Has Tyler penned the most complex concept album series hip-hop has ever seen?
Last week, Tyler, the Creator's new record WOLF leaked. Since Tyler has made a quarter of a million off socks, and I’m a stay-at-home slacker who gets paid to have an opinion, I decided to have a listen.
It was a bank holiday weekend, so my girlfriend and I bought some pizza, turned the heating on, and pressed play on our (read: my) iTunes account. "It sounds pretty good," we said. WOLF represents a mellow and pretty Tyler, bike-riding through the pastel colored fields of summer love, we thought. But what happened next, we could not comprehend.
Aimlessly flirting through the black-hole of YouTube, searching for that video of Forest Whitaker giving the G.O.A.T Oscar speech, we came across the video for “Sam (Is Dead).” Then, everything clicked into place.
Since listening to “Sam (Is Dead),” re-listening through BASTARD, GOBLIN and WOLF on the walk to Sainsburys, and trekking through a Google Chrome sahara of forums, I’ve come to an audacious conclusion. Within the WOLF trilogy—BASTARD, GOBLIN, and WOLF—Tyler, the Creator has created a directorial story-telling masterpiece. In fact, I’d go as far to say that he’s created the best multi-faceted storyline since Slim Shady told me to go and stick nine-inch nails into each one of my eyelids.
Let’s lay it out.
But first, for all you Internet-users...
TL; DR: WOLF is the prequel to BASTARD and GOBLIN. "Sam (Is Dead)" is the culmination of the narration so far. In the music video for "Sam (Is Dead)," Wolf kills everyone off except Earl. The story will end in 2015 with the release of EARLWOLF? (Source: Tyler’s Formspring)
Now, for all you long-form savorers. Without getting too Rap Genius, let’s get into it.
Since the beginning, Tyler has philandered with alter-egos. He’s laid them out for us several times in the past. There’s Tyler (obviously), Wolf Haley, Dr TC, Ace the Creator, Tron Cat, and, on WOLF, we’re introduced properly to Sam.
“I’m Wolf, Tyler put this fucking knife in my hand / I’m Wolf, Ace gon’ put that fucking hole in my head / And I’m Wolf, that was me who shoved the cock in your bitch.” - Yonkers
Looking past the cultural references, the trilogy goes, in terms of narrative chronology, as follows. WOLF, BASTARD and GOBLIN. First, without any music or lyrical bias, the cover art for WOLF suggests that the record has a a reminiscent theme, with Tyler looking back at images of a younger version of himself, so I'mma go right ahead and put it at the beginning.
The record starts with the title track, “Wolf," in which Tyler is introduced to Sam, who has been at Camp Flog Gnaw for a while. Tyler appears to have been sent to Camp Flog Gnaw to deal with the loss of his grandmother (“Jamba”) and his inability to contact his father (“Answer,” which is beautiful in a floating-around-in-a-haze-bubble-with-R.-Kelly kind of way) suggesting that Camp Flog Gnaw may be a misnomer for the therapy and asylum sessions set out on BASTARD and GOBLIN, respectively. When Tyler meets Sam, Samuel is brash and tells Tyler to “stay the fuck out of his way.”
The two then enter a tumultuous relationship throughout the trilogy, battling for the love of Sam’s girlfriend, Salem. Specific characters lead the narrative of certain songs. On “Awkward,” Sam and Salem talk about how they met and fell in love. On “Slater,” Salem rides on the handlebars of Sam’s bike, while Frank Ocean pisses Sam off by bullying him for talking to a piece of scrap metal on wheels. Sam continues through the album, angrily rapping about how he sells blow (Y U Mad, bro?) while Tyler battles through father and fame problems ("Answer" and "Colossus"—Tyler's "Stan" moment).
On “Partyisntover / Campire / Bimmer,” Tyler starts to hit on Salem. He asks her to “take a chance with a nigga, like me,” and when Sam goes out on a drug run on “Bimmer,” Tyler tells Salem how her “man got a lame impala.” Sam comes back at the end of the track and is pretty pissed off because Tyler has taken Salem down to the lake, a location referenced on GOBLIN track “Analog.”
In the video for “IFHY”, the description reads:
Wolf Performs Sam's Song, Sam Performs Wolf's Song.
This suggests that Sam wrote the song "IFHY" directed toward Tyler and Salem, because Tyler “shoved his cock [in Sam's] bitch” (as referenced in "Yonkers"). At the end of the track, Tyler asks Salem, “Why is Samuel such a fucking dick?” to which she replies, “He isn’t such a badass actually, he’s only here because he ran away, because some shit happened back home.”
The “shit” gets delved into like doctors playing operation on PCP with “Pigs” as Sam murders a bunch of people. Tyler recruits Earl and Domo on “Rusty” to help him fight Sam, and on “Trashwang,” they go to war. The album ends with Tyler getting sent to Dr. TC for getting caught masturbating on “Tamale.”
On the last track, Tyler raps, “Fuck that nigga, Sammy. If I seen that nigga, I would have killed him.”
If you’re at camp, talking about murder probably isn’t a good idea. It’s probably the reason Tyler got sent into deeper therapy, which brings us right back round to BASTARD and GOBLIN.
Welcome back. We're here at the first album, which in terms of storyline, comes straight after WOLF.
It’s important to remember here that Tyler talking dirt on NahRight, 2DopeBoyz et cetera has nothing to do with the storyline. It’s just fun. The storyline starts here with Dr TC meeting Tyler for therapy after he threatened to kill Sam at the end of WOLF. Dr TC tells Tyler that there will be three sessions—BASTARD, GOBLIN, and maybe EARLWOLF?
Tyler talks about a girl called Sarah, which "isn’t her fuckin' name, [Tyler] just think this shit is clever." Is "Sarah" Salem?
On “Sarah,” it’s apparent that Tyler will never get over Salem. He says that she tried to play him like a dummy, by fucking around with Sam.
For the rest of BASTARD, Tyler’s already futile relationship with his father goes into overdrive ("Seven"). On “Pigs Fly,” it seems that Sam makes an appearance. A guy talks about selling dope, how he went through a sociopathic phase, and how he’s battling half of his mental, continuing the characters narrative from WOLF. If that isn’t enough, the name suggests that it’s Sam’s apology for the murders that he committed on “Pigs.”
At the end of BASTARD, Tyler graduates from school, but he’s still hella pissed at his father, threatening to shoot him. This sets up the asylum scenario for GOBLIN.
Does this make sense? Tyler is still mad at Sam for what happened on WOLF. He's also reeling from the absence of his father. He and Sam are still fighting over Salem. Tyler threatens to shoot his father and gets sent into yet deeper therapy sessions.
THIS photo. Hear that? That's the sound of a thousand girls dropping their panties and a hoard of teenage boys picking up snap backs and tattooing newfound "motives" under their eyelids. Anyway...
GOBLIN starts straight after BASTARD with Dr. TC telling Tyler that he wouldn’t ever shoot anyone. Tyler doesn’t agree and goes into a brash, six-minute stream-of-consciousness telling everything and everyone to fuck off.
The lyrics of “Her” cross reference WOLF track, “Awkward.” On “Her” Tyler talks about a girl whose name is his password. He seems to be stating that Sam is out of the picture, but by the end of the track they get back together. On “Awkward”—a track by Sam—Sam states that Salem's name is “still his password.” Although continuity is broken in the story, like those really good bits in Fight Club, it’s clear that Sam and Tyler are the same person. Like I mentioned earlier, Tyler has a bunch of alter-egos.
Following up from “Her,” Sam calls out to Tyler’s crew on "Sandwitches."
“They are them... and we are us. Kill them. All.”
“Who the fuck invited Mr. 'I don’t give a fuck' who cries about his Daddy in a blog because his music sucks.”
Sam’s fucked up, bong-huffing, anti-establishment persona peppers the track, while Tyler urges people to “listen deeper to the music.”
Tyler, baby. I’m listening. Because frankly, the ocean is deep and I’ve dived in.
“Analog” returns back to the summertime scene that takes place after “Bimmer,” when Tyler takes Salem down to “the lake.” Summer never has to end with Tyler. But it did, because Sam, Tyler’s fucked up alter-ego, stole Salem back.
At the end of the record, Dr. TC brings some of Tyler’s friends to speak to him because they’re worried about their angsty little friend (“Window”). At the end of the track, Tyler shoots them all. Taco and Jasper Dolphin survive, because they didn’t turn up. Could that be why they’re the only two joining Tyler on his recent tour? Earl Sweatshirt also survives, because he wasn’t around at the time of GOBLIN. Tyler mentions him frequently in the narrative, which, though amazingly unplanned, ties into the real life Samoa scenario. This supports the theory that the next record could be EARLWOLF.
The album concludes with Tyler trying to break out of the GOBLIN asylum, but Dr. TC confides in Tyler that they’re the same person: “See Tyler, I’m your conscience. I’m Tron Cat, I’m Ace, I’m Wolf Haley, I’m... (Me).” This confirms that all the other characters are alter-egos.
Are you keeping up? To recap: since BASTARD, Tyler has lost his mind. In the same way, because they're the same person, so has Sam. Tyler's alter egos, Tron Cat and Ace, start to take over, which end in him eventually killing his friends. The album ends with Tyler realizing that he has a bunch of multiple personalities controlling his life and he wants to rid himself of them. How are you doing? Do you understand so far? I know it's hard.
Let me hold your hand through to the final installment in the story, “Sam (Is Dead).”
SAM (IS DEAD)
You really have to admire Tyler’s creative output. This video, “Yonkers,” “IFHY,” and “Domo 23” are all vastly different, but also equally brilliant. You can’t fault Wolf Haley’s ideas. Anyway, in “Sam (Is Dead),” Tyler matures and kills off his alter-egos. At the end, we see him shooting himself three times, leaving three dead Tylers on the floor.
The track title suggests that Tyler has already killed Sam. The three Tylers on the floor seem to represent Ace, Tron Cat, and Wolf Haley.
This leaves us missing the middle part of the story. After GOBLIN, but before "Sam (Is Dead)," Sam was murdered. How did this happen? The only members of Odd Future to survive after GOBLIN are Tyler, Earl, Jasper, and Taco. This suggests that the next album almost HAS to be his long awaited collaboration with Earl. Will EARLWOLF have the answers?
Have I read into this waaay too much?
The story obviously has a bunch of flaws. But what’d you expect? This is the Fight Club of music. The Donnie Darko of hip-hop. The Requiem for a Dream love story. It’s fucking confusing, but also amazing. In the same way that, when Eminem waxed lyrical about impregnating Spice Girls and a population recoiled because they didn’t understand it, the BBC Newsnights of the modern age tackled Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All *Expletive Expletive* and berated them for their angst-ridden service.
But, just like Eminem, it’s clear that there’s more to the portrait than the paint on the canvas. Tyler's music isn't simply surface "fuck everything" water; instead, down in the depths, a stronger undercurrent flows through a story. My theory is probably far from the truth, but it’s evident that Tyler has a well-thought-out storyline playing out.
Or, maybe Tyler is just fucking with us. Either way...
Roll on, 2015.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil
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