Editor’s Note: The original posted rating on this album was a site error. Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin was rated as a 4 out of 5. Apologies for the error.
Hype is a tricky variable for burgeoning Hip Hop artists. While many outright flounder at game time due to misguided content or shiesty label execs, others are simply crushed by the overwhelming musical feats expected of them by rabid fans. In a very real sense, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All’s frontman Tyler, the Creator finds himself at the crux of this dilemma with his studio debut Goblin.
It’s difficult to separate Goblin’s potential from the success of its 2009 predecessor Bastard; with Hip Hop consumers so distressed over the new vanguard of artists “misrepresenting” the genre, critics are inevitably going to draw lines in the sand over Odd Future’s legitimacy. Unfortunately for detractors, however, Goblin won’t give them the satisfaction of seeing OFWGKTA fail. While Goblin doesn’t live up to the fever-pitch hysteria that the group generated over the past year, Tyler’s ferocious rhymes and richly layered production make the album as exciting a listen as it is polarizing.
Goblin picks up where Bastard left off, as Tyler continues to duke it out with his therapist. Yet while Bastard maintained a certain sonic reserve that kept it grounded, Goblin spirals out of control into rebellious perversity. While Tyler, the Creator’s never been known to shy away from lyrical excess, Goblin revels in its absurd extremes and strives to put its listeners in a state of calculated discomfort. Tracks like “Radicals,” “Tron Cat” and “Sandwitches” lash out with anarchic discordance that put the listener on edge. Even the more subdued songs like “She” with Frank Ocean and the brilliant “Yonkers” embody Tyler’s middle-fingers-up attitude, as he twists perverted tales of stalking girls and “stabbing Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus” into anathematic odes to unbridled individualism. OFWGKTA’s fuck-all attitude may disassociate some listeners looking for friendly fare, but for those hell-bent on deconstruction and sonic disorder, Goblin will come as a sigh of relief.
While Goblin’s chaotic moments make it an exceedingly fun thrill ride, it’s the album’s more introspective moments that expose Tyler’s true gift as an emcee. The songs “Goblin,” “Nightmare” and quintessential album capstone “Golden” perfectly capture Tyler’s manic tendencies, as his innermost thoughts and emotions spill out with unimpeachable conviction. In addition, “Her” is a brutally honest confession from a hopeless romantic. While the track may be a bit too emotional for listeners wanting to hear Tyler scream, “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school,” it’s a breath of fresh air on an album populated with rape, murder and cartoonish degeneration.
Tyler also reaffirms his uncanny prowess as a producer, crafting jarring off-kilter cuts that blend the hardnosed aesthetics of Lex Luger with the venomously carefree antics of punk rock. “Tron Cat” is a panicked exercise in expertly assembled discordance, complete with growling bass, screeching 16-bit synths and repeated snare hits that kick the song’s energy into overdrive. Once again, however, Tyler’s subtler moments are what make the album really shine. The lead single “Yonkers,” in addition to cuts like “Nightmare,” “Golden” and the space age instrumental joint “Au79,” find Tyler stripping his production to its bare elements, with the former track employing a simple grating noise juxtaposed with melodic piano key shifts that the song a sense of musical gravitas yet to be achieved by many established Hip Hop producers.
Goblin is hardly a masterpiece, however. The project suffers from a few dull moments the reveal that Tyler and company still have room to grow. Despite their fun rambunctious qualities, “Transylvania” and “Bitch Suck Dick” do little to add to the album’s frantic tone, while “Fish” plods along rehashing the same crazed-rapist persona that Tyler exhausted on the earlier half of the LP. Perhaps the strangest shortcoming on the album is “Analog,” which sticks out like a sore thumb with its pop-oriented production and hokey song content.
Ultimately, Odd Future fans can rest assured that Goblin upholds the crew’s extremely divisive status: listeners are either going to love it or hate it. But at the end of the day, there’s little use in complaining about how the project isn’t quite as exhilarating as its previous companion piece. Tyler, the Creator still achieves an engrossing dystopian vision of Hip Hop that refuses to compromise to what fans and industry critics demand of him.