Tyler the Creator, devilish mastermind behind the Odd Future label, is back with his fourth studio album, “Cherry Bomb”: a gnashing, at times jazzy revolt against fame, with an in-your-face feel that departs from its predecessor, “Wolf.” Although “Cherry Bomb” has excellent synth beats and guitar riffs, it ultimately gets bogged down by poor mixing, with Tyler the Creator’s rap barely audible against the production.
The album opener, “Deathcamp,” opens with a heavily distorted guitar riff, with Tyler rapping, “Umm, excuse me sir can you turn down those lights / and um I don’t like all the cameras man,” before launching into a fast-paced flow. The uncertainty with which he delivers these line counterpoints the guitar riff, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek way that only Tyler the Creator can pull off, as if he’s making fun of his own discomfort with fame. While his rhymes are clever and irreverent, there isn’t much that we wouldn’t expect from Tyler here. The major difference here is in the grittiness of his flow: It’s much faster and angrier, working well with the heavily distorted production. “Cherry Bomb” is much more production-heavy than “Wolf,” with heavy bass lines and guitar riffs throughout the album, resulting in Tyler the Creator’s voice being drowned out. Despite the added grittiness, his voice feels stifled under the synth beats. While this may be deliberate, if often comes across as a consequence of an error in mixing.
However, the tracks “Blow My Load” and “Find your Wings” find Tyler the Creator on familiar territory, with downtempo, jazzy beats, which is exactly the sound that Odd Future became famous for. Although this is familiar territory for many fans, it just feels out of place on the album. While these are definitely great songs, and offer an interesting counterpoint to the rest of the album, it detracts from the sonic unity of the album. For example, “Cherry Bomb,” the song right after “Find Your Wings” is perhaps the most intense song Tyler has ever done. It’s a thrashing, heavily distorted song with enough bass to blow your ears off.
The best song on the album is “Smuckers,” which features both Kanye West and Lil Wayne. Tyler the Creator’s lyrics are most audible on this song, and are arguably some of the best throughout. Kanye West’s verse on this song is brilliant, and maybe one of the best verses he’s laid in a while. He begins with a crooning, “why why why don’t they love meee,” and follows in his boastful and self-deprecating style, “richer than white people with black kids / more dangerous than black people with ideas.” All the while Lil Wayne is … well, Lil Wayne. Nothing interesting there.
“Cherry Bomb” is a solid album that gets bogged down at times by the amateurish mastering, as well as its overall lack of unity. For fans of Tyler the Creator, however, it still delivers on all fronts: It’s clever, entertaining and as gung-ho as possible. The kind of boldness that has made him into such an inventive and entertaining artist is definitely present.
Rating: 3.5 stars