tyler’s penchant for “dolphins” and “dancing in pink panties” doesn’t necessarily excuse his past homophobic and misogynist language.
BTW, I’m not being censorious here. I like Syd’s music despite her occasional reduction of women to drug-addled strippers. I like Frank Ocean’s music despite his bragging about boning “bitches.” Many rappers and R&B singers have espoused similar themes; take your pick. I didn’t like Goblin (although I acknowledge its game-changing nature) because it was a meandering mess, not because Tyler presented himself as a bigoted misanthrope.
Perhaps the best thing about “Tyler, The Creator” Okonma’s Goblin is that he has mastered the art of intimacy. Throughout this nearly hour-and-a-half therapy session, he sounds as if he is speaking directly to you. However, therapy sessions usually last an hour. By stretching the listener’s patience to its breaking point, and offering modest emotional returns, he impresses with his self-absorption instead of his catharsis.
Tyler’s breakthrough arrives in the final track, “Golden,” when he announces “I’m not crazy.” In the first track, “Goblin,” he subtly broadcasts that he’s capable of change in spite of the worrisome obscenities that will follow. “I’m not a fucking rapist, or a serial killer. I lied,” he says to his “therapist,” which is actually his own voice modulated to a low growl. Speaking to his “conscience,” he adds, “They claim that shit I say is just wrong/ Like nobody has those really dark thoughts when alone.” He doesn’t spend much time bidding for the audience’s sympathy because no one wants a pity party. He knows that what we really want to hear are the vicarious thrills of calling someone nigga, a bitch, and a faggot; of raping and cannibalizing women; and of entertaining an interest in Nazism (though that last point is less pronounced here than on his debut solo album, 2010’s “freelease” Bastard).