Disclaimer: A little bit of censored profanity, talk about sexuality and allusions to suicidal thoughts/tendencies.
Headlines all over the place (along with many Genius contributors) have been speculating non-stop about what the album will be like. The album is stirring up quite the storm, and after having listened to it in its entirety multiple times, there is a very clear personal and introspective vibe to it. It delves into themes of loneliness, vulnerability, and the craving of affection while indulging the materialistic and transient nature of his fame and fortune lifestyle. Musically, there’s a fantastic contrast between the smooth and mellow vibes of the instrumentals, the choir-esque backing vocals, and his somewhat gritty flow and deep, punchy voice. So, without any further ado, let’s get to the breakdown.
This track, featuring Can & Rex Orange County, is a bundle of questions. Tyler tapped into a sweet spot combo of rhetorical questions and hypophora/anthypophora to question his motivation (or more often, lack thereof). The rhyme scheme is noticeable but disjointed with a very gentle bridge, allowing you to ease into all of his questions, consequently becoming personally invested. Despite it being presented as a “foreword” and not the main meat of a track or album, he drops a subtle political statement asking “How many slaves can it be til Nat Turner arrives? How many riots can it be til them Black Lives Matter?” Following his general trend of behavior when it comes to nonconformity, asking these questions almost allows (or encourages) his listeners to question things for themselves as well, promoting a conscious lifestyle (“Stay woke”, anyone?).
Where This Flower Blooms
By far one of my favorite tracks on this album. In addition to featuring Frank Ocean, whose ethereal voice and musical presence is ideal for the nostalgic vibe of this track, it’s essentially an origin story. It’s slow and steady and utilizes the metaphor present in the track and record titles. Tyler compares himself to a flower to show his progression and growth as an individual, and even drops in a “n*gga making leaves, keep it in my branches family could eat” as an allusion to the wealth he’s acquired. ‘Where This Flower Blooms’ challenges the stereotypes pinned onto what masculinity entails, and as a black male rapper, a bar like “I never mop up with my manicured nails” is essentially revolutionary. Having a musical icon unapologetically be himself despite the social limitations is inspiring for listeners, especially those who are particularly impressionable or are experiencing some dissonance in terms of who they believe themselves to be and who they feel obliged to be.
Plus, he drops a “Look, I smell like Chanel’, in reference to Frank, and it makes me happy.
This interlude track features Shane Powers, who did the radio vocals on Cherry Bomb’s “BLOW MY LOAD”.
Throughout this record, I’m a little lukewarm about the radio intermissions, however from an artistic perspective, the concept is innovative and has the potential to enhance your listening experience as you are immersed into the setting in the tracks. The voice that says “The one about me” at the end of the interlude, leading up to ‘See You Again, is identified as ‘Wyatt’ according to some online sources.
See You Again
This track’s first verse strikes me hard every time I listen to it. Not because it’s elaborate or complex, but there is so much power and influence in its minimalism. I feel like this track has a lot of ‘clichéd’ lines – from “I wonder if you look both ways when you cross my mind” to “Cupid hit me with precision” – and I don’t doubt for a second that that was intentional or at least conscious, but somehow it still carries genuineness. And that is impressive. Tyler is talking about how his lover is only in his dreams, suggesting an incapability of being together or an unrequited nature to their dynamic. The flow is smooth throughout and one of my favorite lines on this record is “I said okay, okay, okay, okidokie, my infatuation is translatin’ to another form of what you call it? – Love” There’s a natural co-existence of maturity and childishness in this song that I feel accurately depicts a relationship at this point in his life; it’s all flowing out, so smooth yet so uncertain and questioning.
Who Dat Boy
Finally, the track that features my sweetheart, A$AP Rocky. I had to put that out there. As you’d expect, this track is focused almost entirely on the fashion world in terms of its themes, allusions and punchlines. Which only reaffirms why he would have Rocky feature on it to begin with (“One n*gga jiggy, and the other awesome” – a reference to A$AP Rocky’s ‘Fashion Killa’). This track I feel highlights another dimension of Tyler’s character as a human being and as a creator (pun blatantly intended). He possesses the skill-set to excel in all of the industries he dabbles in, from music and fashion to directing his own music videos and starring on Loiter Squad and doesn’t intend on putting an end or a cap on that; “F*ck the rap, I’m tryna own a planet. From my other f*ckin business ventures”.
Furthermore, he says he’s “currently lookin for ‘95 Leo”, which not only makes me feel personally closer to Tyler, but is one of the many lyrics fuelling the conversation and speculation over his sexuality. However, I found myself listening to the album without that on the forefront of my mind. Referring to a tweet of his from 2015, he’s not exactly subtle about his sexuality, in fact he’s literally laughing at people not paying much attention to his coming out. And I think that attitude is a fantastic one to utilize when approaching sexuality and promoting openness because it implies there’s no deviation from the norm. You like guys, therefore you like guys. End of story. And I give that mad props.
(P.S. Of course, his discussion of sexuality and people’s engagements with his lyrics or persona in terms of this topic extend beyond my realm of discussion, so for the sake of being succinct, I’m acknowledging its complexity and think it’s still very important to have these honest and judgement-free conversations.)
The kings of idiosyncrasy are back and together in action! ‘Pothole’, featuring Jaden Smith, is essentially an extended driving metaphor discussing the theme of obstacles presented by loneliness, difference, lifestyle or individuality. “Watchin Clarence in a mansion with nobody in it” highlights the solitude within the fortune, “All my friends talk about their ho*s and tenderonies. All I can show’em is a couple cars and more things”. This track takes a materialistic angle, showing how well things (like a garden or a batmobile) can fill a void when “everyone is a sheep” and you’re a “lone wolf”.
Boy, does Tyler love his extended metaphors. He’s hiding in a garden shed, what could represent a closet, and proclaims, “That is what love I was I in”. Another hard-hitter, that line is. Within this short and, once again, minimalistic track, Tyler discusses how he perceived his sexuality to be a phase, since he was a “youth kid” and the fears he had about disappearing from the field like Frank did, “poof, gone”, however “it’s still going on” and here he is, after countless elusive tweets and suggestive drawings, he’s still here making his art. I see this track serving as an anthem of overcoming all potholes on the way to self-acceptance.
Flower Boy’s 3rd official single is probably one of the catchiest tracks on this album., due to both its repetitive nature with the hook and its general relatability. I remember having a conversation with someone, (ironically while listening to this album) about doing the things you want to do with your daily life, and he said to me, “All the reasons we come up with in order to not do something are all technically good reasons, but they can all be moved. You can always get past them.” and that’s essentially what this track makes me think. “Find some time to do something”but all the reasons you’re not doing something are still valid reasons in their own right. The end of verse 3 also stood out to me because of its sincerity, “Now I’m staring at my ceiling f*ckin going, Like I don’t know where I’m going. No idea where I’m going”, and I love the rawness of an admission like that because it has the capacity to take you back to when you felt that way.
(Tyler also pulls one of those line breaks that makes the listener fill in the gaps with the bar, “Cause I’m not solved, I’m … bored” after the previous rhyme being “day”…here’s a Vox video talking about this lyrical device)
I Ain’t Got Time!
This one is quite the lighthearted track, I’d say. Total punchline track with bars like “I ain’t got time for these n*ggas. Better throw a watch at the boy” and “Everything I say is hot, b*tch I speak toaster”. Here he’s dismissing those who surround him solely for the fame & success combined with a self-congratulatory astonishment at what he has accomplished for himself, so the vibe is definitely more about ‘finesse’ than the other tracks. He drops a killer line, “I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004”, carrying on with his pattern of normalizing sexuality. There’s no subtlety, and due to that blatant honesty, he’s actually adding to his message rather than detracting from it. The casual approach is power over the matter. Last but not least, his little nod at Kanye with the line “A lil uzi, lil boosie way I wipe down” – similar to “Lil Boosie with the wipedown, little woozy but I’m nice now” from ‘Freestyle 4’ off of the other work of art, The Life of Pablo
911 / Mr. Lonely
So, as a hardcore fan does, watching and scrolling through Genius is a daily affair, and I stumbled upon this video on what track 10 on every Tyler, The Creator album has in common and it highlighted how every 10th track is a blend of songs, and ‘911 / Mr. Lonely’ is no exception. This track carries a lot of weight and a hue of desperation with it. “I’ve been lookin for a keeper, listen to the speaker, if you fit description, hit me on my beeper” and “Five car garage, full tank of the gas, but that don’t mean nothin without you shotgun in the passenger” emphasize elements of heartbreak, loneliness and the seeking of affection as it seems he will take anyone who hits him up, while at the same time, the specificity of “without you shotgun” instead of “without someone shotgun” shows that there most definitely is more to his loneliness than that. Many people have also suggested the relationship between this track and ‘Lone’ off of his album, ‘Wolf’ in the line “I say the loudest in the room is prolly the loneliest one in the room” compared to ‘Lone’’s “Ya boy seem happy as f*ck but truthfully ya boy lonely”.
For a second in this song, Tyler reads my mind when he says “I know you sick of me talkin’ ‘bout cars, but what the fuck else do you want from me? That’s the only thing keeping me company”. The interesting thing about this line is that by this point in the album, you are actually sick of him talking about his McLaren, so the realization is even deeper when you can see that this is, in fact, all he has going on. The song even takes a dark turn, pausing at the line “So I never have to press that 911” alluding to suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
Lil Wayne has been missing from my musical repertoire for quite some time, so this track was a pleasant surprise, I’ve definitely missed his wordplay. In this 1 minute interlude, he sticks to the fitting flower metaphor, from “garden of Eve” and “swallow my seed” (typical Lil Wayne) to “watch money grow on trees” and “I drop a seed in her panties, if it smell like pansies”. This track, as Genius points out, is primarily bars and “‘Dropping Seeds’ could be an allegory to ‘dropping bars’” in addition to featuring so many reference from old school hip-hop from “Whole squad slammin like Onyx” and “Some dropped science, I’m dropping English” from NWA’s ‘Express Yourself’. All in all, pretty lit interlude.
‘November’ is quite the heartwarming track. Split into two, it manages to question first before digging deep into his deepest thoughts and emotions. He begins with a meditation on trust, asking “What if Clancy fuckin’ me over?” This is particularly important because he sees his manager, Christian Clancy, as a father figure so to question something so solid must be difficult headspace to be in. He goes on to ask whether he’s “hustling backwards” and “if [his] music too weird for the masses?” giving the listener a little insight into his mind as a creator and, primarily, a human with insecurities and concerns and questions. Additionally, having people in his circles, such as A$AP Rocky and Kilo Kish, talk about their ‘Novembers’ made this song a whole lot more intimate and real for me, and I appreciate that.
Then in the midst of the intense longing, you have “My November is right now” followed by a scratch and a beat kicking in and the whole track takes a turn, so delicately and skill-fully into “I wrote a song about you, I want your opinion.” Tyler wants this said person to hear the song he wrote, but he knows it’s going straight to voicemail and the song leaves us with “Please leave a message after the tone *beep*” setting the record up perfectly for ‘Glitter’.
The way these two songs are set up is so genius in the way that it allows you to experience the song through Tyler’s perspective, having to confess these things to an answering machine and from the receiver’s potential perspective as it’s all in second person. He introduces more “catastrophizing” references in lines like “Got the burner got the heat, like wait…I use it on myself on the day you dipped” reminiscent of the desperation in ‘911 / Mr. Lonely’. He also seems to be dedicating tracks 4, 5, and 7 – See You Again, Who Dat Boy, and Garden Shed – to the “you” in question, while stating that track 8 – Boredom – is for him, personalizing the record.
Once again, it possesses a repetitive quality, but you can almost feel a crescendo in the content as it begins with “You’ve been on my mind” and ends the second verse with, a particularly intense one for me, “Yeah simple, that’s what I want but I can’t. That’s who you are but I ain’t. I’m parkin’ in quicksand, wait- Please don’t save me.”. This defeatist, depleted and disappointed conclusion followed by the monotonous, and almost mocking, answering machine claiming “We didn’t get your message” may bring a significant low to the end of this record, but combined with Tyler’s quiet, “F*ck” at the end, it brings it back down to Earth. Tyler really knows how to work his juxtaposition.
Enjoy Right Now, Today
And here we are, at the closing track of Scum Fuck Flower Boy. It carries on the attitude of the line from November, “My November is right now”, making it a meditation on making the most of the moment. It unsurprisingly features Pharrell Williams, whom at this point is the representative for all things mellow and positive. This final instrumental is a fantastic way to wrap up this little present of an album, especially after it has taken you through the dense themes of unrequited love, desperation, loneliness, success, wealth, fulfillment, self-acceptance and questioning.
All in all, thank you Tyler, The Creator for Scum F*ck, Flower Boy. It has been a pleasure.
I rate this album, 5 Batmobiles!