Tyler, the Creator became famous, in part, for being hateful. When his rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (“Odd Future” is fine) caught buzz around 2010, it was because of their delirious energy and Eminem-like love of mayhem. But it was their threats against women and “faggots,” delivered in song and on social media, that elevated them from subculture phenomenon to become essay prompt and political flashpoint. The likes of GLAAD and the band Tegan and Sara declared Tyler poisonous and asked the music industry to stop supporting him. Theresa May, back when she was home secretary of the U.K., took the extraordinary step of banning him from her country because his lyrics “encourage violence and intolerance of homosexuality.”
Now Tyler, age 26, has delivered an album with an altogether different kind of shock to its lyrics. “Next line will have 'em like ‘whoa’,” he says with trademark gruffness. “I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004.”
It’s one of a number of times on Flower Boy (unofficial title: Scum Fuck Flower Boy) in which Tyler seems to reference his own same-sex attraction. The aching journey of “Garden Shed” comes off as a confession from the closet (actually, the “shed”), and for the album’s intro he says he’s been “in the woods with flowers, rainbows, and posies.” Elsewhere, he searches for a lover who looks like Leonardo DiCaprio and brags about driving with a guy who looks like River Phoenix.