As the year winds down and critics’ best-of lists and the Grammy nominations have arrived, a consensus is brewing: Tyler, the Creator’s “Call Me If You Get Lost” is one of the highest-praised albums of 2021. And rightfully so. The album serves as an emphatic reminder that Tyler is still one of the most prolific rappers of the last decade.
In a year full of high-profile releases ranging from Drake and Kanye West to Olivia Rodrigo and Adele, “CMIYGL” not only stands up to the steep competition, it surpasses it. This is in large part due to its unmatched versatility. Tyler’s status as an elite wordsmith married with his innate ability to thoughtfully curate elaborate instrumentation produced the most cohesive project of the year.
His last two albums, the illustrious “Flower Boy” and the experimental “Igor,” saw Tyler broaden his sonic palette and venture into other genres. Despite the overwhelming critical and commercial success of both LPs, his first Grammy win (for “Igor”), and a record-breaking Billboard debut, many fans still yearned for another full-length rap album from the California native.
After receiving two more Grammy nominations last month for best rap album and best melodic rap performance, “CMIYGL” puts to bed the notion that Tyler’s rapping days are over and serves as a triumphant return to the genre that put him on the map.
Tyler shines brightest on the first half of his seventh studio album, which consists of sixteen tracks and a 53-minute runtime, though not a single moment is wasted.
“Corso,” the second track on the album, is when Tyler truly begins to flex his lyrical abilities. It starts with words from DJ Drama but quickly evolves into a speedy flow from Tyler, reminiscent of athlete Usain Bolt sprinting the 100-meter dash. He effortlessly keeps up with an up-tempo piano instrumental that features haunting synths and drums that perfectly match his harsh vocals.
His cocky attitude doesn’t last long, though. Insecurities about his love life begin to bleed through his lyrics in the final verse as he copes with his situation through expensive distractions – a theme that is present throughout the album.
Tyler laments, “Bout to spend millions just to fill voids up/My heart broken remembered I was rich, so I bought me some new emotions/And a new boat ‘cause I’d rather cry in the ocean.”
Whereas Tyler’s earlier music was far more worried about provoking his audience, “Flower Boy” and “Igor” laid the groundwork for this newfound vulnerability.
“WusYaName” continues to unpack Tyler’s love life but from an entirely different angle. Instead of the depressing aftermath of a failed relationship, it chronicles Tyler’s wishful courting process. And of course, to raise the stakes, the person of his desire is already with someone else.
Despite the heavy presence of rap throughout the album, “WusYaName” is a true R&B anthem and proves that he still values sonic exploration.
Its hook is an earworm aided by angelic backing vocals from Ty Dolla $ign and arguably the most focused verse of YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s career. The mesmerizing instrumental is a sped-up sample of H-Town’s “Back Seat (Wit No Sheets),” and it fits seamlessly under his desperate pleas for attention.
Speaking of standout features, Lil Uzi Vert and Pharrell join forces with Tyler to form an untouchable trio on “Juggernaut,” a fiery banger of boastful aggression toward the end of the album. “CMIYGL” closes with “Wilshire,” a lengthy introspective cut, and “Safari,” a bombastic outro that acts as a fitting exclamation point to a powerful album.
Rap music is full of braggadocio. It’s commonplace to hear rappers flex their exclusive lifestyles through elaborate name-dropping of fancy foreign cars and expensive jewelry.
While Tyler isn’t shy when it comes to bragging in his music, “CMIYGL” feels different. On its surface, the album is full of swagger-induced references to his Rolls Royce collection, trips to Europe, his bachelor status, not to mention his clear skin and nail polish.
However, with this album, Tyler demonstrates that these material possessions are really just things that he relies on to showcase his artistry and distract himself from the all-too-relatable feelings of heartbreak and insecurity.
Over the last two years, Tyler took his time to experience life and reflect on his successes. This led to a polished sound, a refined focus, and a conceptual vision that was executed to perfection – all while flaunting his opulent lifestyle through niche travel-inspired references.
Tyler’s range is truly incredible, and “CMIYGL” is a fitting addition to his most recent three-album run, a trilogy that acts as a new era and reinvention of who Tyler, the Creator is as an artist. It captures him at the peak of his powers as both a rapper and producer, and it’s no surprise that this intentional return to his roots has led to a mountain of critical acclaim.