Review: ‘Call Me If You Get Lost’ sees Tyler, the Creator return to his roots, now more matured and refined

The latest album, released June 25, builds upon the musical prowess exhibited in his last two, but with a refreshingly rougher edge.

by Griffin Kozlow | 7/30/21 1:04am

tyler-the-creator
by Annie Qiu / The Dartmouth Staff

When Tyler, the Creator released his album’s new single, “Lumberjack,” on June 16, it was unclear which version of him we would get on “Call Me If You Get Lost,” his sixth studio album. Tyler’s discography has seen a major swing from aggressive and alienating lyrics to exploring introspective, vulnerable themes. The album’s first single gave us the old, aggressive Tyler; it boasted of wealth over an abrasive sample from the pioneering horrorcore group Gravediggaz, but with humor and grace infusing the lyrics. Its sound is comparable to his earlier albums, but in a way that is more mature and secure, foreshadowing the feeling of the album that would follow.

Tyler, the Creator released his debut mixtape “Bastard” in 2009, which told the story of Tyler’s tortured soul through the lens of a session with his therapist. It was controversial, and for good reason: The lyrics screamed with homophobia and threats of sexual assault. Lyrics aside, Tyler’s flow was unique and his beats were courageous, but his production skills were clearly unrefined. Over his next 6 studio albums, Tyler polished his skills as a producer, rapper, singer and artist.

Tyler’s 2017 album, “Flower Boy,” marked the beginning of a new era — a complete departure from the wildly offensive lyrics and dark themes that defined his previous works. “Flower Boy” painted an intimate portrait of a confused artist, unsure of his sexuality but consumed with the idea of a beautiful love. On 2019’s “Igor,” Tyler further developed these themes, the result of which was a critically-acclaimed album exploring Tyler’s sexuality through the story of his love affair with a man who was in a relationship with a woman. After the release of “Igor,” it was hard to imagine where Tyler would go next — his production was near-flawless, his lyrics were heartfelt and he had just about run the gamut from aggressive to vulnerable. Well, Tyler went back to his roots.

“Call Me If You Get Lost” is Tyler’s most masterful album yet. Whereas “Igor” is deeply personal and explores bravely intimate themes, “Call Me If You Get Lost” demonstrates Tyler’s command of just about every aspect of the creation process. And he knows it, too — with the help of mixtape-aficionado DJ Drama as his hype-man sidekick, Tyler takes on the persona of “Tyler Baudelaire,” a suave, well-traveled gentleman with a sophisticated taste for high art. From start to finish, Tyler is flaunting everything about his life — and he’s having a good time doing it, managing to create a unique portrait of the rich life without leaning on stereotypical rap lyrics about money, sex and fame. 

The album opens with a split second of Tyler’s voice alone — “The sun beamin’” — immediately followed by the introduction of a beachy, laid-back instrumental, atop which a picture is painted of an average day for Tyler Baudelaire: “Cookie crumbs in the Rolls / Jet fuel scented vest.” Baudelaire is riding in his Rolls Royce, having just hopped off a private jet, without a care in the world. Tyler tells us that he’s got “a mansion on that USB,” claiming that if he released all the music he has sitting on his drives, he’d make enough money to buy a mansion. Tyler has matured lifetimes as both a person and an artist, and this opening track shows him reaping the rewards. He’s living the sweet life and he knows he deserves it.

Two songs later, on the equally braggadocious “Lemonhead,” Baudelaire, with the help of up-and-coming rapper 42 Dugg, once again flaunts his opulence on top of a reverb-soaked, horn-filled beat. After some hilariously self-obsessed ad-libs from DJ Drama, Tyler opens his verse by flexing his house: “I don’t lean, but my house do / Off the hill with the mean view / Nice house, if you look out / You can see some eagles and a few yachts” — a perfect embodiment of the boujee lifestyle Tyler boasts throughout the album.

Tyler welcomes Lil Wayne onto “Hot Wind Blows,” who delivers one of his best verses in years over a chopped-up, old-timey soul sample. Wayne finishes off his verse with a line that fits beautifully into the elevated language that Tyler has been nurturing throughout the project: “The wind beneath my wings / Desert Eagle underneath my coat.” On “Juggernaut,” he teams up with Lil Uzi Vert and Pharrell Williams, the latter of whom gives us what might be the most deliciously shameless couplet on the album: “They just got the closest picture of the fuckin’ sun surface, that was us / Got the LaFerrari, park that bitch just for one purpose, catchin’ dust.” Tyler and all of his collaborators embody Tyler Baudelaire throughout this project, reveling in the ridiculous as they tell us about their fancy cars collecting dust in their garages.

Every line on this album appears to be about hyping up Tyler’s decadence, but beneath the constant ad-libs from DJ Drama and the not-so-subtle flexes from Tyler and his collaborators, there lies an artist who is thinking deeply about who he is and where he came from. “Massa” begins with a spoken interlude, abruptly cut off as Tyler takes on a laid-back flow and the song turns into a shockingly honest reflection of his career thus far. He admits that he didn’t start to mature until he was 23, which was around the time he was working on “Cherry Bomb.” This project was met with mixed reviews, and it was the last album before Tyler’s career took a drastic turn with “Flower Boy.” In “Massa,” he reflects on this past, admitting that the album’s faults were due to his liminal state of maturity: “I was shiftin’ / That’s really why ‘Cherry Bomb’ sounded so shifty.” Over the next three minutes, Tyler takes us on a journey through some of the most impactful events of his career, including the release of his breakout hit “Yonkers” and his transformation into a “butterfly” on “Flower Boy.”

But like Wayne was “in need of a flaw” on “Hot Wind Blows,” this album can’t be all riches and success. The album’s conflict finally arrives through the theme Tyler explored so deeply on his past two albums but had seemingly dropped thus far on “Call Me If You Get Lost”: love.

The first mention of Tyler’s love life appears in the last verse of the album’s second track, “Corso.” Tyler tells us that he “tried to take somebody bitch ’cause [he’s] a bad person.” This “somebody,” it’s later revealed, is one of Tyler’s good friends. He then decides that he doesn’t feel bad for what he did, because he’s the one that’s alone now: “Hope y’all shit working / I’m a psycho, huh? Don’t give a fuck, you left my heart twerking!” 

On the album’s mammoth 10-minute centerpiece, “Sweet / I Thought You Wanted To Dance,” Tyler’s love for this girl reaches its peak as he raps that “the cosmos’ only mistake is what they named you / They should call you sugar, you’re so sweet.” The song features an extremely lush instrumental, with synth bridges, background vocals and new sound effects which seem to reveal themselves on each listen. The second half of the song, “I Thought You Wanted To Dance,” leaves Tyler lost as the girl chooses her boyfriend over him. He wallows in despair over a fresh reggae-inspired instrumental, trying to figure out where he went wrong: “Why am I here / Standing alone? / Because I thought you wanted to dance with me.” While most of the album serves to show us how perfect Tyler’s life is, these telling lyrics serve as a window into some of the pitfalls in the life of a young, successful artist.

The album’s only blip comes in the form of an awful bit of mixing on the right channel of “Wilshire,” a song which builds off of the love affair presented in previous songs, but now tells the story from start to finish. Satisfyingly, however, this single flaw reflects the album’s theme of Tyler’s life as near-perfect, save for the dissonance of his love life.

Tyler is taking a victory lap with “Call Me If You Get Lost.” His bars boast the most illustrious language of his career and DJ Drama’s over-powering ad-libs give the project a raw, mixtape-like energy that embodies the shameless swagger in the lyrics. But if you pull back the curtain on these songs, you find that Tyler doesn’t let go of any depth. He has found the perfect balance between lavish brags and heartfelt stories, finding vulnerability in the album’s boisterous energy. It seems that Tyler can’t go up from here — but he’s proved us wrong in the past.

Rating: ★★★★★

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