Tyga's 'The Gold Album' Proves Some Delayed Albums Should Stay Delayed
Not even Yeezus could save us.
What happens to a rap album deferred? Does it languish under lock and key, hope growing dim as the days bleed into weeks and months? Does it teeter on a horizon we could never touch? Maybe it cowers at the mercy of a mad doctor’s restless tinkering. Long delayed, unreleased hip-hop albums are rap game Schrodinger’s cats. As long as they never see the light of day they can’t disappoint us. Maybe our hope for their eventual greatness is as useful as their actual greatness might be. I say all of that to say that Tyga’s long-delayed The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty is finally out, released in a Beyoncé-esque surprise Spotify drop earlier this week. But Tyga is not Beyoncé. He is not Kelly or Michelle. He is LeToya, not without star quality but more adept at being star adjacent.
Tyga’s biggest successes tend to involve a more famous friend. Cousin and Gym Class Heroes leader Travie McCoy abetted his first hit in 2008, flipping Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut” into a shrill party anthem. Affiliating with Lil Wayne’s Young Money raised his profile with “BedRock” and “Roger That.” Chris Brown put him on the wildly successful “Deuces” and “Loyal” and played Omarion to his Bow Wow on February's party rap team up Fan of a Fan: The Album. Though at times he appears to be tripping up the ladder to success, Tyga’s not just some charming hip-hop Mr. Ripley. He works capably with pop gloss; at his best he recalls the post-Biggie, post-Mase Bad Boy Records hit parade, sex-crazed and unabashedly slight, great for parties, if little else. He realized his full potential on this front linking up with future heavy hitter DJ Mustard for 2011’s “Rack City,” a quadruple platinum smash that shifted the direction of mainstream rap. Since then, though, his younger, hungrier simulacrum Kid Ink snatched that baton and ran with it.
More recently Tyga has wormed his way into the mighty Kardashian television and rap dynasty, dating the 17-year-old Kylie Jenner despite public outrage over a 25-year-old courting a girl eight years his junior. Kylie’s brother-in-law Kanye West took up for Tyga, confusing many, and the familial connection blossomed into a musical one. Kayne’s the executive producer of The Gold Album, and his go-to collaborator Mike Dean contributes production. Most rappers lucky enough to receive the blessing of the Yeezus braintrust hit the ground running: Big Sean’s profile is high and steadily climbing, and Vic Mensa won’t be anyone’s best kept secret for long. As always with Tyga, though, no amount of good connections can account for bad taste, and The Gold Album is a monument to sketchy decision making, a towering pyramid of wobbly, half-baked ideas.
The first person you hear on The Gold Album is Birdman, who gives a quick pep talk at the beginning of album opener “Spitfire.” It’s peculiar because Tyga’s been on the outs with Cash Money, ostensibly for refusing to put the album out, but also because there’s nothing spitfire about its turgid, monotone swag raps. “Down 4 a Min” is unashamed 808s & Heartbreak fan service. After insulting Drake in Vibe and catching stern justice on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’s “6pm in New York” (“You need to act your age and not your girl’s age”), Tyga bites his style on a quarter of the songs here: “Shaka Zulu” nicks the “Started the Bottom” flow, while “God Talk” clones “6 God” to diminishing returns, and “4 My Dawgs” apes Aubrey’s singing over a beat knocking off Lil B and Clams Casino’s “Unchain Me.” The Gold Album's promising pre-release singles, the Kanye-produced "40 Mill" and the Young Thug assisted Slapper "Hookah," are nowhere to be found.
The Gold Album’s biggest crime is the sex talk. “Hard for You” is an ode to a woman born with a proverbial silver spoon, but if it’s Kylie he’s talking about, then he’s also offering her “good dick.” Boosie gifts the album its best verse on “Pleazer,” but he slips in a crude, unchecked dig about how he “just stuffed that Kardashian pussy.” “Pure Luxury” is a sex jam revolving around a chorus about mixing virgin blood with Bacardi 151 that was pukey enough when Nas rapped it. Here, it’s more stunting on statutory. You wonder whether there’s anyone around to advise this guy to tone things down, to chill. The last year of parading around an underaged girlfriend, beefing with Lil Durk, Drake, and Nicki Minaj, palling around with Breezy and pretending Cash Money is stifling his artistry suggest there’s no one telling Tyga to pump the brakes.
Tyga’s surrounded by people we begrudgingly put up with because their craft is strong in spite of whatever trouble they bring to the table off record, but The Gold Album doesn’t offer anything in the way of validating or explaining his sustained celebrity. It’s the biggest waste of a Kanye cosign since Common’s Universal Mind Control. There is a song that goes “Muh fucka, muh fucka, shit, shit, muh fucka, why you talkin shit, muh fucka? Like I ain’t the shit, muh fucka” in the Angry Kendrick flow. Why does this guy keep catching breaks? Who decided this spectacle was worth its own reality show? Did Birdman put the kibosh on releasing this thing at retail to save us from Tyga and Tyga from himself? Has he secretly been looking out for us the whole time?
Perhaps the great unreleased rap albums should stay unreleased. Myth trumps reality. Anticipation beats the fuck out of disappointment. As hip-hop fans in the twilight of the major label machine, we’re fully invested in the idea of the sheisty, disaffected record exec in large part because they’re real. We’re certain the guys whose refusal to adapt to digital downloading are also just as bumbling when it comes to what is and isn’t acceptable for retail. What if they’re not, though? Every delayed album can’t be the work of a stifled genius. The Gold Album is proof some of them don’t come out because they’re just plain troubled. What does this tell us about Lil Wayne’s beleaguered Tha Carter V? Is Birdman just cramping junior’s style or does he see something the rest of us don’t? Listen to The Gold Album below, if you dare, and discuss.
Craig is sick of it. Follow him on Twitter.